[“Nervous gun ownership” is a series of posts documenting a new gun-buyer’s experience. It was not prompted by, nor is it commentary on, the Aurora shooting.]
Earlier in Day 4, I’d been carrying the gun around everywhere and had even taken it apart and put it back together without any problems. (Again, this was thanks to Ian’s loosening of all the tight parts.) I’d become pretty comfortable with it. While not loaded, anyway.
Ian was working late that night, so I carried it to the bedroom, where I watched some TV (a crime show, which was probably a bad idea) before going to sleep.
But I’m a very light sleeper.
I’m also somewhat convinced I have bionic hearing. I used to work in someone’s home office, and one of my boss’ children – all five of them were home on summer break – was entertaining his siblings by blowing through a whistle that created sounds at various pitches. After a while, it was getting distracting, so on one of the higher notes, I asked him if he’d maybe consider doing that when I was done working. “You can hear that??” he said. “Only dogs are supposed to be able to hear that.” (Make of that what you will.)
Thanks to my apparently dog-like hearing, on the evening of Day 4, a faint noise downstairs woke me up. I hadn’t heard the garage door open and close (that would have also woken me up), so it couldn’t have been Ian.
I looked at both of my cats, around whom my body was a pretzel under the blankets. They were both still sleeping, so the noise must have been nothing.
I listened again, heard nothing, closed my eyes, and then heard it again. What the f*** is that? It was slightly louder. Still no movement from the cats. It wasn’t someone walking around, or anything rhythmic. Just a single noise that was definitely in the house.
Before getting a gun, I would imagine what I’d do if someone broke in, and it was simple: I’d reach for the gun, point it at the door, and wait. If someone (a stranger) came up the stairs, I’d shoot them. No problem. (For the sake of propriety or to avoid the risk of judgment, I feel like I should say, “I would first carefully consider the value of a human life and try very hard to wait until the last minute to shoot,” but it wouldn’t be true. I do value life, but there are risks involved in breaking and entering, and most people know what they are.)
But I didn’t find myself reaching for the gun. Instead, I couldn’t move. I’ve had noise-induced paralysis before, but this was different. I actually had the option to reach for a gun, this time. And if I did that, that meant I was accepting the possibility of shooting someone. I knew I could shoot someone, just knew it, but could I really?
Yes. Yes, I could. But imagining it now in a much more real way, it wasn’t as simple, anymore. It was plain scary.
That aside, if I were going to shoot the gun, I’d also first have to load it. (The magazines are loaded, but the gun itself isn’t, at this point.)
When I’m downstairs, I can hear any upstairs movement. Someone else downstairs could probably do the same. If I so much as rolled over, the shift in weight on the bed would be heard downstairs, and if someone were down there, that might encourage them to come up, and quickly.
Would I have time to reach for it, never mind load it?
The magazine is loud when it slides into the gun, and even louder is the “click” once it’s in. Could I roll over, grab the magazine, put it in the gun, take off the safety, and aim in the time it would take someone to rush up the stairs?
(Note to self: practice this with unloaded magazine, and create other drill scenarios.)
The noise happened again, this time louder. A single bang/tap/click/something. I still couldn’t move.
I imagined rolling to the floor to use the bed as a shield while sliding the magazine into the gun and having it ALMOST ready when a big man in a coat (it’s summer, but in this waking nightmare he’s wearing a coat) rushes at me.
At that point, I stopped the fantasy, because nothing that might happen after that could be good.
There’s always a moment when you tell yourself, “It’s nothing. I know it’s nothing. No one broke into my house.” (Which is why the girls in scary movies always search the basement when they hear something down there. “Don’t go!” the audience screams, but realistically, they’d all do the same thing. We never really think there’s anything bad down there.)
A few weeks ago, I decided I would become a fearless person. The only way I would ever finally move – and start doing some regular breathing – would be to remind myself of that, so I reminded myself “Fearless!” and forced myself out of bed.
I went downstairs to the living room with my phone gripped tight in my hand. At least with the phone, if I needed to run, I’d have it to call 911.
No need to run our call. It was just Ian, having a beer on the couch.
*Final analysis: Not quite ready to use the gun in self-defense, yet.
*Note: Ian did say, after I hugged him for being the cause of the noise, “Why didn’t you just call down ‘Who’s there?’ The only answer is ‘Ian.'”
“You’d think I was a paranoid weirdo,” I said.