Coming Out Over An Evening Phone Call In 2004

Harry, the father of my mom’s boyfriend, sat on the couch smoking a cigarette. The news was on the TV by the air purifier. The phone was in the big chair by the sliding glass door. I answered it.

“Shhh,” I said. I listened for any sounds of other lines being picked up.

“Is it true?” Jay asked. I was glad to hear his voice. I imagined what he looked like now. Maybe he’d started growing some facial hair. Maybe a few chest hairs, too. Was his black hair still short, or had he grown it out a bit? After a while, I answered.


Harry sighed, lifted his single crutch from the arm rest, and pulled himself up. He walked back through the kitchen and into his bedroom. He shut the door. The oxygen tank groaned.

“Are you sure, though?” Jay asked. His voice cracked a little, going down too low and coming back up too high.

Yes,” I said. I think my voice did the opposite.

“But what about Jenny and Alex? Remember? On the bus?”

“No.” I remembered the bus. “And you liked Alex.”

“Man, this is wild. Does anyone else know?” He was starting to sound anxious.

“Everyone at school.”

“Dang. You have to be careful.”

“I know.”

“Wild, wild, wild. Hold on—”

A muffled voice beside Jay came and went. Jay’s audio stayed muffled. Sounds of swirling and sucking grew from behind Harry’s bedroom door, with a few coughs in-between them. I dragged the phone and the cord over to the couch, turned on the air purifier, and watched the replay of John Kerry conceding. After a few minutes, the smoke cleared.

“Sorry,” Jay said. “Anyway, it’s good to talk to you. When are you gonna come and visit?”

“I can’t drive. My eyes.”

“Oh, shit. Right. Well, when I get my car I’m gonna come and get you. Me, you, Pete. We’ll go to Lexington or something. They have gay bars there.”

“We’re 16.”

“Pete can get us in. No limits, man. Hey, can I ask you one more thing?”

The oxygen turned off. I hurried back to the chair. Harry’s crutch pounded back through the kitchen.


His voice stayed steady. “Did you ever, you know, like me or anything?” He breathed into the phone, then quickly breathed in. I thought about the conversation we had with Alex on the bus. I remembered Jay’s big, blue eyes, and I imagined they were sitting in front of me.

Harry stopped at the fridge and pulled out a can of beer.


Jay breathed into the phone again.

“You sure? You can tell me.”

I turned my head and looked through the sliding glass door, then back to the hallway behind the kitchen, past Harry. My mom’s bedroom door was closed. I listened for the silence on the phone.

Harry speed-crutched his way back to the couch with his beer in his other hand. After he sat down in his spot, there was a loud pop as he opened the can.

“No.” I said.

“Because we’re like brothers.” He said.



Coming out is hard.

This is a story about coming out. It was one of the times I came out to a friend. Do people still “come out?” If you’re out, how many times have you came out? Do you still find yourself coming out to people, or do you just sort of let people figure it out as an adult? If you’re not an adult, what’s on your mind? If you’re straight, cool. Do you come out? Comment below and let’s discuss. You can also follow me on Twitter and like my page on Facebook.

And, for those of you who can’t come out right now due to, well, reasons, that’s okay.

Eric Shay Howard selfie in alleyway in sun

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Kyle

    I came out to my sister, it did not go well. My parents and brother do not know. Everyone at my work knows, and they’re supportive. I’m not fully out, hence why I’m kinda anon on Twitter.

    1. Eric Shay Howard

      It’s good that you have people at work who support you!

      1. Kyle

        Thanks! Do people at your work know, and if so, are they supportive?

        1. Eric Shay Howard

          I’m 99.9% sure that everyone knows. When I first started, I was very fashion forward.

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