Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Sick Day #2: The Case of the Missing Keys
Still at home today, and it's still ridiculous on the outside-hot scale, so the post will be shortish. Tomorrow, the regular schedule resumes.
I am currently in a bit of an awkward situation at home. My kitchen has a separate entrance, and the door is across from the neighboring apartment at the end of a long hallway. When I was making dinner last night, I left my keys hanging in the lock. I've been doing that for a year, and the ladies who live across the way have warned me that it's not a good idea. Unfortunately, I didn't listen, and my negligence finally caught up with me. When I finished with dinner, the keys were gone.
In the meantime, I'd heard a bunch of people pass in and out of the neighboring apartment (there are only two on the top floor of the building). The ones who live there permanently are nice Puerto Rican women, but there's a constant influx of traffic. On any given day, you might see ten people come and go. Some of them live there temporarily, and some become month-long fixtures. At this point, after a year in south Park Slope, I even know most of them. And again, most are nice. Two of the younger guys helped me move in, I've played basketball with another, etc. But there was a shooting on my street last year, and they knew who had done it, and there was a robbery on the first floor of my building in February, and they knew about that too. So unlike me, they wouldn't have to look far among their social group to find some shady characters.
It goes without saying that my panic alarm went off immediately. If someone stole the keys, surely they're planning to rob the place. Maybe one of us will be home when it happens, and will get hurt inadvertently. They also know which car my girlfriend drives, so they'll probably take that too. Wanting to believe I was wrong, I searched frantically in all parts of the apartment for alternative stories; maybe I'd left the keys someplace else. Lord knows it's happened before. But again and again, I came up empty. The procrastination couldn't last; I'd have to face reality. So now the unfortunate steps have been put into place- the girlfriend will park her car on a different street, the roommates and I will change the locks, and last night I even slept with a chair propped against my door (in the theory that if someone broke in, the noise would wake me or scare them off, hopefully both).
When it became clear that the keys weren't going to turn up under the rug or behind my computer or any of the other places I'd looked 15 times, I knocked on the neighbor's door and delicately asked if they'd seen them. They were nice, said no, and promised to check around. Later, I saw two younger girls in the hallway and asked them, again using the regretful tone of voice implying that this was a complete misunderstanding, surely, and accusing them would be the very last thing I'd ever think of doing. But maybe they'd innocently come across them in their travels? Maybe they knew their whereabouts, and if so I'm the type of fellow who knows the value of not asking too many questions? The girl in the lead hurried down the stairs, wouldn't meet my eye, and mumbled a barely audible 'no.' Either she was pissed off at me for asking, even in my conscientious white way, or she knew something. Of course, it didn't matter; I'll never know.
I saw two of the younger guys on the stoop later. My girlfriend was walking with me and wondered if I was going to ask them. But there was no point. Over the last year, there's been a sort of tenuous friendly relationship between us. The cultural gap is a mile wide, but everybody is polite, there are some quick jokes and polite laughs exchanged, and that's about it. Now, there was some sort of breach. Maybe they knew something, and maybe they didn't. Maybe I'll find my keys in the couch cushion two weeks later and feel like a total asshole.
But deep down, I'm suspicious, and that suspicion has a way of grouping two guys like that, who I don't really know but have only ever been helpful, with seedier elements. As in: I'm fairly certain they didn't take my keys, and I don't know if they know who took my keys, but I'm sure that if they did know who took my keys, they wouldn't tell me. Which is its own kind of betrayal. We'd established some codes of interaction, and now they're a bit out the window. This particular betrayal, only theoretical, is true at every single moment, whether or not anything is missing at all. But up to now I haven't been forced to consider it, to ponder my inevitable outsider status. Well, not totally true: after the shooting, I peppered them with questions on the stoop, but they clammed up and some started to get annoyed. At least that didn't directly concern me, though.
For their part, they had heard about the situation with the keys, and in an intuitive way they probably understood my mental process and felt at least slightly accused. So we nodded to each other with less than the usual pleasantness, and said nothing and everything. Unfortunate all around.
That's all for now. Tomorrow I'll be at work, and I'll get into World Cup and All-Star Game and who can guess what else. Until then, hold onto your valuables.