Gloria’s Key

Etienne Richert

Bruce’s fingers felt around the pockets of his corduroy blazer, frantically looking for the pieces of moulded metal that would let him back in the house after he went out. Gloria always knew where they were. Bruce would search like a bloodhound, retracing his steps and checking various draws and jackets, but Gloria would always be the one to find them.
“They were right here on the bench,” she would laugh, sliding the keys into Bruce’s hand and planting a kiss on his cheek, “What would you do without me?”

What  indeed.  It  was  their  50th  anniversary  today  – or,  at  least,  it  would’ve  been.  The  inseparable pair had been separated and Bruce was the only one to see their milestone come. Gloria hadn’t missed it by much, to her credit. Not even three weeks had passed since her nervous hand had relaxed around Bruce’s. He could still feel the feeling of her smooth fingers that would slide between his own and make his heart beat like that of a rabbit, though he couldn’t feel his keys. Where are the bloody things? he thought to himself as he walked into the living room for the nth time. He conducted the methodical search he had done several times before: running his hand between the seats of the couch (nothing), searching the lamp table draws (empty), checking the coffee table (deserted).

Bruce let out a frustrated sigh as he pressed his hands into his back and stood up. He had not changed a single thing since he and Gloria had left for the hospital, yet it always seemed as though something was out of place. The living room was utterly void of life. Gloria’s colourful cushions and vibrant blankets did not stop the room from seeming as grey as her hospital ward; and the silence that had replaced the sound of her old records screamed like a banshee in Bruce’s ears.

“Remember  when  we  first  bought  this  house,” Bruce  said  to  no  one  as  he  plumped  the  cushion on his wife’s grandmother chair, “and your brother dropped your box of records as he came through the door?” Gloria had been so horrified the others couldn’t help but laugh. He remembered her diving to the ground and shaking out each individual disc, thanking God when they came out whole and cursing him when they didn’t. She’d always loved her music. On  their  first  night  in  the  house,  they  pushed  all  the  boxes  aside,  took  out  her  Victrola  turntable and christened their new home by dancing to Gloria’s Ella Fitzgerald collection.

“When was the last time we danced like that?” Bruce asked Gloria’s chair. Bruce’s mirror and Bruce’s mind showed very different versions of him. His weary face was as wrinkled as the hideous bedroom curtains his wife had (for whatever reason) loved, yet his heart ached for the teenage romance with which their relationship had begun. The old man wanted nothing more than to wear the clothes of his younger self and go for a walk while the world slept and kiss his girlfriend in some romantic spot; or make a fool of himself ice skating in front of her; or take her to watch a movie that he would despise but she would love.

Alas, those years were long gone. Bruce moved into the hallway, straining his aged eyes as he shuffled toward the kitchen.
“Oh how much easier this was when you were here, my dear,” he moaned. The helpless old man’s dilemma was beginning to overwhelm him. He had a lump in his throat as he entered the kitchen. Gloria had always kept it spotless; and so it had remained – no key in sight. Bruce ran his fingers over the cold glass hotplates, finding nothing but more memories of his wife: how he would come home from work to see his Gloria singing to herself at the stove. He would wrap his hands around her slim waist and press his cheek into hers and she would ask him about his day.

The memory vanished as quickly as it had come, and Bruce was thrust back into the harsh reality of solitude. Miserable, he sat down and slumped against the dishwasher. How has it come to this? he thought to himself. A year ago, both had been in full health, spending their anniversary enjoying fine wines and aged cheeses before presenting each other with their gifts. Bruce prided himself on his ability to give great presents, but Gloria had outdone him that year. She wore this sly smirk – like she was trying her hardest to keep a straight face – as she presented him with his old blazer.
“What?”  he’d  asked,  thoroughly  bewildered.  But  as  she  turned  his  blazer  inside  out,  he  developed his wife’s smirk.
“It’s a pocket just for your keys!” she giggled, showing Bruce his new accessory as he burst into laughter. Opposite the inside pocket which held his wallet was now a small pouch for his housekeys. “You won’t ever forget them again,” she laughed.

Bruce now slowly lifted his trembling hand to his forgotten inner-right jacket pocket, feeling for the pieces of moulded metal that would let him back in the house after he went out. He gasped as the cool steel kissed his fingertips.