Evan woke up around nine thirty that Sunday. He rolled over, smiling, to glance at the clock. For a moment he was confused about why the other side of the bed was empty. Connor normally stayed over on weekends.
Then he recalled the date and realized Connor was gone already. He’d gone home for Father’s Day. The Murphys were doing a cookout. Evan had been invited, but he always felt like such an intruder at family functions with the Murphys. Especially those revolving around Mr. Murphy. It wasn’t that Evan felt like Larry disliked him. It was just that Evan knew how Connor and Larry had not gotten along for years and… frankly it was difficult for Evan to ignore that for the sake of socializing. He sometimes wanted to grab Mr. Murphy away from Connor and tell him off, tell him he needed to be better to his son. Sometimes Evan wanted to stay away from Larry for his own sake. Because Larry seemed to like Evan, at least now that he seemed to be getting away from his homophobia. Evan worried to that his own daddy issues made him overlook Mr. Murphy’s shortcomings at times. Because a mediocre dad had to be better than an absent, right?
So despite the invite, Evan opted to stay away for Father’s Day. He stayed in his apartment with Tom - also home for the holiday. While he and Connor had talked about it at length, they both decided not to really look into moving in together until they finished college. They each had a year left. Connor was looking at graduate schools, and Evan was still uncertain about where he was going in life once he had his degree. So while they figured that out, they decided to hold off on making the leap to cohabitation. For now. Evan wasn’t worried.
Sighing, he pulled himself out of bed. Checked his phone; texted his mom back about visiting her in a week or two, read his emails, browsed facebook. He made himself breakfast lazily since he had the whole apartment to himself, and ate it sitting at the breakfast bar that divided the living room and kitchen.
He let himself be lazy, stretching out on the couch, watching a few episodes of the American version of Queer As Folk (which Connor thought was a little bit soapy, so he didn’t watch as regularly as Evan). Around eleven he decided he should shower and get dressed. Feeling a little bit motivated, he decided he would go for a walk on campus. There was a small lake about a mile from Evan’s apartment, and since the weather was nice he figured he would walk along the lakeshore, keep his mood up.
When it was noon, Evan called his dad.
The Father’s Day after his dad had left, Evan had spent hours making a homemade card, saying how much he missed his dad and wished they could spend time together again soon. He got a quick phone call thank you and not much else.
The next year he sent a store bought card, and got a voicemail message on his mom’s phone in return.
By the time Evan turned ten, he stopped bothering to send cards. He sent emails instead. Short, one line emails with the subject: “Happy Father’s Day!”
He didn’t get an email back the year he turned fourteen, so then he quit sending those.
Well at least he had seen his dad. He’d visited for a week every year since his senior year of high school. Connor usually went with him. The fact was that Evan spent most of those trips with Max and Jessie, and now that they were getting older he knew their interest in him as a big kid was waning.
His dad wasn’t a bad guy. Hell, for Jessie and Max he probably wasn’t even a bad dad.
But he wasn’t great for Evan, and Evan had learned to accept that he never really would be. But.
He still called.
“Hey dad. It’s Evan. Happy Father’s Day!”
“Hey bud! How’s college treating you? Getting ready for senior year?”
“Yep.” Evan chewed idly at a hangnail, taking a seat on an empty dock by the lake. “Still not sure what I’m going to do when I graduate, but… yeah.”
“You’ll figure it out,” his dad said, in what Evan thought might be an encouraging voice. “How’s Connor? You two still going strong?”
“He’s good. Starting to look at grad schools. Studying for the GRE.”
“That’s great! What’s he going for again?”
“He wants to do Library Science,” Evan said.
They chatted a little. Small talk. Evan asked about the weather in Colorado; his dad asked about the weather by Evan. Evan asked after his half siblings. He asked after his stepmom. The whole thing lasted about fifteen minutes and wasn’t especially painful, and Evan eventually filled a lull with, “Well have a good day dad. It was nice talking with you.”
“You too, kid. Keep me posted about your final year in school.”
They hung up.
Evan sat on the dock, staring out at the lake, and then called his mom.
“Hey sweetie, good timing, I just walked in from the store!”
Evan smiled. “That is good timing. How are you?”
“Good, good. Great actually. I um…” She paused. “I got asked out on a date.”
Evan smiled wider. “Really?”
“I know we never really had a conversation about me dating,” His mom said, “Since I was always working so much when you were at home… but yeah. He’s a nice guy. Works in the same building as me… Different company of course. His name is Chris.” She had started a new job as a paralegal about six months before. Her first job after she graduated had been fine, but she was offered a promotion and a raise if she moved to work at Mr. Murphy’s firm, and eventually she had agreed. She seemed to really really enjoy it.
“And what does Chris do?”
His mom explained that Chris worked in contracting for an insurance company. He was younger than she was, by about a year, and had a kid close to Evan’s age. She told Evan all about him - how he had good taste in movies, how he made her laugh, how they met because he’d offered to buy her a coffee in the cafe in their building after accidentally bumping hers to the floor as he walked inside.
“He sounds great mom. I hope you have a good time.”
“Me too. Is it weird if I send a picture of what I think I’ll wear? I don’t want to be under or overdressed.”
“No, send it. Please.”
They talked a little longer, catching up, and then as they conversation was winding down, Evan said, “I… Wanted to say thank you.”
“For being just so… I know it wasn’t easy for you. Raising me on your own. So. Thanks.”
“Oh… you don’t have to thank me, honey, I was… I was just trying my best.”
“Well. Just…” Evan stared at his feet. “Just thanks. Okay? Really.”
“Okay. I love you Evan.”
“Love you too, mom.”
Connor had gotten in late the night before and headed pretty much immediately to bed. Despite his original plan - to give Zoe money and ask her to slap his name on whatever gift she had picked up for Larry - he had done something stupid.
And that stupid thing was unearthing an old baseball glove that his dad had gotten him years and years and years ago.
And wrapping it.
And now his dad was staring at him from the spot where he sat on the couch, among the debris of wrapping paper. His jaw hanging open.
Connor looked down, stupidly, regretting this decision a lot. Like.
His dad wasn’t such an asshole to him these days. And Connor wasn't such an asshole back.
But they just didn’t so sappy shit together.
It was a dumb idea. Connor should have just gotten him a Home Depot giftcard. Or a rent-a-son to call sport and, like, grill footballs with for the holiday.
He wanted to immediately take it back, just reverse right out of this whole situation before it got anymore humiliating, but then his dad said, “You've... This has been used. You used it." He stopped. Smiled. "How’d you break it in?”
Connor shrugged, feeling stupider by the second, feeling like Zoe and his mom were watching him, waiting for other signs of an oncoming mental break. “Um. I. Shaving cream?”
His dad was staring.
“I mean… when I was in little league… you. Um. Showed me.”
“Did you… um… want to maybe play catch or something?”
Zoe caught his eye as his dad bustled toward the garage, carrying on about finding his glove and Connor kind of wanted to evaporate because he knew this was a dumb idea and now everyone else could see how dumb the idea had been.
But then Zoe hugged him. “Dude. What the fuck?” She said. “I think he wet himself with joy.”
Connor mumbled, “I just didn’t know what to get him…”
His mom smiled at him too. “I think it’s nice that the two of you are spending more time together.”
Connor had to actively swallow the words that were climbing up his throat.
He was still trying to work through the kind of temporary insanity that had caused him to do this when Connor met his dad in the backyard ten minutes later. The whole idiotic thing had started with Jared.
But basically, at the end of May,Jared had called Connor in a fit of panic. He was Connor’s temporary roommate for the summer - Tori, Connor’s roommate, was studying abroad while Jared was in town for some kind of internship. Jared had also joined a softball league at a local bar and called Connor, of all people, to fill in when some people were too hungover to play.
“I don’t even play sports, Jared, ask someone else.”
“Dude, not to be a dick but I did ask Evan first and he said that at least you’d done little league so you’re kinda my last hope here.”
So Connor had done it. And he hadn’t made a massive fool of himself.
And he might have sort of volunteered to… be available as an alternate if the need should arise.
Which led to Connor taking his old glove from the garage at home when he visited a few weeks back.
And breaking it in.
He was fucking playing catch with his dad even though he was twenty fucking one and they’d literally never ever done this before.
“You’re… um…” His dad had caught the ball that Connor threw after taking a step back. “You’re actually pretty good.”
“Um. Thanks?” Connor said, catching it as his dad threw it back. Less softly this time. Overhand. “I kind of accidentally joined a softball team?”
“Yeah my friend Jared plays and needed an alternate one day…” He threw the ball again, right into his dad’s open and waiting glove.
“Does Evan play?”
“Nah, he’s not much of a sports person,” Connor said. “He’s more outdoorsy but not really… you know. Into sports. Competition makes him anxious.” He caught his dad's throw. "He likes to watch though."
They ended up playing for maybe an hour. Until their arms got tired. Until Connor’s mom called them inside for some kind of organic lemonade thing she’d made, and his dad started going on and on about how he needed to start up the grill.
“We should do this again…” His said said. Awkwardly patting Connor’s shoulder.
“Um. Yeah. Maybe.”
Zoe shook her head at Connor when he sat next to her on the back patio. “He’s going to sign you up for father-son football next.”
And Connor smiled back.
And his dad was still smiling after dinner.
So maybe it wasn’t such a stupid present.