“Can I read it?” I joke, managing to quell my inner LL (Cool J, not Lohan), but not my inner dad and his subsequent jokes, if only for a precious moment. It’s bad pun #301 of the week, but who’s counting?
“And this,” he says ignoring me, “is a Glock pistol. That I’m going to teach you how to load, aim, and shoot.” We’re not pussy-footing around anymore. It’s Mother’s Day, 2014.
There are guns everywhere: on the walls, in the cases, in the hands of other patrons and employees, displayed like magazines, their glossy covers and attention grabbing headlines pointed and aimed with intent to kill self-confidence.
“Got it,” I say. “Guns, not puns.” Pathetic. Again he snubs me, giving the same, this is serious business look that my grandma would let fly whenever I did something vaguely inappropriate, which was often, or tawdry, which was less so.
I make a quick mental note to never ever, crack a bad joke to a man dressed in all black who handles a gun better than I do my own child. Like, ever, again. From this point forward when he asks, “Does this make sense to you?” after each of his less-than demonstrative demonstrations, I merely affirm: “Yes,” or nod in firm, but taciturn agreement. I refrain from adding “Sir,” because I think I’m older than he is, and I don’t want him to shoot me. I also don’t want him to return the favor by calling me “ma’am.” (I’m not THAT OLD. Yet.)
“Have you ever shot anything before?” he asks. Myself in the foot, is my first thought.
“Clay pigeons,” is my second, vocal one. “Probably need a refresher course.”
He handles the gun the way they do in the movies—proficient, militaristic, releasing the magazine and reloading it without looking or pausing. His confidence is catching. His grip is steady and composed, graceful even; the Baryshnikov of Kalashnikovs.
He hands me a gun simply stating, “You show me.”
I’ve only just submitted my thumbprint to be run through a national database for felony offenders. There is a moment where my much-too-active, always-in-trouble imagination entertains the impossible: that I share a fingerprint with a less law-abiding citizen than I and am about to receive some fairly shocking news. But the whorl patterns of my most nubby digit pass muster and moments later a semi-automatic weapon—the most profitable of all Glock Ges m.b.H guns, the Glock—is in my possession.
Whatever my opinion on gun laws as they stand may be, it is undeniably galvanizing to grip a firearm, to have it momentarily act as an extension of my otherwise non-threatening limb. Its name, its weightlessness, its color, every part of this weapon triggers fear and demands attention without so much making a peep. It is powerful in its silence. Not much else has the ability to do this.
Where he is quick and proficient, I am slow and ham-fisted, a greenhorn without a pasture or a leg of experience to stand on.
He remarks on the way I handle the weapon—“You want to tuck your right thumb beneath your left,” “Never put your finger over the barrel,” (WTF is wrong with me??), “Keep the webbing of your hand away from the slide,”—all pertinent observations which, outside of this moment seem like common sense, but totally evade my current sensibility.
He makes me show him that I can follow direction. “Do it again,” he demands. I f**k up more than once, including twice confusing my left with my right hand (BRILLIANT!), but his refusal to treat me like a child, or an idiot, imbue me with a surprising confidence. (And not just because I feel pretty because I just got a sweet haircut—though that’s true too.)
Two Mexican girls at the counter next to me are being taught how to hold and shoot an AK.
This brings my training to an end.
It feels vaguely like the time I went scuba diving in the British Virgin Islands (what up Iggy, #fancy!). My certification course took about 10 minutes of splashing like a mermaid in the hotel pool. I had barely learned to equalize before off I went into the deep blue abyss. (Any holy shite, there were sharks. NEVER again.)
I’m passed headphones, plastic glasses, a gun, 50 bullets, and a magazine. “Pick a number,” he says pointing to the rows of paper targets that line the ceiling’s edge: human silhouettes in varying colors and head size, zombies, and circles.
“Anything with a baby on it?” I joke. Perhaps the MOST HORRIFIC thing I’ve ever said. This makes him raise an eyebrow—just one—and utter a deeply disturbed, “Whoa.” Now that I feel like the worst person alive, I coincidentally feel ready to shoot a gun.