I found the key stuffed in the back of my grandfather’s dresser, along with an old watch, a notebook with faded pencil writing I could no longer read, and a postcard from Nova Scotia. There was a stamp on the post card, but no address and it had never been sent.
The key was one of those plastic card keys they give you at hotels. It was a strange sight, given they’d switched to just programming your palm implants over thirty years before I’d found it, but my first, naïve, assumption was that my grandfather had found a place that appealed to his sense of nostalgia.
He was always talking about how it had been in his day, when all the things you can access in your palm had to be held in a separate device, usually his phone. Then he had to explain what a phone was, of course, but it was fascinating to learn the “calls” part of livecalls had a history so old.
When I found the key, in fact, I livecalled my mother, let her see through my eyes rather than one of the wall-angles, and asked her if she knew where the key had come from and if there was anything we should do with it.
“He might have taken it as a souvenir,” she said. “Sometimes people did that. There was usually a fee added to the bill for a lost key, but it wasn’t a big deal if taking it was important enough.”
That seemed reason enough for the hotels to be enthusiastic about switching to palms, but I didn’t say that to my mother. She was protective of my grandfather in a way her brothers didn’t seem to think he deserved, but I wasn’t going to get in the middle of that particular battle. She told me to recycle the key with the rest of the items. Whatever sentimental value it held left the world with my grandfather, after all.
I didn’t recycle to key. I didn’t recycle to notebook. I didn’t even recycle the postcard. Instead, I put my grandfather’s watch on my wrist, studied the pages, and then finally shifted spectrum to try and find one where the writing would still be visible. It took some blending, but I managed it in the end, and my grandfather’s tight hand became visible.
It was, of course, a book of little reminders. Names and dates and places. Lists of items to pick up. Notations about things he’d seen or thought of during the day. It was clear, right from the start, it was only a small portion of his long life, but something in this portion was worth keeping even long after the words had faded, and that was, in its way, a key as well. One that might, I hoped, tell me who my grandfather was.