J walks into my office and makes that statement as calmly as if he's discussing the weather. I look up slowly, trying to keep my expression blank.
– Why do you need a gun?
– For protection…
I try to stay calm … maybe it's just his latest attempt to get a raise out of me.
– Is somebody threatening you?
– Well, the world is full of psychos … you've got to be prepared.
I try to wipe the “are you shitting me?” look off my face. We live in one of the safest towns in the US.
I think the last major incident here was a local cop getting his bike stolen. I shrugged, hoping to put an end to the conversation without getting into a long drawn-out argument …
– Alright then … Good luck and remember the bumper sticker … “I still miss my ex but my aim is getting better”
… Shit. Bad joke, considering, I am his “ex”.
– Well, there's this other thing I wanted to ask you …
Oh Christ… After 6 years in an on-again-off-again relationship, I can smell it from a mile away …
– … Anyway, there's this gun safety class on Saturday. It's an all day class that I have to take for getting my concealed pistol license and I thought it'd be really fun if we took it together.
– Yeah right! You know how I feel about guns! Spending my entire Saturday with a bunch of gun freaks is not my idea of fun.
– Oh come on baby … don't you want to do this with your sweetheart? Plus, think how sexy you'd look with a gun.
So I'm back to being “baby” now? I thought we were currently off-again! Amazing how “sweetheart” and ” sexy” creep into our conversations whenever he wants something. Ah, hell … he's got that look on his face …
Three days and three hundred dollars later, on a blistering cold Saturday morning, I arrive at his doorstep at 6 am. I really don't want to go to a gun class … I give it one last try.
– The roads are completely iced up … maybe we should cancel the whole thing?
No such luck.
We decide to take my Jeep instead of his fancy convertible. When you're going to some hick town for a gun class, I guess you don't want to drive one of them “damn foreign cars” … We slip and slide down the icy highway to Starbucks to refuel and then proceed on down the country road to Hicksville …
As I try to stay awake and keep the Jeep from going into a ditch, I look over at J. He's clutching his coffee cup with one hand, the dash with the other, squinting with that slightly panicked look that he has every time I drive. The road seems to go on forever.
Forty five minutes later, we finally pull into the parking lot of what looks like an abandoned building. The lot is full of GM, Chrysler and Ford trucks … not a single foreign car in sight. Good thing we brought my Jeep … we'll fit right in. We both look a bit uneasy as we walk towards the building. I look at my watch.
– Shit! We're late.
– Don't worry. These things never start on time.
J tries to sound reassuring but he looks as nervous as I feel. We walk into the room, the instructor stops mid-sentence and a sea of blond heads swivel around to look at the two dark haired foreigners clutching their Starbucks cups. We find our seats, mumbling apologies to the instructor who's nice enough to let us off the hook without too much fuss. As he continues his lecture, I look around the room. There are two women, one black man and sixty seven blond Midwestern men wearing trucker hats. Yeah … forget blending in.
An hour into the class, I begin to wonder if we've stumbled onto a secret militia meeting. Judging from their comments, it seems like they all love guns, hate the government, and are convinced that someone's out to harm them.
– Great! Paranoid gun freaks with concealed pistol licenses. That makes me feel safe.
I move a little closer to J and he leans over and whispers in Farsi.
– Well, at least they hate the government more than they hate foreigners.
– I'm not sure I want to test that theory.
During the hour long lunch break, we attempt to get friendly with the locals. I strike a conversation with a toothless, tattooed gentleman with a long ponytail. He tells me he's in a motorcycle gang and he's buying a gun because someone who had been kicked out of their gang tried to kill him a few months ago.
I smiled, nodded and wished him well on his revenge odyssey and he promised to be in touch and let me know how things turn out. I bypassed the guy who was telling a story about his friend shooting someone with a shotgun and missing cause “the damned guy ducked”! Why the heck was he trying to shoot someone with a shotgun? I didn't bother to ask.
I walked over to J and found him talking to a Charlton Heston look-alike who started lecturing us on the benefit of “one story”. It took me a while to realize that “one story” meant if there is an incident with a gun, yours better be the only story that the cops hear. After all, he smirked, dead men can't testify.
At the end of the 12-hour day, tired and starving, we dragged ourselves back to civilization. Instinctively we headed towards the only Middle Eastern restaurant in town for dinner. Sitting there, with shish kebab on our plates and familiar music in the background, we recapped the lessons we had learned: dead men can't testify, duck if there's a shotgun pointing at you, and most important of all, contrary to what you see in the movies, never ever stick a gun in your back pocket or the front of your pants.