I bought a gun.
There are two black men in this town and not everybody knows I’m one of them. I thought that might be to my advantage when I decided to buy a gun the day before California firearm laws were changing.
I was parked squarely at the front door of the gun shop, waiting for it to open.
It was a hot day. There were others waiting in their cars. Air-conditioners were on and engines were running on both sides of me.
I was the first to arrive, but only the second man knew it. Would he vouch for me as the first one there?
I wasn’t sure.
Everyone exited their cars and gathered at the door.
As the owner unlocked the door, I noticed he was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” T-shirt with an AR-15 assault rifle emblazoned on it. We walked through the door.
To a man, they applauded his T-shirt. (I wondered if they noticed I was the only one who didn’t. )
I didn’t want to stand out. I didn’t know if I did. All I knew was I was the only non-white man there. I grew increasingly uncomfortable in their presence around all of those guns.
The shop owner asked “Who’s first?” From the center of the room, voice cracking I said, “Me. I got here first.”
(All eyes were on me. I was sure my sweat and anxiety showed. )
I made my way to the front. I told him I was interested in a firearm for home security. That I hadn’t a license and was prepared to take the test in order to make a purchase that day.
I had a seat and took the test. The conversation turned to guns and his T-shirt. No one paid the slightest bit of attention to me.
I finished the test, but I wasn’t sure if I should announce it or just walk to the counter and wait. I made it to its far end and leaned on my elbows.
After a half-hour it was clear to me I would have to take a more aggressive stance. I leaned forward and squiggled my way towards the middle of the counter. More so, each time someone moved.
Another half-hour passed and I had not even established eye contact with the owner. I thought of leaving and coming back. I believed I had a place in a line I was in first. There was no clear order in the waiting queue.
Before he completed another sale, I excused myself and let him know I had finished the test. He walked towards me. Graded it. He told me I passed.
It was time to fill out the registration. He pulled out a form and started writing. He asked for my license. Checked some boxes and asked me my race.
All eyes turned my way. What an unusual question to ask someone out loud, I thought.
It got quieter in there. The owner wasn’t the only one interested in my answer.
I asked, “Do you have boxes to check, or blanks to fill in?”
He said, “Why? Do you have more than one?”
I heard a few snickers.
I asked for the form. I checked my boxes and handed it back to him.
If you could calibrate curiosity, it might have filled the room.
“Did you get them all?” He said with a chuckle.
I said, “I did.”
The handkerchief I was wiping my face with was nearly dripping wet.
I adjusted my hat. Bowed my legs and did my best impersonation of a cowboy walk out the door.
I was to pick up my gun in 10 days.
When I got home. I told my wife.
I bought a gun.