“Get yourself together old man,” Pops’ internal critic chimed in as he barely held himself together in the Ron’s Diner bathroom.
He dabbed his face dry with the thin, brown paper towels that always smell a little like old socks.
And he headed back towards Trevor.
A typical college kid would be nose deep in his phone while sitting alone, and Trevor usually is that guy.
But not this time.
His eyes were glassy, as he looked in the general direction of the two-year-old in the high chair, but his mind was a million miles away.
Pops gripped the corner of the table, and slid into the booth.
LIttle things like going from standing to sitting, especially at odd angles, gave Pops fits these days. And he never grew to accept it.
He grimaced a bit as he straightened his back in the booth.
Trevor still stared off.
Pops sat quietly, and waited for Trevor’s attention to come back to the present moment.
“The hell took you so long in there Pops,” Trevor asked while still staring into space.
It was only six or seven minutes, but it felt like an hour to Trevor.
And a lifetime of regret to Pops.
Trevor’s eyes shifted, and his attention focused, directly on Pops as he answered.
“I’m sorry, son. It all flooded back over me, and I needed to get composed. I’m sorry I left you here, especially as you were sharing your story,” Pops said.
“I get it, it’s fine. Are you OK,” Trevor asked.
“Yeah, I am. It’s just all more raw still than I anticipated, but I’m OK. You. Katie. Weed. Lies. That’s where we were, please keep going,” Pops said.
Trevor was about to launch back into it, when Flo’s raspy voice piped into the serious conversation and the now lukewarm coffee.
“Ron’s Classic, fried hard, with bacon for you, Sweetie,” as she scooted the off-white plate in front of Trevor.
“And for you, Sugarpie, your usual,” as she dropped a plate of biscuits and gravy in front of Pops. “Plus your Tabasco.”
They both smiled. It was a needed break in the heaviness of it all. The food looked and smelled amazing.
“I’ll be back with hot coffee, but can I get you’ins anything else or are y’all all set,” Flo asked.
“We’re good, thanks,” Trevor said.
“OK, Sweetie,” Flo answered as she squeezed Trevor’s broad shoulder.
Pops doused his biscuits and gravy with enough pepper and hot sauce to make Trevor feel uncomfortable. But he didn’t say anything. Trevor just got to work buttering his biscuit, and searching in the wire rack for strawberry jelly.
There were two left, buried under the honey and grape jelly pouches.
With his butter knife in his right hand, and the bottom of the biscuit in his left, he jumped back in to his dilemma.
“Look, Pops. I hate that you think less of me now that you know I smoke weed. It’s just…” Trevor started.
Pops cut him off, even though his mouth was full of his delicious breakfast.
“Did I tell you I thought less of you,” he asked but then answered his own question. “Don’t tell me my experience, you just keep sharing your own. No matter the scenario, I will always think highly of you, boy.”
“Well, I guess I just assumed one of the reasons you left the table was because you were disappointed in me, and thought less of me,” Trevor said.
He didn’t have the language for it quite yet, but his shame cycles were so strong. And so predictable.
Trevor, the first-born, always looked the part. And lived up to the look, and the mostly unspoken but relentless and high expectations of his parents, Dave and Connie.
The oldest of three, with two younger sisters, Trevor can’t recall a time in his life where he was encouraged, or hell, allowed, to not be the responsible one.
The first to “do your best in school” while subtly being told to get good grades.
The first to “play your hardest” in sports which was code for “be as good as dad was and don’t embarrass us.”
The first to be reminded that “Christian kids love Jesus and go to youth group” which was met with lots of reinforcement to show your best parts and push down or hide the rest.
The first to be instructed to “look out for your sisters and protect them at all times” which often left Trevor wondering who the hell was looking out for him.
Though rebellious, and sometimes even evil, urges pulsed through him during his middle and high school years, the “be a good boy” system was so strong in Trevor’s home, he played the part to near perfection.
Or so it appeared.
If anyone in Oakland took an anonymous poll about who was the happiest family in the city, the Dave and Connie Barnes family would be the smiling tokens of applause.
And judging by their Facebook feeds, life was really damn good. And borderline easy.
Trevor and his two younger sisters, Haleigh and Ella, were the prized proof.
Dave was the Finance Committee Chair at the church and owned his own seven-person Engineering firm.
Connie was the Assistant Principal at the elementary school, and the one who spent her late afternoons, evenings, weekends, and summers shuttling the kids around and making sure their every need was met.
Mostly to the detriment of her own needs. Though, she realized that way too late.
As squeaky clean as their appearance seemed, Trevor saw the inside of the suburban whitewashed walls.
On the daily.
He saw dad on the computer in his home office, well into the night. Many nights each week. The glow on the screen reflecting off the back window.
Dad would say, “Goodnight son. I love you. Just finishing up a report. Get some good sleep.”
Even though Trevor knew he wasn’t looking at a spreadsheet, but rather feeding his online porn habit.
He saw mom, with a wine glass in hand, in her bedroom, scrolling her phone, well into the night. Many nights each week. The glow on the screen reflecting off her face that grew more desperate by the day.
Mom would say, “Goodnight Trevor baby, I love you. Just checking a few emails. Sleep tight honey.”
Even though Trevor knew she wasn’t reading emails, but scrolling Facebook, and numbing her own life with another bottle of red wine.
In their own distraction, disappointment, and delusions about the way life was supposed to look, there didn’t seem to be much room for Trevor’s feelings or experiences.
And, with his steady good boy performance, they sure as hell weren’t concerned about him.
He had it together.
Or so they thought.
Maybe a better way to say it, so they hoped.
“How’s the Ron’s Classic,” Flo asked as she touched Trevor’s forearm.