Two Guns

It was 1976 or 77, I was 18 or 19, not much older anyway. Bi-curious, I was in love and living with another boy my age, Michael. Michael and I had for a few weeks or months shared an apartment in San Bernardino. This is a terrible town, torn apart by freeways (just to mention one reason). And it was like that J.G. Ballard novel where a guy crashes into a zone encircled by freeways, by which I mean Michael and I both thought we were living in a kind of hell, a purgatory, a ghetto of color, gender, sexual orientation, here because we’re poor–and in fact a freeway bridge ramped in a broad arc right around the block our building sat in. And one late night we stood in that tiny living room with its one window on the world offering an engineeringly intriguing view of the freeway but not much else, and we were embracing and we were kissing and–zhit–a bullet zinged through that window and into the wall over Michael’s shoulder. It could only have been fired from that soaring arc of interstate. It looked small caliber to us–but still. A foot in our direction and we might both, either have been injured, killed. We grabbed our shit and right that moment moved into Michael’s VW bus. Left the apartment key on the rickety dining table and left no forwarding address. The landlords can have the deposit, we’re out of here.

That was the second time in my life I had a gun’s attention. The first time, as far as I recall now, was also with Michael. So perhaps these events came in either order, it only matters for narrative drama; which fuck.

We were in Michael’s town, La Puente, west of Berdoo, nearer the malignant clot of L.A., staying at his parents’. We were out late, walking home from, somewhere, a friend of Michael’s with drink and smoke. I don’t think we were committing any public displays of affection. I mean, fuck. 1977. We’re two guys walking down the street, but for sure with alcohol-fueled cockiness moving our groove. Or whatever, cause then there’s this car with, 4 guys? More guys? Fuck, and the guy in the back leans out the window and is pointing a gun at us, and the car goes by so fucking slow, we can’t speak and they just go by. I don’t remember any of those guys laughing or saying anything at all: just staring at Michael and me frozen into the city sidewalk. My memory is silent, as if there were only menace in that moment. Nothing happened; it was only a chill shadow that crept over us, and past.

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