James ordered himself a hot chocolate and took a seat by the window in Starbucks. Harris was late. No surprise really. He watched the creamy brown liquid cool. He never drank it while it was hot for fear it would burn his mouth. He preferred it when it was warm. He slipped off his coat and draped it over his chair and that’s when he saw him.
Harris slipped between the door and an exiting older couple and quick stepped over to the table. ‘Sorry, buddy, hair took a little longer than normal.’
James checked out the mane of hair and it occurred to him that it wasn’t actually immaculately kept as it normally is. He then spotted a faint mark on his neck. He snorted with laughter. ‘Hair took a little longer my arse. You lasted a little longer more like.’
Harris looked up from his bag that he’d been rummaging in in faux shock, mouth wide and eyes followed. ‘I beg your pardon, I have no idea what you mean James.’
‘Bullshit, your blushing cheeks give it all away.’
‘A gentleman never tells.’
‘You have to be a gentleman to start with for that to apply, Harris.’
‘Fuck you.’ Harris grinned and went over to the counter to buy a drink.
James laid his journal and pen out on the table and took a sip of his drink before recoiling slightly… still too hot. He leafed through the pages and came across a note he had made the other day in lecture after Harris had answered Collins’s God question. Why a bullet for God?
Harris came back with a caramel latte and millionaire shortbread. The shortbread didn’t stay for long as he wolfed it down.
‘Harris, can I ask you something?’
He looked up from his plate, ‘Yeah sure, buddy, go for it.’
‘In lecture the other day, you said that you would shot God… why?’
Harris leaned back in his seat and looked at James for a moment, as if considering something. ‘I’ve never told you my coming out story have I?’
‘Well I wasn’t raised in a very religious family… in fact, my parents are pretty much indifferent to it all, but my best friend at the time came from a super religious family.’ He sipped his latte. ‘Proper high Church of England style family. To be honest, he wasn’t really into it, but his parents dragged him to church every Sunday and the vicar was a close family friend and all the other crap that comes along.’
Behind the counter there was a loud crash as one of the baristas dropped a mug. There were a few immature cheers but nothing more.
‘Anyway just after our GCSE exams, I met up with him on a park near where we live and told him. He was fine with it. I mean like totally supportive and held nothing against me.’ Harris smiled to himself, clearly remembering that moment in his mind. Then it vanished. ‘The same couldn’t be said for his parents who up until that point had treated me like a second son almost. But when he told them I was gay… well, his dad basically said that he couldn’t hang around with me anymore.’
‘What did your friend say?’
‘Well we were both 16, so when his dad said that they were stood in the kitchen and he punched him.’
‘He punched his dad in the face?’
Harris tried not to look smug. ‘Yes… and then told them he was an atheist and walked out.’
‘What happened next?’
‘Well them being the loving Christian family that they are, they kicked him out and haven’t spoken to him since.’
‘Shit, what’s he doing now?’
‘Well my parents being my parents took him in and he lived with us for two years before joining the army. That’s where he is now.’
‘So the killing God part?’
‘Religion robbed my best friend of his family. A family that I was as close to as my own rejected me because their God believes that I am a moral evil and believes I will burn in their hell. So yes, if I met God and I would execute him for putting those fucking disgusting thoughts in their heads.’ He took a large gulp of his latte and winced.
‘James, I don’t just not believe in God. Even if God did exist, I still would not follow him. As Christopher Hitchens says “God is not great! Religion does poison everything.’
He stood up. ‘I need a piss.’ And moved off towards the toilets, leaving James sitting alone.
He quickly noted that name down, although he was certain he had heard it before. Christopher Hitchens.
Harris soon returned and they spent the rest of the afternoon just chatting about books and lectures and other random topics.
James took his journal from his bag, dropped it on his desk and lightly tossed his bag onto his bed. He stripped off his coat and opened up his laptop. He typed his way to Youtube and searched for Christopher Hitchens. He watched a debate with Stephen Fry and two other people and the only way he could describe the man was the persona of fierce purpose and dominating will. But before he watched anymore video with Hitchens, James typed into the search bar “Coming out”.
The results were a collection of apparently famous YouTubers telling their fans that they were gay or videos of people filming their coming out to their family or friends live.
It was surreal to imagine putting such a private and controversial moment up on camera and then to send it out for the entire World to see. He struggled to get it out of his own head let alone in a YouTube video. His friends dragged it out of him and made him even consider discussing it.
He moved from video to video watching as many of the people on camera broke down in tears, admitting how much relief they have felt and how much weight and shame has been lifted from their lives by simply being honest with themselves and their families. But not every family was the same and not every family would be as accepting of it and theirs might have been. He’d seen other videos before of families abusing, beating and throwing their kids out. Look at Harris’s friend’s parents. Not everyone accepted it so easily as these YouTubers made it sound.
James closed down his laptop and glanced at the clock. It was close to midnight so he stripped off, pulled on his pajama bottoms and slipped into bed and flicked the light off.