The key

For nearly 2.5 years now I’ve been leaving the house, usually to head to work. Work is Monday to Friday in the main because corporate reasons, so at least 5 days most weeks where I have to leave the house. Those same 2.5 years we’ve also had Teddy, our little pup. Going on for 3 years old now, and joined not long after in our household by his sister Rosie, I’ve really looked forward to getting home whenever I leave. It usually hits hardest when I pick my keys up off my desk at work, because I’ve had a long day with my head in a corporate setting and now I can relax and look forward to what’s coming when I get home.

I walk softly up to the front porch, open it as quietly as I can, and push the shiny silver key down the barrel of the brass Yale lock with a little shove. The teeth pushing past the pins in the tumbler make a very particular sound. Sharp metallic clicks that are Ted and Rosie’s bat signal. Usually before I can start to turn the key in the lock, I can hear the taps of their claws on the laminate floor downstairs, running to the door. No matter whether they’ve been asleep upstairs, or playing in the front room, the key in the lock gets them running to say hello.

Not once have they stayed upstairs asleep or ignored me to keep playing with their toys. Ted is under the weather right now with doggy tonsillitis and he still wags his tail so quickly it’s a blur, pawing the front door before I can push it open. Rosie still jumps up to my knees as high as she can and does her adorable happy bark to tell everyone that she’s excited I’ve come home. Even if Christine or my brother are home and they’ve had a human being to spend time with while I’ve not been there.

When I’ve finally pushed the door open gently enough to get inside, it keeps going. It’s happy hugs, cuddles, kisses and the little routine where I tell them how my day’s been while I get their dinner together. They’ve no idea what I’m telling them, but it doesn’t matter. They still care, even though they don’t know why. It doesn’t matter if Christine’s had a bad day and doesn’t want to hear about mine. In their own way, they tell me how their day has been as well. If Ted has been busily chewing the ears off a new toy, he’ll run upstairs ahead of me when I go up, so he can go sit on the bed and give me his best puppy eyes while I see all of the stuffing.

For nearly 16 years I’ve been talking online, pretty much for hours every single day, with the same group of people. A group bond forged in the black fires of overclocking and a general enthusiasm for tinkering with PCs in every which way, we’ve come a long way since turning up the clock and voltage on a pair of Tualatins. All of them are close personal friends now, and that even goes for those I clash with frequently. Often I can’t stand to talk to them for days or weeks on end. Because of the friendship, I still pressed the keys anyway.

Past tense, I think. You see the feeling I get when I put the key in my front door just isn’t there with the people I talk to online. I don’t look forward to talking to them as a group any more. It’s just habit. I sit in front of a computer, I log on. I do it even when I don’t think I have, or should. It just happens, and it sucks up too much time.

As a grown man I need to understand that friends or not, they don’t really make me happy any more as a group. The collective conversation has been dead for a very long time, at least for me. I feel like almost everyone is pressing their keys out of habit now, the same way I did, just to pass the time.

The thought of logging on to talk to them used to feel like putting the key in the lock. Now I can’t bear to open the door.