You gave me an old skeleton key not long after we met. It was already worn down and the metal browned when you had it engraved on both sides as a gift to me, your new lover. Holding it in the palm of my hand for the very first time, I smiled as I read “Cindi Loves Michael” written across it on one side, and on the other side you’d had the words “The Key To My Heart” etched down the length of it. It seemed like a promise was made that day – one I expected we’d honor for the rest of our lives. After all… you gave me the key to your heart, and I thought, forevermore, it would be mine.
I’ve kept that key close to me since that day. I had it in my hand just an hour ago.
I remember how it felt when I opened that little paper box and saw that old key sitting there. To me, it was like a priceless artifact. It may as well have been a gold watch, or a diamond, or some other irreplaceable and priceless possession, because on that day it was priceless to me. It was a keepsake I’d keep for forever’s sake, with that first moment in my possession etched in time as sure as the words carved into it’s soft, worn metal. It meant something then and forevermore. It connected us; joined us together from that day forward. That’s what it meant to me.
I carried that key with me all the time, sometimes on my key ring , sometimes hooked on the zipper of my jacket, most of the time just loose in my pocket. Through the years, whenever I held it in my hand I thought of it as if I was holding your beating heart. Even in the early days, I’d put it under my pillow while I slept next to you at night, believing that loving you gave that key the power to heal you when you were sick, or build you up when times were trying you, or just keep the bond between us strong and sure. I’d pray for you, kiss the key and slip it under your pillow, then often times waking up the next morning with it clutched in my hand. It was the key to your heart, and with everything in me, I loved you.
It had that power.
I had the key with me on the way to the hospital the night you had your kidney stone attack. I held it close to my heart the whole time I was in the waiting room during your surgery. I remember holding it between my two hands until it was as warm as your body. I kissed it, put it on my cheek and kissed it again. I did that whenever there was trouble in our home, more times than you’d ever suspect.
The real test came when we split apart a couple years ago. I knew we were “over” but something in me just wouldn’t let you go. I believed we’d made a mistake. I began to sleep with the key under my heart at night, often placing it under me as I drifted off. I found passages in the Bible that I thought might apply to you or to me or to “us” and planted it firmly between the pages to give it more power, to make my requests clear to God. I prayed with that key between folded hands, asking God repeatedly to return you to me, to bring you back to “us”, to guide you “home”.
And, for awhile He did.
But you didn’t stay. Something in you kept moving you in a different direction than the one I had in mind. And then, one day a year ago October, you were gone, again… but for good.
I prayed harder. I clenched the key between what I believed were faith-filled fists and called out to God one more time, asking for one last chance. I confessed my sins to the Key… I praised your virtues and your gifts. I never left it out of reach… never let it go. I waited, I trusted in God.
You never came “home”.
At some point in the last month or two, almost against my very nature, I came to realize that in fact, my prayers had been answered. You weren’t coming back, or “home” or back to “us”. I felt it. I knew it. And finally, I believed it. I found ways to set my own thoughts aside and to give up, and to give you back. I prayed so many times for God to guide you to that place you belong… to the life meant for you.
And so, apparently, He did.
Yet, still… I waited. I waited for you to call… or to write… or to walk back through the door. Something in me still wanted to believe against hope that we’d get that second 2nd chance. To reconcile the wrongs between us. To finally see the light between us. To find our purpose, for surely we had one. But, it wasn’t to be. I know that now.
Today I saw your picture in the paper. I saw that you’ve gotten married. I saw the ring on your hand. I saw answered prayer in that photograph, and with no hesitation, I let you go.
An hour ago I walked to the end of Naples pier and tossed that key into thirty feet of salt water. I stood at the railing, looked at it one last time and then with a prayer and and the memory of the days between that first day and now, I let it drop to the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. I’ll never see that key again, or the ten years of my life I spent loving you. That key and those years are gone, and so are you… and now, so am I.
It is as if we never were.
We never were.