Nothing helps you understand your location more than yes and no-ing through the dating terrain of Tinder. These are the unattached people, the unloveables, collected via GPS to your location. These people are collected here in cyberspace connected by their longing. Different flavors of longing, perhaps, but it is there.
Every man poised with a fish, a pyramid of dead birds in a pickup truck, or perhaps draining the blood of a deer in their garage. The iridescent oil spills co-mingling with coagulating scarlet slop, a mixture fit for the fates. Who will you be fated with? Who will you comingle with? Searching, getting into the mind of the beast. Hunting.“ I reckon I could take that deer out with a .22”
“You aren’t supposed to use a .22 because the bullets can be too small. If you don’t hit your target, it can be catastrophic. But I always hit my target.”
The family of deer fled across the street. We were on route to Wiggins to hang out by a pond and stopped at a Dollar General with an ambiance that the Hills Have Eyes would be intimidated by. As we drive through the woods looking at the camper vans that have taken permanent residence in the woods. They have decorated the encampment with Halloween decorations, an attempt to solidify impermanence. I have hit a wall being in Mississippi, having only been there since July. Part of me feels as nomadic as my gunsmith troubadour. Is this a stopping point or is this a home?
He stops by the pond and we get out of his camper van and go to walk to the pier and eat our snacks. He takes a bite out of an apple, and he has the whitest teeth I’ve ever seen. Big ole chompers surrounded by the early brambles of a beard. He looks sort of like the most attractive donkey you’ve ever seen. Pretty eyelashes and physically reminiscent of what I imagined the fur-trapping Canadians in Louisiana looked like. As dark and hairy as their prized possessions. We lean against the railing and have another conversation from opposite sides of perspective. He likes to challenge me, talk to me, and then kiss me. Kisses come no matter the opinion.
“Well, what do you think about kids not being able to bring their guns to school in their car?”
“Yea, like I’m sure you probably think kids should be able to bring a gun in their truck to school.”
“Well, yea? You want people to bring guns to school?”
“I was just raised in a place where you go to school, then go hunting afterwards- it isn’t like you are going to shoot anyone. It is more about convenience to just keep it in your truck.”
“Well, I went to High School in East LA, if you bring a gun to school, it probably means someone is going to get killed.”
Chomp, chomp, chomp.
My gunsmith was clearly a Scorpio. The sexiest of signs and the most lethal. Emotional in ways they cannot face or let others see. One time he told me “I’m just letting you know, this can’t be anything- like I need to be on the road soon.” I laughed in his face and told him “Oh, honey, there is no way this was going to work out even if you were staying.” Now that I think back to it- I think he was saying it more for himself than me. After I laughed in his face, he became very busy. And truthfully, he was very busy.
He had been delt a Sysifician task. Every day he went to work in a gun repair store whose owner was dying and had a backup of more than 50 guns that needed to be fixed. These guns weren’t just for sport, they were heirlooms. Survival passed down the family tree. He searched for parts and bent things into place while sand poured out of the hourglass.
When we first had met it was at Cruising the Coast, we sat in lawn chairs by his campervan and looked at the old timers peel out down highway 90. He popped open a beer for me and we talked about some pretty heavy things from the get-go. I had probably gone months with so much as a hug. Leaving California during pandemic times had made it harder to let people into my physical bubble. I had been someone who had hugged deeply and kissed friends’ cheeks. Now I was having a hard time giving my own mother a hug, slinking away at the potential of a graze. How do you get over get over the violence of vilified intimacy?
Making out on a homemade bedframe that encased a stack of guns in the back of a van seemed to help.
My gunsmith had a sharpness to his eyes as if he was always just a little suspicious. I was suspicious too. This was the first time that a man insisted on purchasing stuff for me in the dating scene. Sure, it was Dodge’s Fried Chicken from a gas station, but the gunsmith adhered to patriarchal rules that I did not know or understand. I still struggle with letting doors open before me. The closer he got to finishing the guns, the closer his boss got to dying. The more frantic the boss’s family was. They wanted him there permanently, yet it was all too much for him to absorb. Around his birthday, his boss died and it was time for him to leave before he was absorbed as gun surrogate. Eternally fixing guns in an old bank safe until he too died.
Before he left, I made him keep a promise to make some art with me. He drove me to a place in the woods where we could shoot stuff up. There was already an abandoned target splattered with bullet holes and a dirty mattress I refused to investigate. I put the vessels one by one on the dirt and walked back. He would ask me earnestly where he should shoot. I would tell him and he would rattle off a couple of shots. The clay was plastically and when the bullets pierced its flesh it splayed open like a burst of a kiss.
Even though it was just a .22, the damage was overly dramatic. Twists in all directions and even exploded from the inside. It was hard to see what was coming and what was going.
With each vessel he shot up, our time was drawing closer and closer to an end.
While I didn’t shoot any of my own pots, the invisible tether between trigger and target snapped with each penetration. When they were fired and gilded this time was frozen with it. He was right though. He never missed.