It was about five years ago, and I was making props for a space-themed cocktail night at a local bar. Space girls, various incarnations of dolls’ heads with fishbowl helmets. I stood back as I completed the last one and realized that there were lots of body parts left over. The torsos weren’t especially compelling, but the discarded limbs definitely had possibilities.
I picked up a particularly chubby arm and amputated it from its headless torso with a steak knife. Too big for jewelry but it felt good in my hand. Depending on the angle, it might have been waving hello or going down for the third time. This I loved. But what to do with it? Then I looked down and saw my keys.
I’ve always had a lot of keys. I never throw them away. Some are cautionary tales of past relationships or bad employment, others are reminders of happy households or road trips in unpredictable cars long gone to the junkyard. Every now and again, when they get unwieldy, I edit them down to the ones currently in use and start over, leaving the decommissioned keys in a drawer to be rediscovered while looking for something else.
I had recently done one of those edits, so my key ring was pretty bare and my keys were not easy to find. The fat little arm was a perfect solution. I could have my ambiguous limb with me every day in a purposeful way. A utilitarian solution to a fanciful, sentimental, and aesthetic quandary.
It is a little large for a vintage evening bag, which is mildly annoying, and people do tend to look twice or ask questions. Disembodied limbs are disturbing for some folks. Not me, though. As long as her nail polish isn’t chipped, I’m good to go.
Key Ring Chronicles is a crowd-sourced project that explores the stories behind objects that people keep on their key rings. It was created and is overseen by Paul Lukas, who has kept a quarter with a hole drilled through it on his own key ring since 1987. Readers are encouraged to participate by sending photos and descriptions here.