After two hours and 37 minutes of searching, I know for sure my keys are not in my hand. They aren’t in the car and they aren’t in my purse either. They aren’t on the kitchen counter or among the stack of dirty dishes in the sink. They aren’t anywhere on—or in—or under the living room couch. They’re not on the mantle, behind the curtain, or dangling from the door lock.

Under the kitchen table there are only crumbs. On the table sits a small, yellow cake but no keys. They aren’t in the garbage. No matter how many times I look, they can’t be found in the refrigerator. They aren’t in the dining room, not on that table, not on any of those chair seats, nor are they among the sideboard clutter. They certainly aren’t wrapped in the tin surrounding the chocolate bar I discovered in the silverware box.

They are nowhere to be found in the bathroom. I feel fairly certain I would have noticed had I dropped them into the toilet. It’s confirmed they couldn’t possibly fit down the sink drain. They aren’t in the medicine cabinet though, somehow, tossing out the exp. 9/28/03 bottle of Pepto Bismol helps clarify this. Bathroom trash-basket? Nope.

For sure they aren’t hanging from the ignition inside the locked car. If I don’t find my keys soon, I’ll get a ticket for parking the car, facing the wrong direction, on a no-parking street-sweeping day. There are no keys anywhere around the car or on the stairs leading to the house. I know I had them when I let myself in from walking the dog. They aren’t with the dog’s leash.

They’re not on the ironing board or in the pile of clean clothes awaiting their press and fold in wrinkled, unhelpful silence. Imagining the ticket I know I’ll get if I don’t find my keys gives me an uneasy feeling. They aren’t on the bookshelves or in the tangle of stereo wires, but there is a surprising amount of dust. They still aren’t in my purse. Now that I’ve thoroughly searched through it, the recycle should be taken to the curb. They may have fallen between the deck slats. Lots of spiders under the deck—no keys.

Keith, calling from Seattle, doesn’t know where they are, but he knows I’ll find them. It’s cold in Seattle and considering everything, his brother, Mark, is in good spirits. Using his recently acquired morphine-stupor-psychic-powers, Mark suggests I look under the cushions of the gold couch. I do. It’s OK neither of them know where my keys are—or that they forgot to wish me happy birthday. They have a lot on their minds. Mark is near to losing his life.

So far there isn’t a ticket on the car, and upon closer inspection, I know for a fact: No keys are hanging from the ignition. It would only be a ticket, no more than … well, probably no more than 50 bucks—a hundred tops. There are worse things.

All 48 pockets in the coat closet are empty, save some wadded up Kleenex, a small handful of loose change, and the sharp, metal admittance pin they hand out at the Fogg Museum. It is nice to have finally found the crevice tool for the vacuum cleaner, even if it isn’t my damn keys.

I came in with the dog. I used my keys to open the front door. I know I had them when I came in with the dog. They aren’t on the kitchen counter, nor are they in any of the cupboards. I know I wouldn’t have put them in the oven—of course they aren’t in the oven. Keys don’t just up and disappear! They don’t just jump out the window. Amazing how window ledges are magnets for: wine corks, twisty wires, random metal things, the odd button; life’s clutter. Just pennies in penny jar. This is ridiculous.

Surely I’ll find them if I make the bed. They aren’t under the bed or pillows or anywhere in the covers. Not in my jewelry box or any of my clothes drawers. I know I had them when I came in with the dog. Then I showered. They’re not in the shower, and I’m going to pretend I didn’t find pink mildew growing up the shower curtain. Wait. Did I walk the dog before or after my shower? No way they are in my pants pockets—my pants don’t have pockets—I’ve checked—several times, more than several times. They aren’t in any purse I’ve ever used since 1994.

They could be in the basement. I may have dropped them when I went down to get the laundry before my shower. The washer and dryer are empty. Absurdly, they’re not caught in the lint screen. They aren’t in the basket full of dirty clothes. There are no keys on the brick garden path or hidden in the abundant weeds lining it.

There are bills (I’ll get to those when I find my keys), several coffee cups, mouse and keyboard, screwdriver, and dog hair on my desk. Keys? Nada. There is a key to the safe-deposit box and a bunch of random keys in my desk drawer but not my life keys. Those keys are not in any drawer on the entire property. I know I had them when I came in from walking the dog. The dog might know where they are but won’t tell me.

Saraswathi doesn’t know where they are—assures me they are most definitely somewhere—chants a “helps find lost things” mantra, and gently reminds me about the impermanence of everything. She expresses confidence in my ability to know my connection to all things. She wishes me happy birthday.

My keys aren’t in the mailbox.

Skyler calls from Boston to wish me happy birthday and chides that I misplace my keys at least once a day. He suggests I make a grid like they do at crime scenes and perform an organized, systematic search. Boston is cold.

Second time through, they still aren’t in the garbage—not even deep down in the mucky stuff. They couldn’t possibly be under the refrigerator. Yes, I got down on my knees to prove it. I know with absolute certainty there are no keys anywhere on my person.

Maybe it’s a sign: I shouldn’t leave the house, or drive the car. Maybe it’s an instant karma lesson about parking illegally. Is there some ominous, mystical meaning to losing keys—searching for them—reaching a frantic, desperate tizzy of a need to find them? It’s only a ticket, for Pete’s sake. Mark is in St. Pete’s Hospital: almost gone.

Locks, keys … wouldn’t it be an altogether better world if there were no such things?

It is without question that my keys are nowhere to be found, and yet I can’t stop myself from looking for them. Is this what hope is? I know for sure they aren’t anywhere I’ve looked. I think I know that for sure. Please, please don’t let this be a sign of accelerated age-related memory loss.

My keys have yet to miraculously reappear in my purse. I only see dust-bunnies under the bed. I should vacuum under here. I know I haven’t vacuumed up my keys. I would have heard that. My keys aren’t in the utility closet or under the kitchen sink. I’m almost certain I had them when I came in from walking the dog.

This is wearing on me. They aren’t under the cushion of my desk chair or under my keyboard. For corn-sake! A slight turn of the head—there they are—blending in so perfectly with the collage of mess on my studio workbench. No triumphant horns heralding their manifestation—just here.

L.J. Cranmer is a quintessential Berkeley housewife. You can read her blog at

Faces of the East Bay