One day, Bez decides that she is going to teach me how to shoot. This is of course a futile experiment, as I am steadfastly opposed to the idea of guns, and so I refuse to even hold the pistol, let alone shoot it. Nothing good has ever come from a gun, I believe, and no amount of argument will ever change my opinion in the matter.
“It’s not dangerous if you don’t point it at anything alive,” Bez says.
“What if it ricochets off a rock and hits a child? Or the gun misfires and blows my hand off?”
“The odds of anything like that happening are a million to one.”
“Good for everyone except the one in a million,” I say.
Bez gives up on me then and shoots at the targets herself. They are paper circles hung on nails driven into wooden planks placed in front of a small hill. The side of the hill is bare of grass and pocked all across it from the countless number of bullets that had slammed into the dirt from hundreds of shooters. Bez has a style of shooting which made me extremely nervous: she holds the pistol out at arms-length, put her sights on a particular target, and then closes her eyes and makes her shot without looking. Completely unsafe, I am certain. She still manages to make about eight out of ten of her shots.
“Are you going to give me some nonsense about it all being some zen thing?” I ask.
“It’s not zen,” she says. “I’m not lining up the shots with my eyes closed. I’m targeting with my eyes and then taking the shot with my eyes shut to try to learn how to keep my arm completely steady when firing. If my aim doesn’t deviate once my eyes are closed, then I’m doing a good job of holding still.”
“You scare the shit out of me when you do that,” I say.
“Then don’t walk in front of me when I’m shooting and everything will be fine.”
Later, after she is done with her practice, we go back to her apartment for dinner. She has a basement apartment in a house in the Sunset district, which fits her budget but is less than ideal for having company over. The only furniture Bez has is a bed and a small table with one mismatching chair. She doesn’t even have a stove, just a microwave and toaster oven, and a refrigerator in the garage that she shares with the old man who lives upstairs and owns the house. She keeps her cheese and milk in there, while he hides beer from his wife in it, where he is able to claim that it is Bez’s, if his stash is discovered.
I make toasted bagels with cheese while Bez takes a shower in the small bathroom. It reminds me of being in college, being in her apartment, living like a twenty year old again. Bez has never stopped living that way, even as she is now pushing thirty. It suits her, I think. Anyway, she seems to be one of the most content people I know.
We eat our bagels in her bed and watch part of an old black and white movie until the sun goes down, and sometime after that I wake to find the television off and Bez asleep next to me, one leg draped over mine and her head nuzzled into my neck. Her warm breath tickes the skin on my throat in a way that is partly soothing and partly arousing at the same time. Not an unwelcome way to begin the new year, I think.
If I kiss her, would she wake? If she did wake, would she be upset that I’d done it?
It’s so much easier to kiss strangers. There’s far less damage to be caused by a stray ricochet.