Let’s Visit Our Other Structure

by Tom Swift

The garage light was on.

It was early evening, just after sundown. Back from our last walk of the day and a game of snout soccer in the books, I decided to finally take on the felled tree branches I had left on the patio to deal with another day. Today — yesterday, to be exact — was that day.

The garage light was on, I say.

What is it about a lit garage in the evening that can put me in a dreamy, yet motivated, mood?

On our late walks, when we walk by one of those houses, you know the ones, in which the garage door is all the way open and a guy is fiddling with his car, say, or clanking around in a tool box, with maybe a girly pin-up on a cabinet against the wall and an old crate or plate or some advertisement of something no longer sold high on a shelf, I feel happy.

Maybe it’s because I know that if our eyes meet that guy and I will exchange a sincere hello. Or at least a nod. Garage guys are calm guys. A guy working in his garage is not a guy who is especially angsty; garage work is not screen time. Garage time is not rush-time. In that way, and I think I know this in the moment, a lit garage sends me back to days gone by and keeps me present in the current one at the same time.

My father wasn’t a garage guy. He wasn’t one to fiddle with his tools more than necessary. I have few memories, in fact, of him even in our garage. I am not mechanically inclined myself. So I am not sure my wistfulness could be taken for nostalgia. Yet there is something serene that emanates from the glow of a garage.

A light on does mean possibilities. It means, despite the darkness that surrounds the garage itself, that the day is not done, not yet. Last night I looked for things to do — pulled out the ladder so as to adjust a couple of bulbs on a string of outdoor lights; grabbed my kettle bells to do a few farmer carries — just to soak longer in the energy, the low-level stimulation, that flowed from the open side door of my lit garage.

You would not be impressed with my garage. Certainly, few garage guys would be. Now, my garage is tidy. Unlike most in the neighborhood, I make in-garage room for storage of my various disposal containers, recycling, trash, etc., and an open, partially filled yard-waste bag. Nothing is scattered. Anything that I keep in my garage is easily retrievable. But the concrete is crumbling, there are no power tools to be found, and conspicuously absent is anything resembling an impressive tool shed. No old license plates, no signs of past consumption of Hamm’s beer, no girly pin-ups.

Mine is a detached garage which gives it, to me, not only an increased geographic but also an appreciated psychic distance from the house. The space between the house’s back door and the garage’s side door is about twenty-five yards. Which, in the conflation of my dreamy mind, might as well be a distant but welcome outpost. C’mon, little buddy, let’s go visit the garage. (He always dashes to the door — it’s sometimes his fastest run of the day — and if I haven’t yet unlocked it, bounces off it a time or three. The first time to see if he can get in, the next times for fun.) Usually, our visits to the garage are with a simple purpose: to grab his leash and a poop bag or two so we may start out on a sidewalk adventure.

I like that while on these adventures, as he is getting readings with his tuning-fork nostrils while making a birds-eye view of a hydrangea or a hydrant, I look up to see an open garage door. (If I am really lucky I’ll pick up the sound of baseball coming from a radio inside the same garage.) A guy will look up to learn who might be calling on him at this hour. Then, when he sees it’s just me and a dog named B., who really likes to pee, he’ll nod and I’ll nod and rain’s not looking like it’s coming till tomorrow and have a good night and you, too.

I know all this because the garage light is on.