Yesterday afternoon, after taking out my laundry to hang it on the clothesline, I locked my keys in the basement. Since my front door was unlocked, I didn't think about it until this morning when I was turning the house upside down looking for those keys. I would probably still be looking for them if I hadn't chanced to glance in the basement window, where I caught their dim, leering, jagged-tooth nastily grinning silhouette on the neglected, vengeful, bitchy clothes dryer.
In the movies you see people use pins or toothpicks or sticks of chewing gum or credit cards to open locked doors. They make locked doors look positively malleable, accomodating like tissue in a swaying breeze. You see them do a jiggle thing with their willowy wrists and hey, presto, there we go. And I tried all of those things, as nonchalantly as I could, desperately mopping my forehead while the contractors building a driveway next door ambled their wheelbarrows back and forth behind me. I furrowed my brow and angled my shoulders like they do in the movies. I tried finesse, I tried force, I tried cunning and guile. And I can tell you it's true about the credit card.
$65.00 to a bemused locksmith later, I'm hustling down the street in my beat-up Saturn desperately trying to make up for lost time. J. had his wallet stolen and he's three months behind on rent, and I'm going to pay for a new ID while he gets back up to date on his union's membership rolls. I scoop him up and we go and hunker down at the DMV. We swap touring stories (he's a union stagehand for rock concerts). We read over heavily creased, outdated paperwork. We do our best not to look like the harried supplicants at the dread altar of the forbidding DMV deities that we are.
Hours later I'm back at the office, J.'s tasks done and done well, now scrambling to find the fix for the next exploded basket case on my desk. There are meetings and notes and scheduling shuffles; I am an argonaut navigating the impassable confines of dwindling water coolers and straightened budget arrangements. There are memos to write, commitments to make, policies to draft.
It is a constant, quiet surprise to me that people seem to think I know what I'm doing. I am constantly, quietly surprised at my own capacity to convince myself (albeit howsoever temporarily) that I know what I'm doing. The truth lies rather quite far from any such conviction.
I get home anxious and dreading tomorrow, far from certain as to how to keep things going. My book group meets at my house and I lay out the beer and the chips and the tea. I light the candles and we laugh and speak well, we convince each other of splendid things, we gently disagree and we stridently validate and we cast and re-cast our lives' choices according to our shared lights. The book is only an excuse, really, to meet and share of such things.
I am an argonaut snatching off pieces and shards of grand conversations, leaving my own sometimes powerful words, noting and watching, speaking or not. I am here and I am not. Always I am arriving and departing all at once. This is who I am.
The trees are still warm long after the sun has set. My house breathes more deeply having had guests; it's not for nothing that the ritualized pleasure of hospitality is so powerful to so many cultures. I blow out the candles and set the teabags in the compost and check for my keys before I see my friends out.
Outside, my neighbors have left me flowers, and a warm note of thanks, for helping their friend last week. I sit down to write what kind of day it has been, and then I go to sleep.