Because I'd just moved to California, the first step was getting a state ID. A friend and I went to the DMV and I was given a temporary printout and told it would be four to six weeks until the real deal arrived. Then I had to get my firearm safety certification. I studied the night before the test, college-style. Between my experience shooting ("keep the gun pointed in the safest possible direction") and middling common sense ("never handle the gun when depressed"), I felt confident I'd get at least the minimum 23 out of 30 questions right. I quit quizzing myself halfway through the booklet and finished studying the next morning, during the 15-minute Lyft ride to Gun Gallery.
Gun Gallery was nothing like the store in Utah. It was smaller, no lines or gun range. The only people there, aside from the clerk and me, were an off-duty cop and a man drowning in gold chains and greasy hair and pawnshop must. I handed my ID to the clerk and took the test, which reminded me of the written exam for driving permits: The questions were similar to those in the study guide, but reordered and reworded just enough to make me second-guess myself.
Still, I passed (30 out of 30). The clerk showed me guns in my budget and explained that there'd be a 10-day processing period between my buying the gun and being able to take it home — the longest waiting period in America. Then his boss told me the 10-day period couldn't begin until I had a real ID, not the piece of paper I'd been passing off as one. I paid for the gun anyway, telling them I'd return in three to five weeks with an ID.
Five weeks went by, times four. Gun Gallery called me to check in; I asked them to hold the gun. I called the DMV and had my ID mailed to me again — twice. It arrived in March, five months after I'd applied for it. In the meantime, I blew my deadline and the original story was killed. In the meantime, I had a lot of time to think about the gun.
I thought about it when explaining the gun's place in my life to baffled fellow liberals and while watching the primary debates, feeling no less progressive but slightly less dogmatic. I thought about the gun while walking home at night, while fumbling with my keys, while checking under the bed or in the closet. I thought — think — about the gun multiple times a day, even though I've only seen it once.
I figured I'd return the gun once I filed the story. I'd get a refund, enough to spend a weekend at some douchey downtown hotel. But then the story died, and the idea of taking home an already-paid-for gun began to seem harmless, if not downright alluring. It's like when your clueless uncle buys you an ugly-ish, expensive watch for Christmas and you're like No, but yeah. Whatever, it's not my money. That's how I felt about the gun.
I decided I would take it home but neuter it. If I didn't buy bullets, I wouldn't have to buy a gunlock, and my being a gun owner would be less real. I could tuck the gun between the yoga mats, or in one of the suitcases, and I wouldn't have to worry about guests accidentally shooting me or themselves when I showed it off. Because in this scenario, The Gun was a writing battle wound. It was symbolic. Not a weapon.
But keeping the gun on top of the closet began to feel impractical. I would never be able to reach it in time to use it. I didn't want to think about shooting people, but there I was: regarding the gun with fondness whenever I was overcome with the fear that someone might've crawled through my window while I was downstairs checking the mail. If only I had a gun, I'd think, maybe I could cancel Apartment Sweep Night. Xoxo Gun, wish you were here.
But do I? Because I've had three months to walk into Gun Gallery and take it home, and I haven't. Conversely, I could've shown up, signed some papers and gotten a refund. Haven't done that either. See, we're in limbo, me and the gun. Because my lizard brain thinks the possibility of The Gun is better than having it, than not having it. And that possibility? It's my version of security, intangible as it is.