Locked Out

Photo by Ashish via Pexels

Last week, we had the hottest day of the year so far.  The temperature was pushing ninety degrees, and the humidity was off the charts.  It was one of those days when the air conditioning had trouble keeping up, and my upstairs office was stuffy no matter what I did.

I was working from home, and around noon I decided to take a break.  The mail had arrived early, so I slipped on my worn out boat shoes and headed to the mailbox.  As I walked out, I automatically pulled the front door closed behind me to preserve the cool air. 

An instant after the door clicked shut, I was gripped by a panic.

“Oh no,” I thought.  Please let me be wrong.

I turned the knob, push the door, and the door didn’t open.

I’d locked myself out.

No keys, no phone.  And a meeting starting in 30 minutes.

My mind raced.  My car was in the driveway, with its remote garage door opener, but the car was locked and I didn’t have a key.  I knocked on a few doors, but none of my immediate neighbors were home.

I decided almost immediately that I’d walk to my parent’s house.  The good news was that they lived about 3 miles away.  The bad news was that the trip would include going down and then up a brutally steep hill, one along a busy highway.  And did I mention the heat?

The sun was high overhead and I began sweating almost immediately.  The sun was beating down on the back of my neck.  No hat, no sunscreen.  My flimsy shoes were not really up for the task, but the only other option was to wait for a neighbor to come home, which could be hours.

I set off.

Cars flew by me as I walked along the highway.  Coke bottles, beer cans, and other trash that I never noticed from the car littered the side of the road.

I was practically done-in when I reached the final ascent into my parent’s neighborhood.  I reached their house hot and thirsty.

Reader, they weren’t home.

I’m a bit embarrassed to say I never considered this possibility.  And of course, all their neighbors that I knew weren’t home either.

There was nothing to do but wait.  They had a shaded porch that protected me from the sun’s relentless heat.

The problem was thirst. 

After the walk, I needed water.  I could do without food, or air conditioning, but I was going to be absolutely miserable without water.

I couldn’t get into the house, but I knew where they hid a key to the garage.  There’s no way to enter the house from the garage, but there was a hose they use to water their garden.

I pushed my way in and searched for anything I could use as a cup.  Nothing.

Desperate, hot, and dehydrated, I turned on the water and drank from the hose like a dog.

The relief was intense.  Suitably revived, I laid down in the shade of the porch and took a nap.  In that heat, there was nothing else to do.

Eventually my parents came home, and gave me a ride back up to my house and I used their spare key to let myself in.

I logged back onto my computer just in time for yet another meeting.

“We missed you at the meeting earlier,” someone said.

“Oh,” I demurred.  “I had to step away for a moment.”

It was more or less the truth.

4 thoughts on “Locked Out

  1. Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In
    Raymond Carver

    You simply go out and shut the door
    without thinking. And when you look back
    at what you’ve done
    it’s too late. If this sounds
    like the story of a life, okay.

    It was raining. The neighbors who had
    a key were away. I tried and tried
    the lower windows. Stared
    inside at the sofa, plants, the table
    and chairs, the stereo set-up.
    My coffee cup and ashtray waited for me
    on the glass-topped table, and my heart
    went out to them. I said, Hello, friends,
    or something like that. After all,
    this wasn’t so bad.
    Worse things had happened. This
    was even a little funny. I found the ladder.
    Took that and leaned it against the house.
    Then climbed in the rain to the deck,
    swung myself over the railing
    and tried the door. Which was locked,
    of course. But I looked in just the same
    at my desk, some papers, and my chair.
    This was the window on the other side
    of the desk where I’d raise my eyes
    and stare out when I sat at that desk.
    This is not like downstairs, I thought.
    This is something else.

    And it was something to look in like that, unseen,
    from the deck. To be there, inside, and not be there.
    I don’t even think I can talk about it.
    I brought my face close to the glass
    and imagined myself inside,
    sitting at the desk. Looking up
    from my work now and again.
    Thinking about some other place
    and some other time.
    The people I had loved then.

    I stood there for a minute in the rain.
    Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.
    Even though a wave of grief passed through me.
    Even though I felt violently ashamed
    of the injury I’d done back then.
    I bashed that beautiful window.
    And stepped back in.

    • I’ve never seen this piece before. Unfortunately, unlike Carver, I didn’t use it as a moment of self reflection. I was too busy worrying about how hot I was! I do get a tiny bit of this feeling that Carver describes when I return home from a vacation. Thanks for sharing this one!

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