This key was a key from a time when keys had heft, weight; when you could hear the tumblers fall heavily but precisely into place as you turned the lock. The idea of a key, now, seemed a bit ludicrous, quaintly hopeful. How could you hope to have a bit of metal that assured you could enter some quiet, private place where others had not been? Where others could not get to you? You remember a quote from Edith Wharton that you had memorized:
“But I have sometimes thought that a woman’s nature is like a great house full of rooms: there is the hall, through which everyone passes in going in and out; the drawing-room, where one receives formal visits; the sitting-room, where the members of the family come and go as they list; but beyond that, far beyond, are other rooms, the handles of whose doors perhaps are never turned; no one knows the way to them, no one knows whither they lead; and in the innermost room, the holy of holies, the soul sits alone and waits for a footstep that never comes.”
That passage killed you when you first read it, the year after Michael brought you here. Waiting. So much time you spent waiting for him in actuality but, you thought after reading this, also mentally, spiritually, whatever. You waited for him to come and open the door where your soul waited. But then you thought, had you locked it, intentionally?
And did you still have a soul? Or had you left it behind, in the woods, that day in November 1971; left it there along with your favorite jean jacket, one of the discards tucked neatly–no, messily! because that is how discards are treated–into your army-green backpack, among fallen leaves, for the dogs to find.
Now you feel the last tumbler clunk into place, the Villa’s front-door lock well oiled by the handyman against the ravages of sun, sand, salt. You enter the quiet hall, through which everyone passes going in and out, hang up your cotton jacket and slip on a linen coverall, flip over and pull your hair under the control of a flower bandana tied babushka-style. You flip back up and look in the little hall mirror at your face, shaded and moisturized as best you could against the ravages of sun, sand, salt but still tanned and with darker spots along the jaw line that now reminds you of your mother’s jaw, set in judgment. You move on to other rooms.
The dogs never found your backpack. That was up to Michael and his mother, the following spring.