At Sixty-Six

by Walter Bargen

Walter Bargen

It’s a typical Seattle day: overcast, cold, raining,
the streets reflecting a hard shimmer,
laced with the red and green of changing streetlights.
But it’s not the Northwest,
it’s the Midwest and most everyone is indoors.
I spend longer than usual talking with the owner
of the garage as he stands behind the counter
near the antique brass-trimmed cash register.
The mechanic’s complaints have little to do
with his employees, one of whom walks
into the office and asks him to listen to an engine
that’s running on the lift, or the confusion of metric
with inches, as he sets down a greasy wrench
and says he’ll be right back. I struggle with the phrase
left back, and know there’s little chance of turning back,
and resign myself to turning around. Taped to the door
that opens to the car bays, is his daughter’s graduation
announcement, May 13, when she will receive a PhD in
aerospace engineering. He will attend the award ceremony
but not the reception, his ex-wife and her extended
family will be there. She is the one who took the house,
the forty acres, the million and a half dollars
he inherited from his Dutch father.
Dutch what everyone in the shop
and all his customers call him. She even stole
thirty thousand dollars out of the office
and claimed there was only eighteen-hundred,
which is the amount she returned to him,
which wasn’t enough to pay the bills. He threatened
to declare bankruptcy so she gave him another
twenty thousand for payroll and past due notices.
She divorced him and he never wants to see her again.
He rents half of a duplex and has a girlfriend
that he just can’t believe. She goes shopping
and cooks dinner. She crawls up to him in bed
just to be close. She wants to travel to the Netherlands
to visit his family. First time in his life
he has a loving relationship.
I button up my coat, rain is beginning
to crowd out the mist as I tell him I know
what he means: the meaning of meaning
is relationship. I’m going to walk downtown
to a coffee shop, wait for a phone call to tell me
the car is ready. I tell myself that I’m here
for an oil change, that’s it.

Last updated November 07, 2022