“No one can drive us crazy unless we give them the keys.”

Douglas Horton

We lose things. We all lose things. I don’t mean ball games, elections or friends, and we don’t really know when we’re losing our minds. We need other people to notice that and warn us. I mean little annoying things — pens, books and keys. Keys are the worst.

For some people, and I appear to be one of them, losing stuff is a psychological tic that never goes away. Most people grow out of things like that. The only thing I ever grew out of was my diaper, and that, an older friend reminds me, returns.

For example: skate keys. The good thing about those old skate keys is that they all worked on everyone’s skates, so when I lost mine, Margaret Reichenbacker, beautiful Helen’s younger sister, loaned me her key. Margaret was even more beautiful than Helen, but she had a lazy eye, and boys made fun of her. Later in life I went to dancing school with Margaret, but she always picked a different partner. I knew it was about the skate key.

1956, New York City. I had a date with this sweet Japanese girl who designed bathing suits for the Jantzen company. She had a fifth floor walkup in Greenwich Village. The only drawback was her door buzzer didn’t work.

You had to shout up, and she would drop the key. It was attached to a piece of wooden broom stick to make it hard to lose. It’s a New York thing. You had to be there.

So I shouted. She tossed it down. I was never good at catching things. It hit me square on the nose and fell into some garbage. My nose bled like a gunshot wound. I just pressed any button, and someone rang me in. We had a quiet dinner, and she said she had to get up early. I understood. She smelled a key loser, and of course it’s very difficult to make out with pieces of toilet paper sticking out of your nostrils.

I think it’s about luck. Luck is funny. Good luck is fickle. One day you’ve got it, the next it’s gone. Good luck never hangs around. Bad luck is like the crazy aunt who won’t go home after Christmas, or like gum on running shoes, You can never get it off.

Example: Six months after I first met She, who never loses anything, she let me share her apartment on York Avenue in Manhattan. She wasn’t supposed to be sharing the apartment, and so only had one key, which she loaned me.

Okay, don’t start with me. It was an accident. My jacket had a hole in it and I lost it in the snow. She was working in the theater, and I had to wait for her to get off of work, and then wake the superintendent at two in the morning. I could stay, they said, but they upped the rent. She made me kick in for it. I also paid for the new key.

You would think that a judge’s daughter from Maine would have good sense like Margaret Reichenbacker, who had her eye fixed in the eighth grade, then dumped me and went to the prom with Walter Robinson whose father was in plumbing supplies.

No, this one hung on. She said she loved me. I always knew it was pity. A key loser smells of pity. But when you’ve got a good thing like her, you swallow your pride and hang on, hoping things get better.

Some guy once said, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” I don’t know who it was, Mitt Romney maybe. But it’s true of people who lose things? We never change.

For example: When Truman was president, and you lost the key to your car, you went and had one made. You can’t do that with a Prius and most new cars. The Prius key is a small computer. You can’t go to the local key guy and get one made. You have to order one from Toyota and it costs $250. So when she went to Boston for an overnight, I demanded that she leave her Prius key with me in case I lost mine. I didn’t lose mine. I lost hers. I’ll say this for her, this woman is major forgiving, but at a steep price. I have to pay for the new key and wash all the windows.

I look at this way, love is like luck, when you’re a key loser and you’ve still got it, flaunt it, baby.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

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