When I was younger, we spent the nights he got off in the garage. Grabbing the work lamp: Shine it here. I would tense my arms to try and not move at all. The socket slipping off the greasy bolt: Damn it! With the rusty Chevy I bought at fifteen, the work became a shared activity. Working on both of our cars in the evenings and late into the morning.
The garage was always his space. My grandmother’s tendency to smoke and clean never touched the room. Oil cans knocked over. Chips of old concrete skating along the floor to the other side of the garage. Old craftsman toolboxes shimmering from our oily fingerprints.
Whoever had the money for parts bought them. His pension allowed for about as many as my wage at the convenience store did. We alternated weeks with his Fairlane and my Chevelle. Only skipping if the Elks Lodge had an event.
I moved out of town a few years later, and sold the Chevelle eventually, but collected postcards he sent on my fridge. I would try and remember to call him once a week.
He left me the Fairlane in his will. I’d had a shitty commuter car at the time, so I sold it to a dealer in town, and took the little cash I could from it. Roger and I drove up to his funeral in the Fairlane.
He’d first let me drive the car when I was fourteen. I told him I was nervous. “It’s okay if you crash,” he told me, “they’re meant to do that.” But driving what would always feel his to watch him lowered into the ground was at best unsettling. Sending me back three decades in an instant.
I knew the Aunts and Uncles I hadn’t seen in a decade didn’t want me there. Never saying as much at the funeral, but the way they kept their distance, the way they whispered in huddled groups, said enough. They were never forgiving me for leaving. Small towns are funny that way.
Roger had balls of steel, so we showed up holding hands. Dispelling all the just “roommates” or just “best friends” rumors in one fatal swoop. When I wept, he squeezed my shoulder. When they tossed the handfuls of dirt onto the casket, I joined in. Never letting their eyes trying to burn holes in my back stop me.
He never would’ve talked about it, but I’m sure he knew about me. He never asked if I had a girlfriend or not. He never asked about having kids. We worked mainly in silence.
I didn’t expect more from him, as talking seemed out of character. For perhaps his whole generation. But the hours of silence interrupted only by grunts of labor and clicking of rachets said more than all the gossiping family ever could.
A born-and-raised Idahoan, Keegan is now proud to call the Washington Coast home. His essays, short stories, and poems have appeared in Cascadia Rising Review and Trestle Creek Review.