When I saw this film — in the theater in 1989 — I was on a really early date with the man who became my partner, who (I believed) looked a little bit like James Spader, except not so Hollywood pretty. They both had great hair, truly liked women, and had a bit of softness that gave them immense appeal, especially during those ugly days of George Bush I. My date jumped during the dinner table scene in which Graham (Spader) gets pressured by his old friend John (Peter Gallagher) to get an apartment, and he explains he doesn’t want to have more than one key. “That’s my line!” my date/partner whispered. “I’ve said that a million times!”

The scene is tense. Despite being old college (frat?) buddies, the two men have gone in painfully obvious different directions. I love the way the dialogue progresses to show not just their differences, but how much they discover that they don’t like each other after all those years. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the full film — but that scene (watch the entire sequence here) remains a tight, awkward experience.

Graham. Well, see, right now I have this one key, and I really like that. Everything I own is in my car. If I get an apartment, that’s two keys. If I get a job, maybe I have to open and close once in a while, that’s more keys. Or I buy some stuff and I’m worried about getting ripped off, so I get some locks, and that’s more keys. I just really like having the one key. It’s clean, you know?

John. Get rid of the car when you get your apartment, then you’ll still have one key.

Graham. I like having the car. The car is important.

John. Especially if you want to leave someplace in a hurry.

Graham. Or go someplace in a hurry.

One key. It’s a perfect example of metaphor meeting reality. I have nine keys now — to all the kinds of things Graham eschews. Locks for protection, to a (new) storage space full of things, multiple keys for my job, to anchor me to a house and a car (and my partner’s car too). I’m going to lose some of them for the next year. And while I won’t be able to whittle it down to the ideal one-key life, I’m looking forward to a life that’s clean, you know?

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