Skeleton Key

Every once in awhile, I come across the keys that opened the door to a life I never got to live.

The brass has long lost its shine, and the Jamaica keychain they hang on is chipped and worn. I don’t know why I still have them. Why I still keep them. Why they have made the journey with me to three different cities now.

Once upon a time, they opened a door at the apex of a narrow staircase in a brownstone in Baltimore. The railroad apartment had a bedroom with big, street facing windows that let in lots of sunlight and didn’t have nearly enough closet space. The narrow, brick lined living room provided the perfect dim intimacy for marathons of The Wire and sweaty sex bent over the back of the couch. The tiny bathroom had a charming claw foot tub where we rarely showered alone, snug in the cocoon of each other underneath the warm water. I’d wanted to cook a thousand meals in the big kitchen at the back of the apartment, and smoke a thousand cloves on the narrow fire escape we used as a patio.

I always find the keys in the back of a drawer or the bottom of a bag and know them immediately. And for a minute I’m back in the apartment, and I can hear every fight and every moan, every giggle and whispered 4am confession. I remember us cleaning and making room for me, for us; the happy, sure way we went about the tasks. There, in the tiny apartment we loved, we were on the precipice of a life we were so excited to build together. But I never got to move in.

In retrospect, I’m sure I’m romancing it slightly more than it deserves. There’s probably 100 buildings just like it in Baltimore and dotted across the northeast. The things I remember- the hole-in-the-wall bar we loved, the tree lined streets, the corner store- probably aren’t even there anymore. But for a moment in time, they were.

And we were too.

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