No no no no noooooo.
My heart sinks as I hear the dull ping of metal upon wood. Instinctively I wrap the nubby white towel tighter around my vulnerable frame, the dry heat of the sauna quickly going from reprieve to repressive. I know without looking, the key to my locker has bravely gone where I am certain many unfortunate naked women’s keys have gone before; to the mysterious underworld beneath the slat floor.
What lives down there?
Amongst what flora and fauna, what percolating nether-mold hath my key made its new home?
No matter to what depths little shiny has fallen. I would welcome her back with unfettered affection, if only I could see her gleaming visage again.
But it is not to be. As I sit in the Sag Harbor Gym, a San Diegan marooned in the East End in January—sweet lord help me—desperate for warmth and cursing the universe, I realize I have no idea how I am going get my clothes back on.
This is bad. This is like, really bad.
I hadn’t been sure, if I should get the “combination lock”, or the “key lock” from the hardware store on Main Street. It was a tough call. As I had so many times before in my life, I inadvertently picked the path of adversity / the path to a better story to tell.
With a sharp intake of breath I turn my eyes skyward, suddenly suffocating and needing to take action, even if I don’t know what I am going to do. I step out of the sauna and am hit with a blast of cold which will in no way rival what is to assault my skin should I need to walk my towel-clad self to the front desk. Actually through the entire gym. Barefoot.
And should I go forth, from where is the locksmith summoned at 8pm, in Sag Harbor, in January? It would be funny, were I not haphazardly sheathed in my indecent bleached terry sarong, tentatively peering out of the women’s locker room like a deer in the headlights crossing Noyack. I should have shaved my legs today.
“Help please.” I yell-whisper. “Help me?”
The gym, is mercifully—and mercilessly—empty at this hour. No one can help, and yet, also no one can see me. It’s a super awkward catch-22. But no amount of existential reflection or furrowing my brow is getting me my clothes back tonight.
Providing a free show for whomever is left at the gym is just more risk than reward. I retreat to rest my forehead against my unyielding locker, its cool metal façade stoicly protecting its contents… From me. Protecting, its contents, FROM ME. This can’t be serious. Also, what fungus is seeping into my head right now? I can’t even entertain it.
My life has been a strange brew of Lifetime movie meets sitcom fodder, my snowbird on a backwards trajectory stint in Sag Harbor no exception. Out of options, money, and dignity; I had packed up my car some months prior and, with two cats and a dog; driven across the country on my own personal interpretation of Cheryl Strayed.
The cats would not have made it had I started walking. The car was necessary.
After surviving a sadistic mother, followed by two predictable stints with two progressively drunker and meaner boyfriends, weary from a decade of gut-wrenching and living on Pop Tarts whilst squandering my potential… I found myself 30 years old, serving $2 tacos in spandex and a pink tutu.
It was time for a change.
The basement of my dad’s house in Sag Harbor in the dead of winter enveloped in wilderness and layers of bulky clothing sounded just fine. Little did I know, my closest companions would become Detectives Benson and Stabler from USA’s ubiquitous reruns of Law & Order SVU. “It doesn’t really snow here!” My dad told me. I was so desperate for a lifeline, I bought it.
Mother Nature offered an embrace reminiscent of my youth. Nothing says, “there, there” like a Polar Vortex. (It seems I am indiscriminately atop every matriarchal shit list.)
I don’t think freedom is nothing left to lose. I think nothing left to lose is being naked, alone, and too broke to pay a locksmith to get your clothes back so you can leave the women’s locker room and face the world again. The only way that would taste like freedom is if it were 80 degrees warmer and I were on an island with amnesia where clothes didn’t matter, Oscar Isaac waiting patiently with a perfectly chilled, crisp, glass of rosé.
The open road was a sort of freedom… as I drove from California to New York, alone, all my worldly possessions squeezed in alongside the cats’ litterbox. Yes, my “I am woman” moment in reality was reduced to commandeering a feline toilet on wheels.
Was I running from something? I guess so. His name was Chris and I was in love and hate with him at the same time. He was violent, he was malicious, and he was my whole world. Until he broke up with me. After five years. Via text.
Now I’m getting cold. I’m not even outside yet, and I’m getting cold. Like a lizard needing its heat source to not keel over and die, I crawl back inside the sauna, which has lost its own warmth since the timer has run out. Seriously!?
And then I see it. Is that glint of metal beneath the bench what I think it is? No it cannot be…
Perched on the edge of Mordor, hanging on by a precious little clothes-redeeming key tooth. I drop to my knees to retrieve it, abandoning any concern for modesty, and (praise the heavens) I can’t help but laugh as I find myself caught in a living metaphor.