I sat on top of a folding table, my feet dangling, when Mom and I got on the topic of kids. I told Mom that I wanted to adopt a little boy. “If I had a girl, I might send her back,” I joked.
A woman folding next to me overheard my words, and she said, “If you had one, you wouldn’t care about the sex. The love would come through.”
Mom said into the phone, “You’re quiet. You must’ve found your story.” She laughed. “Right?”
I said, “Yeah, I think so.” We hung up.
The woman’s name was Lillian. She was curvy. Her tired eyes were wet and red. Her folding slowed down. Around us, the dryer were clicking and buzzing.
She said that her son, Trentin, had a recent birthday. “Well, it was supposed to be yesterday. He would’ve been 23.”
She paused, continuing. This past December, Trentin was heading out to pick up a new bass guitar. He missed a stop sign and got hit. The impact killed him instantly.
A musician, Trentin worked in the mental health field. He helped kids.
A blue-eyed redhead, he didn’t drink or do drugs, Lillian said. “His bass was sitting right beside him, like it should have been, when he died.”
She looked down at her clean clothes. “I have panic attacks now. All of the time.”
Then she gave me the entire family’s contact information, asking me to write about her son’s music. Without another word, she hurried out the automatic door with a basket full of whites.
Until I did some research, I had no idea about her son’s talent.
At 18, Trentin Lee Manning opened for bass legend Michael Manring.
Among others, he shared the stage with Grammy winner Charles Fold. At 19, Trentin’s unique skill had highly regarded bassists calling him a prodigy.
Using diverse techniques and alternate tunings, his first solo release, the five-song EP Tranquility and Tension, came out in 2007. In a 2008 issue of Bass Musician Magazine, Brent- Anthony Johnson wrote, “Trentin Lee Manning is quickly becoming one of the leading young American bassists.”
Gerlene Manning, his grandmother, says, “He was a bright and shining star. He and his grandpa (Kenneth) were real buddies, always together. We raised him.”
Kenneth told Trentin to “be limitless” in his listening and playing.
Then I happened upon Trentin’s friend, David Prues, who runs the local recording shop Ambient Studios.
“The first time he came over he was 15 or 16,” Prues says. “He had red hair and it was real short, and his face was kinda cherubic, like a real big little kid. He was real polite. As soon as he started playing, I was like, ‘Wow, this guy is really good.’ ”
Visiting Ambient monthly, Trentin pushed out complicated work without exerting much energy, Prues says. From strikingly different backgrounds, the two got to know each other well.
“He was pretty devout,” Prues says. “He wasn’t trying to save you or anything like that. … Usually upbeat, thankful and happy, a lot of gratitude for the things and the talent that he had. He was super talented. Many famous bass players gave him ringing endorsements.”
Trentin adored his girlfriend, who often joined him at the studio. “They were head over heels,” Prues says. “They’d be making googly eyes at each other.”
When Prues didn’t hear from Trentin for a few months, he sent e-mails and searched the Internet, finally discovering that his friend was gone.
I was sitting at the Laundromat two months later with three bags of laundry going strong in the mega washers. Bored, I grabbed cheese crackers from the vending machine, looking around. Nothing going on.
I started thinking about Trentin. I wished I’d had the chance to interview him in person, and I promised him that his story would get out there. And strangely, after hearing his music and talking with his family and friends, it felt as if I’d known him.
I thought about the way that Lillian folded her whites so carefully and how special it was that she trusted me with her son’s story. Sometimes sharing things with each other, although it might not take away the pain entirely, can at least help momentarily. The power of release.
And then I remembered something David had said: “Trentin was always saying that God had a plan for us, and after hearing Trentin play I thought, ‘Maybe he does.’ ”
Two women were talking by the three-load washers. One shared that her husband used to abuse her and she had to hide out in order to leave him.
She looked at me and said, “It wasn’t what I expected for my life, the way things worked out. But things never are the way you expect them. We might not get what we think we want, but we don’t know why things happen the way they do. We don’t know the plan.”
It was time for me to use the dryers. The two women had just finished using their baskets, and I was just filling mine.
Check out Trentin’s music at www.trentinmanning.com.
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