The locksmith arrived in a driving rain. I saw him get out of his van start toward my studio and turn around and return to the van. A couple of minutes later he reappeared and walked toward me barefooted.
As he entered the cabin my misgivings began. A hippy locksmith? What I could see of his hair, which was mostly hidden under a dirty felt had was shaped to his head like a second skin, was was long and stringy. Bean poll thin. loose jointed he floated over to the safe and sat before it in a semi-lotus as if to meditate on the task before him—-to change the combination.
Half way into disassembling the lock mechanism, he suddenly turned and asked:
Did you ever have your heart broken?
The question hit and chilled me with the force of driving rain as I was a month into the process of separation and divorce from my wife after twenty five years during which we couldn’t seem to find the combination to enter into the inner chambers of each others hearts.
Yes, I replied and quickly turned the question back on him.
Yes. I was doing akido a few weeks ago and I felt a pain and thought I had injured myself. But that night I realized that it was my heart that broke. I went on a purifying fast and tried to draw the cosmic energies into myself to heal the break. But I couldn’t do it. Everywhere I went peoples bad energies and vibrations kept getting inside me and I couldn’t get sealed up.
Listening to him I felt as if I had entered his dream and was losing the boundaries between the symbolic and the real. Was he talking about a physical injury, or an emotional trauma. I took an intuitive leap and asked: Did you just break up with your wife?
Yea, he replied. You know the government is in a conspiracy with these feminists. It is getting them to accuse men of child abuse and violence so they can take their children away from them and break up the family.
I realized by now that he was swiming in deep water out of view of solid earth, without a life preserver and that I had best swim along with him. Why would the government want to break up the family I asked?
To give the power to women, he replied.
Gradually, I am getting some idea of the combination to his psyche. He has probably been violent toward his wife and/or children and is prohibited from seeing them. In my best tentative guessing voice I ask: Do you get to see your children?
Yes, sometimes. Last Saturday I picked them up and we were going to go out fishing, but I felt the tear in my heart getting bigger so I took them back to their mother.
By now the lock on the safe was in pieces and he was beginning to reset the combination. How does that work, I asked?
The locking mechanism he showed me was as intricate as a Swiss watch-=–wheels within wheels within wheels. so complex I couldn’t begin to understand it.See these three wheel, he replied. Each one is set to one number of your combination. So, lets say your first number is 16. I set this indicator so that after the dial is rotated 5 times to the right the gap in the first wheel comes to rest on the lever that trips the lock. Then I set wheel two so that it comes to rest in the same place after 3 rotations to the left. And the same thing with wheel three. When all of them line up the tripping lever goes all the way into these little slots, you turn the dial to the right and the safe opens.
After setting the new combination he reassembled the safe and tested to see that it worked. Nothing to it, he said. You just have to understand how the mechanism works.