The first time I held a gun was in the car of a married man I'd met at wedding. I was 19, home from college, heartbroken, desperate to feel wanted by anyone at all. Thirty-five, rail thin with black hair and eyes, he slipped me dixie cups of white wine right under my father's nose. He looked like Skeletor or a used car salesman. Later that week he looked me up in the phone book.
What do I have to lose? was my attitude as we drank margaritas at a Mexican restaurant. He pulled his wedding ring out of his pocket and placed it between us on the table. I laughed it off, I laughed at all of it, an enormous joke separating me from the depths of my unwantedness. The French boy had taken my hair out of its barrette and called me his greatest enemy. As I'd leaned over him he'd turned his head and refused to say anything else.
In the car, the man reached under the front seat, and pulled out a pistol, placing the solid, cold weight of it in my hand. I held it like it a dying animal, like it was my responsibility to keep it somehow alive. The man parked, took his gun, put it away, and led me through the courtyard of a church. I sat next to him on a bench surrounded by roses and moonlight and then he put himself in my hand, hard and hot, and I did what I could to end the scene unfolding in front of me, a scene I wanted to write about more than I wanted to live. The boy had said he'd think my lips were beautiful if he didn't know they were mine. How could I bridge the chasm of self that created between the girl I was and the girl someone else could love?
Right now I'm both that 19 year old girl and this 42 year old woman, walking hand in hand, talking it through, flushing it out. The girl tells me she didn't always do the healthiest, safest, smartest things to survive, and I tell her it's OK, she did everything she could.