I read a poem this morning that heightened my awareness of doors so much that I can feel specific door handles, remember creaks, missed heartbeats just before opening the door to a familiar knock, lying against a closed door in absolute relief ….
The Pleasures of the Door
Kings do not touch doors.
They do not know the happiness: to push before them with
kindness or rudeness one of those great familiar panels, to turn
around towards it to put it back in place – and to hold it in one’s arms.
The happiness of grabbing by the porcelain knot of its belly one
of those huge single obstacles; this quick grappling by which, for a
moment, progress is hindered, as the eye opens and the entire body
fits into its new environment.
With a friendly hand he holds it a while longer before pushing it
back decidedly thus shutting himself in – of which, he, by the click
of the powerful and well-oiled spring, is pleasantly assured …
(Translated from the French by Raymond Federman)
The door that loomed largest in my life was the door to the bank house in Drogheda ~ which became home when I was nine and ceased to be home when I was seventeen. It was a double-sided thick dark brown wooden door with gleaming brasses. The key was about as old-fashioned and heavy as they come. For some unknown reason, I had an absolute irrational phobia about not being able to get into the house ~ irrational because there were bank staff, including my father working in the office at ground level. Anyway, it was decided that the only answer was to trust me to have a key of my own. The key lived in a wooden box that I brought to and from school like I was carrying the crown jewels.
I was only meant to bring the key to school and not out and around but one day, after playing tennis for hours, my brother and I cycled out to Baltray beach for a swim. I realised when we got there that I had the key in the pocket of my shorts and remember vividly hiding it in among my clothes as we raced into the sea.
Back home, worn out from the sun, sea and day of exercise, the key was nowhere to be found. We took courage, rang the bell and I confessed the awful truth to Father who was in the middle of his tea. He told us to have a glass of water and to ‘step on it’ and cycle back out to the beach ~ four miles away ~ and search until we found the precious key.
When it was pitch dark, we gave up the hunt and summoned enough energy and gumption to go home. Even the roasting sunburn on the back of my neck couldn’t offset the cool reception that we got.
I’ve never, ever lost a house-key since and doubt I ever will! The new lock they put on the door the next day was a modern one so I never again had the pleasure of holding what had felt like the key to paradise in my tender young hands.