I am lost for words at her offer. Some would say she's pretty if you like that sort of thing. I will describe her she has ginger hair descending in ringlets elfin features sparkling light blue eyes and an impish smile but it's not her looks that have led me to confess all my shameful secrets to her not her looks at all but something in the way she listens and seems to understand and accept me for who I am; no matter what she is there and she's listening listening listening taking away all my shame and still seeing my inner human being and her demeanour says that what she sees is ok.
She's given me a hand moving my stuff into my student room setting out all my photos posters books cups cutlery baseball caps videos beer bottles cider bottles wine glasses with that female flair that just always escapes me but which I recognize when I see it. I show her my computer, its keyboard being my chief means of expression as my fingers dance instinctively over the keys in response to my thoughts; they know their own way to the keys without me trying to make it happen. I tell her eagerly about how fast I can rap the words out and make the characters whizz up on the screen and she says Nicky you'd better take a look at this and my composure falls apart as she hands me a special notice in with the information pack that the University have provided.
"It's a bit of a pain, isn't it?" she says but for me it's real physical pain and will reduce my essay writing to torture and struggle as the notice says that the University wants to clamp down on lax moral standards and in order to do this essays must not be submitted as a word-processed document, but written out by hand where they will be scanned by a machine for the tell-tale signs of evil sinister left-handed writing and I know I have no escape the slope the angle of the crosses the uprights the loops all screaming out the unmistakable signature of a left-hander and she knows she knows immediately just looking at me she knows that it's more than a bit of a pain and she says what's the matter Nicky and the gates of my shame burst open and it all comes flooding out.
I tell her of my friend Tommy at school on the day we're sent out to practice cricket in the nets it's an empty field and he cannot bowl straight nor can I wield the bat in a convincing fashion and after half an hour of frustration he just says oh to hell with this and bowls the next one left-handed and my stumps are scattered all over the back of the net. I can't believe what he just did and I ask him you too? and he says you're a left aren't you I always thought so so why not let's be lefts together for a while and the next half hour is poetry of bat thwacking against ball hissing down the side of the nets and occasionally defeating me and smashing down the stumps until the schoolmaster comes along and sees two boys playing cricket as if reflected in a mirror and gets mad at us don't we know it's a sign of rebellion against God have we forgotten that our Saviour rode into Jerusalem on a donkey in the last week of his life and there was crucified for our sins and that our left hand playing is a fulfillment of the prophecy of the Psalmist it is a sign of our rebellion of our forgetfulness?
And I tell her of all the corrective therapy the practice practice practice of my clumsy hand under the minister's stern gaze as over and over again I scrawl out the fateful line of the prophecy if I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning if I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning if I forget thee O Jerusalem let my right hand forget her cunning and slowly page after agonizing page the letters begin to take better shape and the motion of the pen becomes more fluid but it still just doesn't feel natural but in the end he is satisfied with my progress and tells me I'm a good boy for trying so hard and that God will bless me for my diligence and devotion.
But I go back to my bedroom and my wrist is aching with all the unnatural effort and I open my notebook take the pen in my left hand and with ease and grace write out these words if I forget thee O Jerusalem let my left hand forget her cunning if I do not remember thee let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy and tears of joy flow down my face as the skill of my left hand proclaims what is in my heart as I remember how our Saviour spent the last week of his life in Jerusalem and I know I know I know I have always remembered this above all other most precious thoughts and never did I ever rebel or put anything at all before God and nor did my tongue ever cleave to the roof of my mouth and I have always uttered praises with the utmost fluency and felt in the midst of all that praise a wonderful connection to God to Jesus to the Holy Ghost and I look at the tidy and polished handwriting and each curve each curl each embellishment of each letter is praise of my God and Saviour fashioned by my left hand.
Suddenly I stop in alarm why have I blurted this all out to this girl I hardly know she could be a spy from the Christian thought police or anything but she just looks at me and says Oh Nicky I'm so sorry I know a little of what you feel because I too have a secret I am ambidextrous I can write equally well with either hand so my guilty secret can be hidden if needs be. And she takes a pen and writes her name fluidly first with the right hand and then the left the left almost the same as the right apart from a slight difference in slant that could be detected by their clever spy machines. She tells me it's part of her that must be expressed she can't hold it back but she can hide it and is safe from prying eyes. And so she tells me she'll be my right hand and I'm to type up my essays on computer and hand her the script and she'll write it out long hand with her right hand and no one will ever know because she is on a different course to me so the tutor won't suspect. I tell her I can't expect her to do all this just for me but she says she wants to do it because she is a little like me and wants to help out those who aren't able to hide like she is.
And so the little deception is carried out essay by essay term by term A plus by A plus and my university studies have become a joy and my private devotion to a God who accepts praise from the left hand as well as the right increases. After the last essay has been handed in we talk and I tell her she is my best friend in all the world and can never forget how she has helped me to obtain a set of perfect marks throughout the year and how can I ever thank her enough. Then she turns her pretty eyes upon me and I don't quite realise what is behind that extra sparkle and the fondness in her smile as she moves closer and suddenly her arms are wrapped round my shoulders and her lips are upon mine moving with a passion and urgency as she is trying to ignite a fire that won't start. I draw back and I say I'm sorry Sue I should have told you before I like you so much but not like that in fact not any girl like that and I really should have said before because it's not as though there's any shame in it our religious leaders might be barmy about what hand you use to write but at least they don't have a problem when a boy likes another boy like that because they know it's not a choice and that love of any kind is a gift from God.
She is red in the face and embarrassed disappointment clouds her face and a tear starts to work its way down her cheek and I hold her to my chest and say there there it's alright I hope we can still be best friends because you're the best friend I ever had. And as her disappointment subsides she says of course Nicky of course we'll still be best friends I will still be your right hand and I will help you to find love I should have known from the look in your eyes when you told me about Tommy at the cricket practice that he's the one you've loved all along isn't he what became of him?
And I tell her that they never let us be together not because we were both boys because that is healthy and natural but because we were both lefts and our sinister influence couldn't be allowed to spread and eventually Tommy's parents took him away from that school and I never saw him again. And now it's my turn to shed tears there is no prejudice against me for liking boys but it's still hard that nine out of ten boys I like are hetero and and nine out of ten of the rest of them are bigoted right-handers and possibly nine out of ten of that tiny remaining number won't like me back.
"Then your lover will be one in a thousand!" she says "Isn't that romantic?"
I tell her Tommy was one in a million.
She pledges to help me find him again.
"I'll be your right hand in prayer too" she says.
Author's footnote: I have several friends on the internet who have to a great extent struggled to reconcile their Christian faith with their homosexual orientation. Some managed to retain their faith, and some did not. This story that poured out of me as a series of mini-tirades of the pent up feelings of the character depicted, is affectionately dedicated to them.