I find a a ring with 11 brass house keys by the TV. “Whose keys are these?”
It’s 3am, our New Year’s party is over. 40 people were here, we only have two people left: Alaina and Julie.
I’m on shrooms and so is my wife, we’re floating around in a bubble. Alaina is sober and asking, “Will you walk with me to get a cab?” She’s not in the mood to get killed, alone on the street.
“Sure, we’ll walk you.”
That means we’ll have to go three avenues east, from our place on the river, till we hit Broadway and 175th street. I say, “Cabbies hang out in front of the 24 hour Dominican chicken place.”
I send two texts on my phone, asking two separate friends, who’d both brought groups of people with them, if they or anyone else forgot a set of keys. “Ask around,” I text.
Three of us step into the hallway, Julie stays behind at the pad, asleep at my desk. The apartment door clicks shut behind us, locking. I’m tripping pretty good, walking down the hallway. I keep patting my pant pocket, making sure I have my keys. My wife laughs hysterical. Alaina is telling us a joke. I don’t remember what the joke was, but I do remember almost falling down the stairs, that’s how funny it was. Alaina forgets we’re high and for a minute thinks she’s the funniest person on earth. I’m happy to help.
Halfway up the block, I realize I’m wearing my slippers instead of my sneakers. Oh well. The road is frozen. My toes are blue.
But there are cabs right where I thought they’d be and it feels like a miracle. A girl in a white fur coat climbs out of the cab.
I say, “Is that polar bear fur? Did you kill the polar bear?”
She’s says, “YES! I KILLED THE BEAR!” The polar bear girl warns us that the cabbie doesn’t have GPS. “Alaina’s probably more sober than the cabbie. You should drive the cab, Alaina.”
She gives me a hug goodbye “Maybe they’re my cousin’s keys?”
Off Alaina goes down Broadway.
My wife leads the way back towards the apartment, we’re hugging and laughing again as we walk—there are worse things in this world. Coming up the sidewalk is a young couple just like us, except they’re not hugging and walking. She’s yelling at him and he’s saying “I’m sorry you had the worst night of your fucking life!”
They pass and my wife says, “Oh god, they didn’t have fun.”
“We did, we win.”
But there up ahead is a stoop and there’s another couple sitting on the stoop and he’s screaming at her and she’s screaming at him.
“It’s Scream Hour I guess.”
We sound like hyenas, cracking up so loud, our laughter echoes off buildings, slapping around the block, and I’d be embarrassed if I had a soul.
“And there! Look up there!” In a second floor window there is orange light in a kitchen and there are two shadows screaming at each other!
“WE’RE NOT SCREAMING!” I scream.
We stumble into the foyer of the building and climb the stairs feeling like the only love birds left on New Year’s Day.
At the apartment door though, I realize I fucked up. In my pants pocket, are not the keys to our apartment, it’s the keys someone forgot on the table by the TV.
Knocking on our door doesn’t work. Neither does the doorbell. Five minutes go by. I sit down on the stairs in defeat.
“We can go up to the roof I guess and climb down the fire escape, break into our own window.”
“Sounds like a great way to get shot on New Year’s Day.”
But then the door opens, Julie lets us in. “Were you knocking?”
My wife gets a text from Alaina, the keys do belong to a cousin of hers that was at the party.
I get a text from another friend, the keys are hers, and possibly also could be a set of keys that a friend brought with her.
Another friend texts that the keys are definitely his.
“Well this is turning into a real mystery. These keys belong to motherfucking everyone.”
Julie goes to bed. My wife heats up some meatball sandwiches. I put the stereo on again. The sun inches up. I squeeze the keys in my palm for an hour.
When my wife tries to call Alaina, a man picks up the phone. I can vaguely hear the conversation.
“Hello?” the man says.
“Is Alaina there?”
“She’s not? Alaina?”
“Oh wait, hold on … she’s right here. What do you want? I’ll tell her.”
“She’s not there for real is she?”
The man hangs up. Wrong number, we guess. We also guess he’s either killed her, he’s just lonely and it was a wrong umber, or that, and this is my favorite theory, “Maybe that was the cabbie!”
I set the keys on the table and stare at them. Who’s keys are they? Who is locked out right now? Who is still locked out? Are these your keys? Did you leave them at my apartment on New Year’s Eve?