Bad luck comes in three.
He called from the emergency room last weekend. He had caught his hand on a nail and needed a tetanus shot and stitches. He also told me he got a ticket for a turn signal that didn't work. He called again, this morning, to tell me he was twirling his keys, they flew from his hand, and they landed in the sewer outside his apartment building. The housing authority, the police, the firemen wouldn't help.
When I arrived, I was wearing a Hawaii 5-0 meets Magum P.I. button down shirt and the crowd was curious by my attire and what I was there to do. He knew the keys were deep in the sewer, but he didn't know where. Just down. The crowd of Bantu mothers, draped in colorful garbs that made my Hawaiian shirt fade in the American landscape, chanted in tongues not proficient with English.
I suggested we go to a store and find a magnet. Auto Zone helped and I purchased a magnet on a stick that was capable of picking up 20 pounds. I worried we'd pull out condoms, hypodermic needles, and a few bras (the kids were watching). We needed string because the magnet wasn't long enough and we needed a plan so we could rope the magnet down. We crossed the street where a woman with colored hair like a My Little Pony tail wore golden Daisy Dukes and was buying menthol cigarettes. The Rite Aid only had shoelaces, so that's what I purchased to use.
We jimmied the string and magnet and went fishing with the crowd of children growing and the onlookers coming out of their apartments more curious than before. We didn't catch a thing (not even a penny). We grew more frustrated.
I saw a woman's mop and I wondered if we could use it. She undid the handle and gave it to us and we used the shoelaces to tie the magnet to the wooden pole. We poked in the water, but couldn't see because it was getting dark. We tied the string to the mop. I was nervous the string would get loose and we'd lose the magnet to the pipes below - both the keys and magnet would travel underneath the earth to destinations unknown. We pulled out the and the two of us tightened the string that held the magnet. He fished. He was unsuccessful. Yet, he kept trying.
I had to go. I announced this several times and the last I did, Abdi pulled the sparkling keys from the sewer below. He was playing the game Operation and was meticulous to not set off the patient's red nose. The keys came straight out right when we all were about to give up.
On the ring was his house key and the only key his family had to their car. Abdi is the man of the house and he drives everyone to destinations that support their American survival. He has his license and drives his mom to work, to get groceries, and to wash their clothes. He drives to Utica to purchase and bring home goat meat so his family has food. He drives kids to their doctor's appointments and cousins to their schools. He brings them all to Maine and Boston to visit their relatives. The wheels that he uses are central to their existence and the keys to that car are what ignite everything to happen in America.
The shoelaces cost $3 and the magnet cost $6. For under $10, I witnessed a rare magic that my cynical brain didn't believe was possible. The keys came out with ease, although it took quite a while to get them magnetized because we were searching for a black cat in a dark basement when we both doubted the cat was even there. When I saw the keys, I looked to the sky in awe. Abdi did the same. He knows the world of prayers better than I, but together we shook hands in bewilderment and felt blessed. He had spent all day worrying about those keys and I felt horrible that he was in this situation.
On my way home, I began to think of his life. Running from Somalia. Arriving to camps in Kenya. Making his way to Kakuma. Collecting canvases dropped by the UN that were left empty when the rice began to fill plates so he and his mother could sew them together to make shelter from the desert winds. He seldom went to school. His mother needed him more to help her with younger siblings and to protect her from the dangers Bantu women faced.
I heard a phone ring underneath the passenger seat of my truck and knew it wasn't my phone. The ring startled me from my daydream of life in Kakuma Refugee camp. He left his phone in my truck. The dark cloud came in four for him, and I drove back to return it to him. He couldn't go a day without it because, like the keys, his phone was central to the family's survival. Without his keys, they couldn't enter the apartment located under the Carrier Dome - the Bricks.
Karma needs to stay with him a while. He's a deserving kid who's been through enough.