Memoirs of My America – Death at the Hand of a Skeleton Key

funny key storyGrowing up in a small house as part of a large family means one thing: never any time alone. There is always some sibling in your business, some person taking you on for that last fish stick. Solitude and silence become the things you pray for at night, forget world peace in your whispered requests — it’s a piece of time to yourself that you want.

When I was eight years old, I saw a chance to be alone and took it. Blinded by the too good to be true opportunity to be somewhere with no one else around, I stepped through that open door and went for it. Literally.

My grandmother was giving lunch to my two younger siblings. My three older siblings were out grocery shopping with my mother. I was alone in the hallway, and I — for the first time ever –  noticed the bathroom skeleton key sticking out of the keyhole. How had I never seen this? I could be in the bathroom, alone, I thought. I just have to turn that key and take snacks in with me that I don’t have to share. I can take in the crayons and not have to fight anyone for the black everyone wants.

I am going in there, and locking myself in. That key was finally going to be used for what it was made for: party of one. I went into the bathroom and shut the door. It may as well have been a Hilton Hotel suite. I had my Twinkies, coloring book, and 24 pack of Crayolas. I turned the key –  nothing. I turned and pushed it in and forced it to the right, but no click. It was supposed to click, like the keys at school did.

I kept trying to turn the key and was growing impatient for my private suite session to start. I had everything I needed; food, activities, and this key was holding me up. I leaned against it and pushed on it with my 52 pound body. The key’s bony spine began to hurt my right index finger and just when I was going to give up my dream, I heard it….Only what I heard wasn’t the click I had hoped for. No. What I heard instead was a nauseating snap. The deafening sound of a key breaking in half and the rest of its body remaining in the keyhole. I was locked in the bathroom with no way out.

Oh my god Oh my god Oh my god. All the emotion of knowing I broke the key, I’m locked in, I’ll be found out, and on top of all these worries, there was the biggest one: How in Sam’s Hell am I going to get out of the bathroom.

I was born a hyperventilator, and my Hilton Hotel had just become my Panic Room. I began to pant and my scalp felt prickly and I had to do something. I was alone and suddenly felt tired. But I knew I couldn’t die in this bathroom. I had to fight for my life.

“Halp! Somebody! Halp!,” I pounded on the bathroom door as if I were on ground zero and had just spotted someone else alive on the continent, “Halp!”

My Abuela came quietly to the bathroom, “Que?” she asked. I could tell by the sweetness of her voice that she had no idea of the peril I was in. I imagined the room running out of oxygen before I could be rescued. I would become that legendary story told to naughty key-curious children about the little girl who once locked herself in the bathroom whose skeleton was found years later, slumped over decayed Twinkies and a 20-year-old faded coloring book, black crayon in hand.

With lightning speed, the words came out of my mouth, “I locked myself in! I’m sorry! I’ll never do it again! I’m dying of starvation and feel dizzy — I think the air’s running out of here! Halp!”

My eyes began to flutter as I felt the air inside the room grow thin from all the exhaled carbon dioxide I was filling it with. I  prayed my ending would come soon. I rested my head on the towel I had originally placed on top of the toilet seat for what was at one time going to be my throne of private hours spent in coloring and snacking solitude. And now, it would be the site of my last exhalations. The irony was excruciating.

I knew how death would come: my body parts would go blue one at a time, first my feet, then my legs. My arms would get tingly next. If lucky, I’d enter an unconscious state, rather than having to struggle for my last breaths. What a meaningless end to such a short life.

I heard some scraping and then a clang of metal bouncing off the white tile floor of the bathroom. My eyes popped wide as I looked down and saw that my grandmother had managed to push the end of the broken key out of the executioner’s slot. She turned the door knob and walked in. Whatever speech of reprimand she had at the tip of her tongue disappeared as I fell into her arms, crying so hard with relief that she had to pick me up.

I sobbed, “I almost disappeared like smoke, poof, no one would remember me …”

“Oh, shhhhh, my little girl,” my Abuela reassured me. “How can you say that? Of course we would remember you. You would be the one we would tell about, the little girl that disappeared one day when she locked herself in the bathroom.”

And just like that, I never again minded never getting the chance to be alone.



Alexandra is an overanalyzing, oversensitive mother of three boys who somehow found herself named as BlogHer ’11′s Voice of The Year for Humor. She has been a mother since 1994, which means she hasn’t been right about anything since. She blogs of the sweet and the funny while trying to go unnoticed in her small town. You can find her at Good Day, Regular People. Did we mention socially awkward? We should, which is why the internet was made for her.


  1. I love this series, Alexandra!

  2. haha….at least you had plenty of water you know…smiles…cute story….lol…laughing with you, right? smiles.

  3. lol. i would love to lock myself in the bathroom. of course, not at the young age of 8. at the young age of 38 – which is where i am. but then. my girls would probably find a way to unlock it… oh the irony.

  4. I have to say, I absolutely love reading your words. Again and again, regardless of the story, I find myself mesmerized, captivated by what you have to say and the words you select to tell your story. You, dear Empress, are a brilliant storyteller.

    • Nelly, Nelly:

      How could I not be touched by this comment???

      Thank you so much. It’s your comments that keep me trying. I have my essays, my short stories, everything compiled. Submitting and shopping around, and hoping that there is an audience.

      I want all little kids who feel the way I did back then: lost, confused, without a place to fit, to know, it all works out in the end.

      What doesn’t kill you does make you stronger, no matter what a strangle odd child you are.

      Thank you so much, Nelly. Really. Thank you so very, very much.

      (off to print this comment from you and keep it forever. Thank you)

  5. You kill me. The quest for solitude…it’s a biggie. In my growing-up days, if you wanted to be alone, everyone thought you were angry or upset or something, so you’d find a patch of solitude and then someone (hi mom!) would be all “everything okay, sweetie? why don’t you join us…” If only our bathroom door had had a lock, I would’ve attempted the same thing. Am so glad you were rescued, by the way. What a way to go…vaporized in a bathroom with only Twinkies for a witness? Yikes.

  6. I love your stories about your abuela. She seems like a marvelous woman.

    Glad you didn’t die in your panic room.

    • Suni, you would have loved my Abuelita.

      As sweet as sugar, never an angry day in her life.

      Everything was just “do the best you can” and “be thankful for all the good fortune you have.”

      She was A-mazing.


      Love you, girl. Thank you for stopping by!

  7. Laughing now.. “You would be the one we would tell about” .. legendary before your own time!
    With 4 kids the solitude of the toilet can never be undervalued.. xxx

  8. Too funny, Alexandria! I love how you went from Hilton Hotel to Panic Room in the blink of an eye:)

    I locked myself in the bathroom when I was eleven…not to get some time alone necessarily, but so my older brother wouldn’t kill me. I poured a glass of Kool-aid over his head.(He did deserve it) So the bathroom was my Panic Room until my mom got home.

    Great story! It took me right back to childhood. I think we all felt like outsiders at one point or another and it’s almost comforting to know that others suffered as well:) I will be back to read more of your adventures.

    Ps. If you’d brought chocolate cupcakes into the bathroom instead of twinkles there would have been no need to panic.

    • Isn’t it funny the things we remember?

      I let my mind drift when I sit down to write, and it’s so odd the memories that just push their way to the front.

      I remember the frosted snowflake pattern of the glass that was in the top half of this bathroom door.

      My life…visible, yet made distantly unattainable, through that frosted pane.

  9. That was a great story! You are so funny and such a good writer.

  10. What a cool series, Alexandra! I was very close with my grandmother growing up and can totally appreciate your abuela!

    • I’d love to see a story of your grandmother on your new site!

      I love the redesign: it looks like a fun place to visit, and so jealous you had the guts to bite the bullet.

      I wish I could gather up my courage and take the leap of redesign.


  11. My grandparents had a bathroom door with a weird handle that I couldn’t open until I was about 13. I was so afraid that I would get locked in the bathroom that I would go to the bathroom with the door open or hold it.

    • Ha! you know what scared me? I had such a bony butt that I’d hang on to the bathtub edge and the sink edge, so scared I was going to fall in the toilet.

      Every time, I’d hang on like I was going to fall out of an airplane.

  12. I felt your panic – and yet, you still managed to make it hilarious as well! And your abuela, well, we all know how I feel about her. Sweet and funny, well done, A!

    • Chalupa, HOW I MISS YOU.

      I love it when you post: your heart is so evident in your words.

      I know you’d love my Abuela…she would gift you with such stories. Both you and your sister would be enchanted.

      Love you, sweet lady.

  13. Grandmothers are something special. I came from a large family and I had a few private retreats around the farm.

    • We were blessed with one of the most loving, patient, SMART, grandmothers.

      I say to anyone that knows me, Anything good in me, is from my Abuela.

      Thank you so much for stopping by.

  14. I still like locking myself in the bathroom… there’s just something comforting about it. I love that even at 8, you know you needed some alone time. Thanks for the flashback.

  15. When I was a little girl, I NEVER, NEVER closed the bathroom door while I was going potty, because there was a horrible incident in 1st grade when I thought I was going to die in the tiny windowless bathroom btw classrooms. I had to pound at the door like a gorilla to rescue myself from that fate, and the teacher, after opening it, just stared at me like I was a nincapoop. Obviously, she thought people never died in bathrooms. But I understand your panic, and I hope you didn’t develop a phobia like I did.

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