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Jenelle Maillet

                             Her Key

 

A Message about Keys and Freedom:

 

It is because words can sing that they can also cut, deeply- like a sharp stick impaling you in the chest with such intensity that you cry out “Quiet”. Every breath is your tenacity, every syllable you say you’re free-

I’m sorry you found that breath could be a gift so young.

A little more of taking life for granted is healthy.

The walls you pass are not mountains, the doors not gates, they unlock and you can hold the keys

The keys say you’re free

 

                                             _______________________________

 

A Story About Freedom:

 

Locked in her home by her husband, she cares for her daughter. She is determined to give her a different life than her own; one where she is not bound to an abusive man for the sake of survival. Today is the third day since he left, on a trip to the city with the other men from the village. Today she is determined to love her daughter without fear for her future.

She wraps her in hope.

Kisses her forehead with bravery.

And puts her in the hands who hold the keys.

 

 

                                               ……………………………………….

 

She is the only non-white person in her classroom. Her teacher tested her reading level, then said “I’m impressed you don’t have an accent”. Her dark eyes and dark hair spoke to others before she opened her mouth. School days opened her eyes. One day at home she opened the folder at the back of her parents’ closet, marked with only her name.

We love you.

Our hands are not the same color.

But they hold the same key.

 

                                               ……………………………………….

 

 

The key turns in a lock. The wooden door swings open, casting light into darkness and dust. He steps in, calling her name. The door slamming is the only sound. His eyes dart around the room.

 

A phone call.

“My wife killed our daughter”.

The shackles lock around her thin wrists.

 

 

                                            ……………………………………….

 

 

Cards and gifts blanket the kitchen table. She opens messages and symbols of love and congratulations. Today is the date set by the orphanage to mark her as one year older.

 

Her adoptive parents give familiar hugs.

She learns how to take the bus home.

Her house key is attached to her backpack by a purple keychain.

 

                                          

                                           ……………………………………….

 

The court is four hours away by bus. She sits knowing that the hearing will mean nothing. His word will overwhelm hers in the eyes of the law. She looks out the window, feeling his gaze burn into the back of the garments that cover her head. He is the only person allowed to see beneath them. She promises the view out the window that he never will again.

 

An explosion shatters the dusty silence.

His eyes close for the last time, as hers open again.

She reaches into his still warm pocket and pulls out a key.

 

                                           ……………………………………….    

 

Today on the bus, she was told by another little girl with bluer eyes, blonder hair, and unkempt racial opinions that she was unwelcome to sit beside her. “You’re too Indian”. She found a seat in the back of the bus, alone.

 

She walks home now.

Her purple keychain fell off her backpack.

She walked until she found it.

                                      

                                           ……………………………………….

 

The walk home is long. She falls only once, despite the pain in her left side. A man offers her water and she accepts. It rinses the dust from her gums and it trickles down her parched throat. She is grateful.

At home, the lock unhinges to let the box swing open.

Inside is a phone, a set of bangle bracelets, and her late mother’s wedding ring.

She leaves only his key behind.

                            

                                             ……………………………………….

A Message about Keys and Human Action:

 

From opposite sides of the world, two women stand. A mother, who’s love forces her to give up knowing her daughter, for the sake of her future. A daughter, who knows nothing of her birth family, and only that she does not fully belong in the world she now lives in. One stands for the peace she found, the other of the freedom she was given. Their words hold pain, and weight- despite the brevity they use in expression. Somewhere beneath the earths crust, the roots of their family tree continue to bind them. These roots are a complex puzzle, impossible to be replicated, and impossible to untangle. The earth moves like human action. These women may be face to face someday. The daughter may never know that she looks exactly like her mother. The mother may never see her child become a woman. Yet the earth moves. Roots are separated, trees break, and rocks pull land together. Human action is words, actions, and feelings- which open the doors thought to require keys to unlock.