It’s a simple mechanism, the garage door lock. A spring-loaded bolt pushed through a hole in a metal rail—the rail that the garage door rolls along as it’s opened or closed. It’s like the deadbolt on the front door. Binary, locked/unlocked, no gray area. There’s a lever to pull to release the lock. The bolt springs back, unlocking the door. I do this; I unlock the door.
It’s freezing in the garage. Well, almost. Freezing outside, barely above freezing inside. I’m barefoot, wearing thread-bare cotton pajamas, hoping to finish up quickly. I push the bolt, locking the door again. I push it another time, making sure it sticks. I wait, watching the lock, and then looking for patterns in the puddles on the garage floor. I count to ten, slowly. It was a snowy day, lots of opening and closing the garage, taking out shovels and sleds, tracking in snow. I wait to see if the lock will slip. I tap the lever gently to see if it will snap open. It doesn’t, but now I’ve touched it. I release the lock and start again.
Leaving the garage, I turn off the light—a switch on the wall next to the door. I flip the switch down and the light goes out. Then I press down on the switch again, firmly this time, making sure it’s all the way down. It’s a black plastic switch, surrounded by a dirty yellow wall-plate and smudged white drywall. In the dark, I can barely see it. When I let go of the switch, I feel a hint of movement. I push it down again. Is this right? I can’t be sure. I turn on the light and then turn it off again, this time paying more attention to each step.
This is the routine. All the light switches, all the door locks in the house. The stove, the toaster, the electric can opener. My family is in bed. My older brothers, their lights already out; my parents, reading, waiting for me to settle down. I still need to check my closet and under my bed.
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