Saturday, May 21, 2011


my boys love 'em.  the make stick ones.  buy plastic ones.  shoot nerf ones.  covet real ones.

i hate guns.

my boys have no real experience with guns other than some commercials, photos in magazines, hunting stories from their dad and endless hours of wild fun running about playing with them.

i have bad memories.

the first time i was ever near a fired gun was when i was 13.   i was at a party- standing in the line at the keg- when i noticed the crowd moving toward the front of the house.  the house belonged to one of my classmates, maybe he was 14.  his parents were out of town, he had an older sister, they had a party.  lots of my friends were there.  my older brother was also there and that's what got me worried.

my older brother was, and is, a force.  until about 9 years ago being around him always made me slightly on edge.  this story explains that too.

i migrated toward the front gate and peered over the wooden fence.  there was a crowd and some shouting and the thuds of punches.  i can feel them in my gut, under my heart.

and in that same place is where i felt the dread form a metal burning ball.  i remember frantically asking people around me what was happening.  i remember feeling like the blank stares were meant to keep me from knowing something.

then i heard the "snap" of a small pistol.  maybe i smelled the shot too.  it doesn't seem like a loud sound to me when i think back.  it could be that i was already racing through the house, toward the front door when the gun was fired.

when i opened the front the door there was a break in the fight.  well, a fight implies fairness and four-on-one is not a fight.  it's a beating.  it's a group of drunk football players spawned on by jealousy and songs like "the boys in the hood" taking swings at a large guy who is also drunk who has been pushed into the shrubs with his shirt pulled over his head.  someone watching this beating saw it as such too, took out his pocket pistol and fired it into the lawn to stop the fight.

the hammer hitting powder created a loud noise and a small space opened- into that crevice part of me erupted.  this fierce lioness that knows nothing about size or the odds of winning or anything else except defending through blind rage broke out of my shy-self into that warm night.  i have seen her since then.  the kali in us all that rips heads off of monsters and pours their blood on her purple tongue as her hair rises up in smoke and ash.

since i couldn't actually rip off their heads, not yet getting that super power, i used what i knew: swearing.   i unleashed that on the group.  i think the sight of this slight teen with too much eyeliner and poofy  bangs caught everyone off guard.  no doubt it seemed surreal that the younger sister would be defending her older brother when some of his best friends hung near by.  i wonder if they would have stepped up if the linebacker hit me?  i remember being pushed, the force of real hands on me- them sending me back even as i lunged forward, screaming more.  i think i probably egged them on even as the reality sunk in that these guys didn't play fair, probably were ok with beating up girls.

* * *

as i write this story more than twenty years later i still feel the anxiety, rage and fear in me.  i realize now that my brother was probably not the innocent victim i imagined him to be.  he would go on to become more violent, more out of control until every phone ringing after 10 pm caused me to flinch in fear that he would be dead.  that he has become the man he is today is proof of grace, pure and simple.  the memories i have of those years are drenched in emotion and exhaust me- yet i go back to them over and over.  i try to write about them.  i try to learn from them.  i try to exorcise them.  to comfort and to confront them.

now that i have boys who love guns i do this more.  their guns are reminders.  to them they are toys.  tools of make-believe and props in stories.  i can see the guns as they do.  sometimes i even play with them.  there is a strange satisfaction in being able to hit a ceiling fan with a suction bullet.  i get it.

but then in the shadow is this fear.  maybe the fear of my own kali- because if she is unleashed for the sake of my boys- how could i ever contain her rage?  fear of seeing my children being hurt- every mother's stinging heart place where that small spark of love could easily ignite to burn down a whole forest before we felt the heat through our own mama bear instincts of protect-at-all-costs to show us the damage we had inflicted on those aimed at hurting our brood. 

* * *

back to that night in torrance- eventually we did get home without me or my brother being hurt anymore.  i remember clinging to the door to keep my brother from leaving again, seeking revenge.  finding another gun to try to regain his standing, his pride.  he left.  me sobbing in the doorway.  he left.

this would be the first time he would be beaten by cops and then arrested.

the first time i learned how fear chases away friendship, trust...anything golden.  

the first time i hid in my dark house completely terrified.

the first time i saw the ugliness of alcohol.

the first time i hated a person.

the first time i hated a gun.

                                                                 sadly, not the last time for any of these.

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