My therapist got me to start shooting things.
“You need to find a constructive outlet for your hostility.”
“Why do I need an outlet? Maybe I like being hostile.”
He said it would be better to focus on something positive so that I would stop grinding my teeth and riding my clutch.
“How about dance?”
“How about not.”
“Well, Katie, you need something.”
That’s my shrink, Dr. Sexist. I wore a boy’s blazer our next session to piss him off. I bought it at a thrift store the day before and it had the crest of a local catholic school on the breast pocket. One of the elbows was skidded out and grass stained. He didn’t notice. My therapist never notices what I’m wearing. I don’t have a complex about it. We had a productive session. When I got back to work-
“What’re you up to dear?”
-a creepster I work with named Calvin was waiting at my cubicle. He noticed the blazer. It was a great excuse to take longer than usual to speculate on my cup size.
“I’m not really up to anything.”
“You know what I mean.”
Yes I did, but I’m not a baby seal and you’re not a shark Calvin. I’m smarter and younger than you are, and they pay me less to do the same work. So if anyone needs to be watching their back for predators-
“Actually Calvin, I don’t know what you mean.”
“Don’t be that way. It’s early.”
My shrink gave me the stupid find-an-outlet speech again today and I could imagine Calvin delivering the same one.
“I don’t know Cal. What’re you up to?”
“Paint-balling this weekend. Want to come?”
It didn’t appeal.
“I don’t know.”
“Come on! A bunch of us are going.”
Of course a bunch of them are. They’re going to get all duded up in camouflage pants and run around in the woods shooting little swollen testicles full of red and yellow paint at each other.
“I don’t know.”
“Best stress relief there is.”
The thought of a highly pressurized projectile being under my command made the knots in my back go the tiniest bit slack.
“Why don’t you take me down to the gun range.”
“Really Calvin. You do that don’t you? I’ve heard you guys talking about it.”
“Yeah, we- I do that.”
“So this weekend we go shoot some stuff instead of paint blasting or whatever?”
Calvin is not a catch.
It’s not that he’s a bad looking guy. He’s cute enough I guess, but too goddam chatty. And someone his age should know how to check someone out without being so gross and obvious about it. I wanted to shoot something though, and Calvin was the only person I knew that did that.
“Sure, sure. Let me just check with the guys if I can get out of paint balling.”
“Let me know Cal.”
We had dinner. I let him try to kiss me on the way to his shooting club and once we were there he let me empty a clip from his overpowered hand gun. It was exhilarating, firing the gun.
The kiss landed half on my mouth and half on my cheek. And there was still a little tongue involved somehow. It was not exhilarating.
But it was at the range that I met Clint. Army brat. Son of a sniper. Clint was there with a rifle, not a hand gun. And he only took a single shot. And his target was so far down the course I could hardly see it. Even with all that firing on either side of him Clint looked like a monk in the deepest meditation. If he’d had his eyes closed you’d have to shove a mirror under his nose to make sure he was still breathing.
As I was fending off another kiss from Calvin, Clint was just chilling. He stared ahead for what seemed like forever to me with both eyes open. And then, for a few seconds, with one eye open.
“Wow, that’s really something he has there.”
Calvin was right. I was staring at Clint when he fired. To me, there was drama. It was like watching a ghost come to life and spring out of him. When the shot came he was as still as he had been before. Like a leaf stripped by the wind from its tree coming to rest on the ground. But he was a different person somehow. It was like some part of him had left with the bullet. He was no less for that. Just two people. For a few seconds.
He took a deep breath, and sat up and was one Clint again. That’s the part that’s hard to explain.
Sometimes there’s this thing you seem to create when you fire. If enough concentration goes into a shot, something comes out of you. This ghost.
Clint pushed a button to make his target come back to him on this long motorized clothesline. He’d spent the same twenty or so minutes I had there. Me with this weekend warrior’s hand gun, popping off shots without any thought or connection to what I was doing. I had destruction on my mind. Clint wasn’t there for that.
After that single shot he looked as carefree and relaxed as I wanted to be. And the first thing he looked at when he looked up from that target was me. Calvin just sort of dissolved into my backdrop. I don’t remember saying good bye or thanks to him. I remember approaching Clint and asking him,
“Can you teach me to do that?”