Birthday dinner. My beautiful wife and I were sitting under the stars, eating shrimp, sipping watery Diet Cokes. “I was firing Scott’s Sig at the range,” I said, by way of romantic conversation. “The trigger’s incredibly light . . . I was thinking about how you fire yours. I was trying to imagine how you made the transition from not firing to firing. You know; does she kind of walk up to it, or just power through it? It’s a Zen thing.”
“What are you talking about?” Sam demanded. “You either shoot,” she said, chopping both hands straight down onto the metal table, rattling the silverware. “Or you don’t shoot. That’s it.”
I guess you could say that Sam and I have a different perspective on things. Guns, their uses and life in general. We each have our own inner life. With firearms.
Earlier in the evening, we’d been cruising through downtown Pawtucket, clocking the turn-of-the-century civic and industrial architecture (as one does on a hot date). We burbled past the YMCA. The perfectly symmetrical brick edifice must have looked like like a palace to its boat-fresh residents. Or a prison.
I stopped to let Sam take a gander. My wife was wearing a skin tight dress and heels so high her nosebleed had nosebleeds. In downtown Pawtucket, RI. At dusk.
Three kids in baggy pants were coming up a side street. A short, stout girl was pulling up the rear (in more ways than one). I’m not allowed to report the group’s ethnic makeup. So I won’t. I’ll simply say this: they looked harmless enough.
I came around to Sam’s side of the truck and told her that maybe it wasn’t such a good idea get back in the car let’s go.
And off we went.
As we drove off I wondered if I’d have done anything differently if I’d had a gun? Would I have “stood my ground” and been less “afraid”?
In Pawtucket? Who stands their ground in Pawtucket? And I hadn’t felt fear at the time. Not exactly. I’d felt . . . possible danger.
Truth be told, I’d been in that gap between one thing and the other. Between nothing happening and something that could have happened. On the wire between will and what will be.
By leaving the scene, I’d never know which way things might have gone if I’d stayed. The importance of that choice was unknown, and unknowable. Had I saved our lives or just driven away from an almost empty street?
“The rabbi says most people are walking around in total oblivion,” I remarked.
I was trying to justify my actions. To point out that I’d been motivated by common sense rather than cowardice. I needn’t have bothered.
“Not me,” Sam said. “Some people need a wake-up call.”
“The rabbi says the same thing. He says victims are people who’ve already woken up. The trick is for people to wake up before they become a victim.”
“Good luck with that,” Sam said.
I said a little prayer, promising to slip back into my pre-paranoia mindset. As much as I felt weird for scanning city streets for danger, for checking the raw bar for potentially belligerent drunks, for wanting to carry a concealed weapon, I do what I have to do.
I can’t disappear into the white noise. There’s too much at stake now.
Fifty one today. Huh.