Breaking In

Natalia Rachel Singer


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I’ve spoiled countless hours searching for mislaid keys, and when I have to call the front desk/security/husband for help I’m always stricken with guilt, but not enough to stop me from doing it again, like the time I rented a studio above the Mouffetard Market in Paris and the agreement warned of dire consequences if I lost the only key, and it was like when you’re a kid on a bike and you tell yourself don’t ride into the ditch, don’t ride into the ditch, so of course you do and you fall and split open your knee, and just like that I managed to lose that Paris key and on cue it started raining and bien sûr it was Sunday and the realtor couldn’t help and her number was inside anyway and of course I had to pee and I was so desperate I considered shimmying up the fire escape to the mansard rooftop and flinging myself into my window but I thought of how much it would cost my husband to fly to France to claim my body so I retraced my steps like a film on rewind, reliving the day backwards until I returned to the market square to re-eat my croissant and watch teens flirt at the fountain where the original hunger sent me to the bakery and there it was, gleaming under the register where it had lain unnoticed for the past two hours that felt like my whole life—a lifetime of wanting to break in while yearning, far more, to spend whole days in foreign cities sauntering on grey pavement glinting with rain watching people board buses and drink coffee and signal desire and longing in their sighs and in how they talk to their dogs, never in a hurry, not needing time to do any more than flicker like linden leaves on a riverbank where I claim a bench to daydream, then approach the door like it’s mine and say merci, bonjour, a thousand mercies and hellos, the scritch and tumble of that key in the lock, the most reassuring sound on earth.

Natalia Rachel Singer

is a

Guest Contributor for Panorama.

I've published a memoir, Scraping by in the Big Eighties, and several essays and stories in journals and magazines that include Ms., O: The Oprah Magazine, The American Scholar, The Nation, The Iowa Review, Prairie Schooner, Brevity, and Speculative Nonfiction.


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