It wasn’t anything dramatic, I just didn’t know where to put my keys.
“I’m going to try not to be sad,” Mom had told me about an hour ago. And to her credit, Dad did not have to physically pry her clinging arms off me and lead her away like he did when they dropped me off at college for the first time. We hugged, said goodbye, and then I left.
As I backed out of our driveway, the sun crept down toward the Alafia river. I had planned to leave earlier, but the rain delayed me.
This was my first time moving into an apartment all by myself. No family, no roommates, not even a pet. (Unless you count my Baby Groot chia pet, whose little clay tree trunk head had yet to see the outside of the box. I’d been waiting to plant him until I had found a place to live and settled in.)
The next day, I would start my first post-grad job as communications coordinator at a product solutions company.
The sky shone pale yellow, tires kicked up clouds of pale of daffodil-colored mist as I drove to my new apartment.
It was only an hour from home; no big deal, I told myself. Until I unlocked my apartment door and walked in, keys jangling as they swung from the fob around my wrist, and I realized I didn’t know where to put them.
It’s one of those small, daily rituals, so routine you don’t even think about it until you walk into a new apartment, walls smooth and blank as an eggshell, and realize that you don’t know where to put your keys, hang up your purse, or plug in your phone, and there’s no one to tell you.
I didn’t have to beat away a bramble of clothes to reach to my bed, no dishes in the sink “soaking.” (I.e., hanging out until either I give in or they develop their own ecosystem.)
There was only one familiar item within 400 square feet: my bed.
I’ve had the same bed for as long as I can remember: a full-size with a white coverlet embroidered with a floral pattern. When I was in elementary school, the bed ran diagonal to the far right corner of my room, meaning the headboard and two sides of the yellow walls formed a triangle just the right size for an 8-year-old kid. I used to drop behind the headboard and write on it with my “spy pen.” You couldn’t see the ink unless you cast the purple light on the other side of the pen over it.
I like to imagine that the ink is still there, that if I bought a blacklight and shone it on the smooth white boards, childish scribblings would appear, glowing pale purple, like futuristic hieroglyphics.
I used to like leaving words around. I can’t remember how, but I somehow managed to chisel the word “detectiev” (“detective” – I could never remember how to spell it) into my desk in fine, pointed letters. “Cat” was penciled onto the baseboards.
And I guess I still like to leave words all over the place…although now I generally use pens or my laptop and leave the furniture alone.
On the walls of my college dorm, I hung prints of our college magazine layouts – the cover of my first magazine as editor-in-chief, stories I wrote, dummy copies with mistakes circled in pink pen. Growing up, I never hung pictures of pop stars or movie posters in my room. They always seemed confrontational – hands on hips, looking flamboyantly into the distance against obtrusive gusts of wind. They never invited me to get to know them. They never offered to tell me a story.
Realizing I couldn’t just stand in my kitchen all night, I stuck my keys in my purse, which I hung from the bedpost, next to my invisible scrawls.
The next morning, I covered the walls with magazine pages. And I planted my Baby Groot chia pet.