Why Aren’t I Afraid of Guns?

imagesI have had a gun held to my head twice, and I feel as if should be a traumatic event.  There should be something defining about somebody holding a loaded weapon to your head and you facing your own mortality.  However, somewhere there is disconnected wiring in the innermost mechanism in her mind that did not bond; she came through these two experiences unscathed.

When I was 17 years-old, my second job was at a Payless Shoe Source at a mall; it was one of the stores with the doors on the outside of the building, so to access the store you didn’t have to go inside.  The store had a total of 4 full-time employees and there were usually only two of us there at a time.

Our manager had told us there had been news of a man robbing Payless Shoe stores in the local area for the past few weeks; he had a pattern of robbing them every Monday night.  On a Monday night, I was working with my co-worker Rich; it was around 8:30 when I started talking with a customer as I was putting away shoes.  “Do you like it here,” he asked me, pimp hat pulled down over his eyes.

“Oh, sure,” I answered happily, picking up the scattered shoes customers had strewn across the floor, “I love shoes and I get a discount.”

“The customers sure make a mess,” he opined as he watched me pick up the shoes.

“Yep,” I replied, “But, that’s just job security.”  We both laughed.

I walked away from him and took some shoes to the stockroom; when I returned, Rich was bent over the safe and the customer I had been talking to was leaning over the counter.

I asked Rich a question and he didn’t respond; I asked him again.  Nothing.  Finally, the customer stood up and pulled his arm out of his jacket, pointing his gun directly at me, “He’s busy,” he said, “Go lock the front door, then lay down at the back of the store.”

Just as I got to the front of the store, a group of shoppers came in; I tried to ask them to leave, “No, no, we just shop for shoes,” they responded to my pleas.  They did not understand English.  I turned to the robber, shrugging my shoulders.

“Get them to the back of the store and tell them to lie down,” he demanded pointing the gun at me.  I could see Rich as nervous and still struggling with the combination on the safe.

“Ma’am,” I said, turning to the woman as she walked down the aisle with her children, “We’re being robbed; I need you to come to the back of the store and lay down.”

“No, no, we just look at shoes,” she said in her thick accent.

Once again, I turned to the man directing the gun at me; clearly I was not going to get these shoppers to comply.  He must have been an empathetic robber, “Just forget them, go lay down in the back.”

As I lay down on the carpet, the shoppers obliviously looked for shoes; Rich finally joined me and started counting to 100 per the robber’s instructions.  The second the man left, Rich and I stood up and rushed the customers to the door; the whole time they were saying, “No, no, we just look at shoes,” as we closed and locked the door behind them.

***

The second time I had a gun held to my head was just a few months later; I had just turned 18 years-old.  I was in Nye, Montana, with my younger brother and sister for the summer where my father was working in a mine.  He had been up there all year, but since my mother had long since tired of moving, we had all stayed back in Nevada.

My father still drank a lot during his time in Montana; and, with my mother not there, he turned his abusive tendencies towards me.  I spent the summer either hanging out and partying with him at the local bars, or back at the single wide trailer with my brother and sister avoiding my dad’s physical and emotional jabs.

One weekend, he was on a particularly abusive kick; I cannot recall what his rant was about, but it has no bearing on the outcome of the event.

Dad came home from the bar one Sunday afternoon; he was drunk and in a total rage.  He began picking on my little brother for riding his four-wheeler in the neighbor’s pasture while it was still wet, something he had been told not to do.  The criticism escalated until my brother was in tears; things got out of control to the point of no return.

Soon, my dad had a gun and was threatening to kill himself for being such an awful father, a terrible husband, and a wretched drunk.  My 13 year-old brother, 8 year-old sister and I spent hours that afternoon talking him out of shooting himself.  He was waving the gun around wildly and talking about all of the horrible things he had done as a father and husband.  We did our best to refute his claims, though; it was difficult to come up with arguments to the contrary.

By the evening, his anger and rage turned towards me; he had hit me and eventually pinned me up against the dryer, holding the gun directly on my temple threatening to kill me.  My brother wanted to call 911, but earlier in the day my dad had already ripped the phone and wires out of the wall.  I spent hours begging and pleading for my life; one hand curled tightly around my neck, the other on the gun, his finger on the trigger, I finally demanded my brother and sister go outside.

Around 10 that night, he had to leave for work, he finally let me go and left for work.  My brother and sister came back in the house and we cleaned up the mess that had been made during the mêlée.

***

I don’t know why I am not more affected by gun violence.

4 thoughts on “Why Aren’t I Afraid of Guns?

  1. There seems to be a fundamental difference between you and I. While we both take note that we don’t feel what we should in certain situations, I do not question or dwell on it. I have never been sad from either of my parents’ deaths. I suppose I should be and maybe some time in the future it will “hit me.” It doesn’t concern me. In my own case each of my parents essentially died of old age and by the time they each met their end there was a sense of rightness, as if unnecessary suffering would ensue were they to continue.

    I usually try to be clever or inspiring when I respond to one of your articles. You make me wrestle with great and important topics and ultimately you make me better than I was before being exposed to your musings.

    Here I sense a glimpse of something and I am going to run away from it. At certain points you make grammatical errors that you normally would not. I sense if I studied these areas where you falter I would see something I don’t want to see and I cannot explain further. I don’t even know if it is something about yourself or myself that I am afraid of. The armchair shrink in me is insisting that there is something important where the errors in writing are and I will not explore further.

    I don’t know why this disturbs me so but it does. I feel like I am letting you down by not getting out my figurative loupe and digging deeper. There is something here, I fear you are in denial about being disturbed by all this, and it is in the areas of grammatical error. Or I am wrong. I don’t know because I can’t go back and read it again. I will try to do better for you in the future. I’m sorry.

    • Sir,
      I certainly appreciate your honesty; you may truly be onto something. I pride myself on my grammar and my writing. I feel that it is not just my story that draws people in, but the fact that I am able to tell it without the distraction of too many errors.

      It may be entirely true that I am making errors because I wrote this story in haste, needing to get it all out because it was far too disturbing to me. Maybe more disturbing than I let on. I do not know the answers… I am seeking them; therefore, I write. I must.

      The gun that my father waved around that day was found to have the lightest “hair-trigger” pull the ballistics experts in our county had seen in over 25 years. It was completely loaded, all 6 chambers; it was the gun that eventually ended his life.

      Irony?

      Thank you for reading my story today, Sir.

      Always,
      Me

  2. It is more than a lack of distracting errors that draws me in. As I read your words I hear a voice, it might not be the voice your body produces but it is the voice that is formed by your writer’s craft that shapes this sound in my mind’s ear. As a musician I cannot compliment you more. There is a music to your prose, an ebb and flow, that most simply do not have. It makes you very easy to take to heart. The substance of your message makes the package complete.

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