When I walked in Mississippi, I jangled with the metal of a dozen keys, the clanging ring of unlockers knocking against my hip. People always knew I was coming.
I had keys to offices, to rooms and bathrooms. I had keys to apartments and houses. I had gold keys and silver, keys with decorative caps from a museum. I knew how to swing the circle around exactly right to pull out my work key.
When I left, I gave the keys back gradually. My final keys -- to a car I was leaving there and to the house I had lived in for eight months -- barely made any sound at all.
The day I flew away, I sat in a booth in the city's only Vietnamese restaurant. Across from me, Ellen and Denise -- my housemates -- held their breath as I took their key off my ring. They were about to be parents. I was about to be an "adult" (though one with surprisingly less responsibility).
I held the key across the table. Only one final key swung around the loop.
For the next year, I didn't make any sound when I walked.