I lost my keys yesterday.
And then I found them.
In between, I rode on a train for an hour - to my office (I work in an office now) in downtown Chicago.
I already had spent an hour on the train, traveling home from the aforementioned office. I rode all the way to my car before I realized that I could not find my keys.
And I exaggerate. The train ride is only 35 minutes or so. It's the commute - from door to door - that takes about an hour.
As I went back to my office, and sat on the subway, I realized that all I could do was wait. I looked through my purse 20 times at least, hoping to find them while I rode, but otherwise, all I could do was wait.
And pray. I could pray, too. It wasn't much of a prayer. It was a combination of begging and yelling. (God, god, god, god... please let me find my keys... and why did you let me lose them? Hasn't it been a horrible enough time? Did you have to take my keys too?)
At one point I thought, that's it. I can't do it anymore. I'm done. And then I thought, I am maybe walking a little too close to an edge, if losing my keys sends me over it.
And then I thought, maybe it's just a mood - a mood for this day, the anniversary of the day that Joan of Arc burned at the stake. I try to remember the day every year. She is a hero of mine. She may have been a lawyer, fighting the uphill battle, if she'd been born today. It's not a surprise that I should admire her, and try to remember her on days like when she was burned at the stake.
I'd even gone to a Catholic church for her that afternoon, near the courthouse in downtown Chicago. There were many Franciscans milling about the Church. I think she would have liked that.
So there I sat, hours later, terrified I'd lost my keys, begging God to let me find them, and losing it just a little.
Then I thought of something else I could do. I could ask God for a sign (at least give me a stupid sign while I sit on this stupid train...)
I looked up for my sign.
Just then, a young girl, about 19, smiled at me.
I was shocked. Nobody smiles on the train. But she did.
I hope I smiled back. I wondered if she had heard me talking to the security officer at my building (when I called to say I had lost my keys and I would need help getting into the office to look for them). I wondered how pathetic I must have looked in my panic, that I caused her to smile some comfort in my direction.
It was a friendly smile though. Maybe she was just being nice. Maybe she was from somewhere else.
And then I saw her shirt. "New Orleans," it said, across the front. You know, like Orleans, in France - where Joan of Arc died - and like New Orleans, where they have a statute in her honor.
I decided it was my sign. I decided it was a good sign, too.
But at the office, there were no keys. Maybe it wasn't a good sign after all.
I dumped out my purse. I dumped everything out. And then I realized - there was something in my purse, still.
And there they were. My keys.
They had gotten between the lining of my purse and its leather. I had had them all the time - in my purse, but not within reach - not in the normal way.
This is alchemy. Read "The Alchemist," by Paulo Coelho (1988). Read "The Alchemist's Handbook," by Frater Albertus (1960). You'll see what I mean.
So then I was happy, and I couldn't imagine the despair from before. And maybe this is alchemy too.
And then I went home. It was another hour away.