How to Tie a Half-Windsor Knot 

Blake Jon Mycal

It has been a week, more or less, since the accident, since you’ve last seen your father without his sunglasses on. You swear there was once a time when this was not the case, a time you saw your father’s face at the dinner table every night, then leaning over your bed to tuck you in at lights-out. You saw your father’s face, clean and flushed, in the rear-view mirror on chilly mornings when he’d drive the neighborhood to school. But lately, whenever you happen to catch a passing glimpse, it is scratchy and gray and always behind sunglasses. 

Now dinner is whatever is in the fridge and you’re sick of spaghetti. 

Now the house is pitch black. Most nights you wonder if he is even home, but you don’t go behind closed doors. You go to your bedroom, lie in your bed, and you stare at the ceiling fan.

The shadows shift. You begin a prayer, but you find yourself at a loss for words. Or, maybe you’re afraid that the only words that you can manage would send you straight to Hell.

In the morning, you grab a grain-bar from the pantry, and you make your way to the bus stop. You wear two sweatshirts because the sun is not yet out and the wind is howling.   

It has been a week or a century. Don’t worry that you cannot remember the exact amount of time that has passed — the time between then and now. This is petty, and time will never work for you in the way that it seems to work for others ever again. 


The church basement is stuffy and warm. The sun is out today and it comes in through the hopper windows and hits the opposite wall. The dust and the mites, they dance in the band of light. You and your father stand in one of the dark pockets of the room before a wall mirror.

Your shoulders are up to your father’s gut. In the mirror you see your father directly behind you, sunglasses on, digging at the knot of his tie. Children play on posters under the assurances of God’s awesomeness and love. 

Your father tells you to take the wide end in your left hand and the narrow end in your right. He’s done the same with his. He says, “Now bring the wide end over the narrow end, bring it back under and up and through the loop.” You follow your father’s motions. You bring the wide end over the narrow end, back under, then up and through the loop. He says, “Now bring the wide end over like this and up through the loop again. Keep it tight. Keep the knot against your chest.    Bring it down through the loop.”

This is where you lost it the last time. This is where it all fell apart in your hands. You had tried passing the wide end through the eye, but were left again holding each end. 

But this time you manage to keep the knot intact. You button the top of your collar and you slide the knot up to your neck just like your father does. You worry the knot back and forth like the actors in the movies, like a dog will his bone. 

You feel like one of the men, and not just because your father then says that today, you have to be. He picks at something in his right eye, behind the lens, then pushes the sunglasses back up the bridge of his nose. 

“Listen,” he says,  “there will be a lot of people here today. Many you won’t know.

They’ll say things like, I’m sorry for your loss, and they’ll hug you or pat you on the shoulder or try and shake your hand.”

“Okay,” you say.

“Okay,” he says. 


After the service you stand around and watch the suited bodies move like cyclones throughout the foyer of the church. It’s almost like a dance, one where the two partners embrace, only for a moment, and then each moves to the next partner. You wonder if anyone can see you. You imagine this dance occurring from somewhere high above. You are in the rafters and it looks like weather patterns. Blue and red ties streaming across the marble floor. Masses of black.

But just like that it’s your turn to dance and an older man bends down with some difficulty to your level so he can look you in the face and say what he is going to say. He says, “You must be the young man of the house.” What he means is, You must be the motherless child. He says, “I knew your mother very well. We worked together at the phone company. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Later that night you’ll pull out your dictionary and look up the word loss. Something about it just doesn’t feel right. You’ll see synonyms: misplacement, forgetting; deficit; debt. You’ll trace the lineage of the word back to its Old English root, los, meaning destruction, and you’ll then understand what the old man meant. 


After the service, you wait for your father in the pickup. You see him in the passenger side mirror shaking hands and receiving prayers. Then the last of them get into their cars and drive off. He climbs into the truck. The sun is setting straight ahead, splitting the windshield like a wraith and as the truck pulls away you watch in the side-mirror the church becoming smaller and smaller, watch as it rises and falls with each dip in the gravel road, like a fishing bob wadding on the glass of a September lake, waiting to be devoured.

And the tires of the truck then turn the gravel underneath them to dirt and the dirt to dust and the truck spits out the dust and you can taste it, but all you can see when you look back again into the mirror is the reminder that objects may be closer than they appear.