The New Year brought with it many surprises. Marty had fully come out to his family and in the resulting chaos he wound up spending the holidays with his steady boyfriend, Daniel. I felt bad about his family issues but glad that he was seeing someone steady and staying out of the hookup scene. Marty had also become a devoted atheist, which disturbed me because I thought he was only saying so to try to please me. I did what I could to try to help him understand atheism but he just offered hollow affirmations and seemed to simply be angry at a god that he still believed in. It’s just those sorts of god-hating self-professed atheists that give atheism a bad name.
Jeffrey had taken to the habit of cussing. He told me that his church didn’t actually prohibit it and he just felt it gave him more street credibility with the youth group that he led. His use of expletives was often awkward and poorly timed, thought, so I actually found myself asking a youth pastor to watch his language around the customers. I hoped that his new habit wouldn’t be very long lasting. To make matters worse, Marty took to making uncomplimentary statements about religion just to get a rise out of Jeffrey.
Anna and I started working alone on Sundays and spent most of our time cleaning since I still had no customers for my turkey dinners. She was becoming more of a help in the kitchen than I had ever expected from a 15 year old. The hours were getting to be more than I could handle and, without customers, I knew that I would eventually have to close on Sundays. Since Anna couldn’t work weekdays I was afraid I would have to let her go and I really hated to have to do that to such a hard working young girl. As though sensing my conundrum, she announced one Sunday that she had gotten a new job with evening hours and would need to quit. I was incredibly relieved.
Just as quickly as Marty had fallen out with his family, he suddently announced that they were going on a Mexican vacation. He was angry that they had refused to allow Daniel to come along with them, but quickly decided that a free Mexican vacation was worth a little away-time from his new beau. In preparation for plenty of beach time he became obsessed with shedding a few more pounds off of his already gay-slim build. I started preparing tzatziki from low-fat yoghurt and serving it to him with the widest range of sliced veggies I could keep on hand. If nothing else, at least he was getting his vitamins.
Jeffrey was great about covering for Marty’s vacation time, although coffee row was relentless about his United Church affiliations. I just couldn’t believe the tactlessness of these people whom I had already so regularly tried to make feel unwelcome. They had to know that I already hated them and that they weren’t welcome in my bistro, yet they still had the nerve to attack my employee’s religious beliefs. They were completely without conscience and I grew to despise them even more.
Jeffrey wasn’t nearly as talented at barista work as Marty, but he definitely made up for it in the tidying up department. I had hoped that a few more members of his church might support the restaurant where he worked and I brought this up with him. I was fairly certain that the United Church wouldn’t be as negative about spicy food as the local priest. He told me that, unfortunately, the woman whom I had tossed out of my kitchen was a member of his church and had been very vocal about what she described as a physical attack. Not wanting to get Jeffrey in the middle of a dispute between myself and a lying cunt that was a member of his congregation, I decided to let the issue drop.
Marty returned from his vacation well tanned and dressing far more conservatively than when he had departed. He started back to work on a Tuesday and seemed to be getting along a lot better with Jeffrey. A few times Jeffrey even looked at me with an inquisitive expression, as though he thought Marty and I were setting him up for some sort of prank. I began to fear that Marty was actually hitting on Jeffrey and was glad when Jeffrey finished his shift so I could inquire about his change in disposition. Marty and I stood alone in the front of the store with just a few customers finishing up their lunch.
“So,” I said, “how was Mexico?”
“It was absolutely amazing,” he answered.
“Hard to come back, huh?” I asked.
“No, it was time for me to come back.”
“Wow, that sounds prophetic,” I said, meaning to say ‘pathetic’.
“I have something that I need to tell you,” he replied, “and I’m not sure how you’re going to take it.”
Taking some time to ponder the possibilities, I finally said, “So did you find god or decide that you need to have a sex change operation?”
“I found god,” he said, to my astonishment.
This was more bizarre than when I had found out he was an ex-monk. I honestly had no idea what to say. I was certain this had to be a joke, but if it wasn’t a joke then I didn’t want to do anything to damage this young man’s esteem more than it had already been damaged. We stood in silence for a while and he just blinked like a big damned blonde ostrich. Finally he made the first move and unzipped his sweater to reveal a t-shirt with some religious slogan plastered on it in a rock ‘n’ roll style font.
“I’ve been saved,” he said, “and I’m starting my life over in the blood of Christ.”
“Wow,” I said - for that was all I could say.
“This may be hard for you to accept right now, but god is with me – for the first time for real.”
Once again we stood in silence. This was really uncomfortable. I liked this kid, and if this was what was going to finally help him be happy then I was going to support him no matter what my objections. I kept peeking over to see if he was cracking a smile but he just stood steadfast; a damn big blonde blinking ostrich.
Finally I just said, “Congratulations,” for there was nothing more to say.
“I’m glad you are happy for me,” he said, darting back into the kitchen to start the dishes.
The next few weeks were just plain weird; more weird than all the ‘FRUMS’, ‘SUPES’, and ‘YUCKS’ combined. Jeffrey and Marty had lengthy religious discussions around the dishwasher and Marty began working harder than ever before. He told me of his deeply religious experience in Mexico, but never told me anything specific about the experience. He just kept repeating how important it was to have family and how he thanked god everyday for his.
I researched sexual reorientation programs heavily, fearing that he had been tortured in Mexico. Judging from what I learned, he would have had to have been sequestered for almost the full two weeks for this sort of effect from such brainwashing. I questioned him about his holiday and he gave me vivid details about parasailing, hiking in the mountains, different restaurants at the resort, and plenty of other things that precluded the sort of intensive captivity required by deprogramming gurus.
As best as I could possibly conceive he hadn’t been tortured, he had found Mexico to be a religious experience, and he was actually back in the flock of his Catholic upbringing. He even started to bug Jeffrey about the United Church marrying gays – laughing that marriage was for a man and a woman to establish the sanctity of a family. I started to wonder about the possibility of an alien abduction when one loose end just smacked me in the face like a wet glove; Daniel.
One day, when Marty and I were alone in the store, I just turned to him and said, “So where does Daniel fit into this new found faith of yours?”
“He doesn’t,” Marty replied blandly.
“So that’s it? You just call him up and say it’s off because you found god?”
“Actually I just severed ties antiseptically.”
“Antiseptically? What the fuck does that even mean? You just stopped taking his calls?”
“Wow. So the two of you were in love, you had your religious experience, and now he has nothing?”
“We were never in love. It was just lust.”
“And you’re ok with just leaving him hang in the wind? You don’t think you owe him an explanation?”
“He used me. I used him. Neither of us owes the other anything.”
“There are some things that I just can’t have anymore,” Marty explained.
“You mean some things that you just don’t want anymore,” I corrected.
“No - can’t have. I’ll always have that lust, but I can’t have that satisfaction.”
“What? You still feel the same way but now you aren’t gay because you won’t act on it?”
“I was never gay. There is no such thing as gay. It’s just an unnatural lust. It doesn’t go away, but through god I can always deny its fulfillment.”
“You mean you can always live in denial,” I scolded.
“That’s they way you see it – but I see it through god’s eyes now.”
“So that’s it then. Wow.”
I just couldn’t say another word to Marty. I was angry but I didn’t want to impinge on his new beliefs. I couldn’t help but think of Daniel. They may not have been together long but I just couldn’t believe that Marty had cut off all communications without explanation. That had to be the worst way imaginable to break up with a person; to just disappear without so much as a goodbye. I think my greatest disgust was at realizing that Marty had just become one of Humbugs Non-Gays.