Election Series: "Annie, Get Your Gun" by Ren Martinez

Annie, Get Your Gun

By Ren Martinez
Virginia

My boyfriend’s been talking about getting a gun.

I was raised around guns my whole life. My dad is a hunter, and he would take me and my sisters to my Uncle Kevin’s farm in Nottoway County. The first gun I ever held was a .22 rifle, light even in my twelve-year-old hands, and my dad coached me on aiming it towards the target and the gun firm against my shoulder. The target was a gopher, staring at me from twenty yards away. My first shot was between his eyes.

“That’s my Annie Oakley,” Dad whooped.

My boyfriend has had little shooting practice. He’s shot at cans with a BB gun in his backyard but didn’t have anyone take him to the gun range or practice shooting clay birds. His family never had a gun case in the back of their closet and his dad never laid out all his weapons on the living room floor, the whole house smelling of gun oil.

“I think we should get a gun,” he tells me.

We’re eating dinner at the table. He’s reading through Reddit posts as I scroll through Tumblr. I look up at him, and his mouth is grim. This is just days after Donald Trump talked about banning Muslims from the country, only weeks after he called for increased surveillance of mosques and establishing a database for all Muslims in the country.

I don’t ask him to explain. “We’ll look into it.”

My boyfriend has told me stories about 9/11. They are nothing like mine, which recalls how my middle school class devolved into panic and watching footage on loop for days. My stories are about patriotic fervor and feeling united and raising my fist at those who would hurt my country.

His stories are different. The next day, he already had people crossing the road to get away from him. On his way to campus, he heard curses under his breath, and the word ‘terrorist’ began to follow him. He remembers looking at people around him, staring at him with suspicion and hatred, the hair on the back of his neck stick up. He would meet up with others that looked like him, glancing solidarity out of the corner of their eyes as they traveled in packs through the city, knowing there was safety in numbers. In his backpack, he carried bronze knuckles, just in case he was separated from the herd, having seen the black and blue evidence of those who had strayed too far. They wouldn't do him any good against a gun, however, and he knew too well the story of the gas station owner gunned down in the street for wearing a turban.

It never mattered that his family was from Trinidad, only that he was brown. It never mattered that he never attended mosque, only that he didn’t eat pork.

The last few months have edged around the topic of guns. We bring it up and discard it for another day. There’s hope in these pauses, looking at a future where we don’t have to have such conversations. Where we can purchase a gun for the joy of shooting a gopher between the eyes and I can still pretend I’m Annie Oakley.

When I fall asleep on Tuesday night, there was still something like hope. I wake up at four a.m. Wednesday morning, nightmares clawing at my mind. I check my phone to see my friend’s text: I want to die. How could this happen? What do we do now?

My boyfriend is in Honduras on a mission trip, and it’s three in the morning there. I message him anyway.

Don’t come home.

Five minutes later, there’s a response.

Well fuck.

We really need to get that gun then.