A flat city and the mountains that rise up sharp and folded from its edge so you never get lost, though every time the streets are wider and fuller and the fields filled in. Here’s my elementary school. Here’s where I carried my tuba. Here’s the stream I drank from that tasted like the dead squirrel. We drive past the old house, past the stout pine you thought you could jump forever if you jumped it every day. It’s taller than the houses now; we imagine the persistence that would have given you that jumping genius. Your childhood friend, gray haired and quick to laugh, is out in his mother’s yard when we drive past. The rhythms of the neighborhood slip into your speech. You lean on your hybrid Civic, letting it idle in the middle of the street.
At night, the air smells like aspen leaves and stones or maybe dust. The mountains are iced with snow and it glows in the lights from the city, like search lights on clouds, or like ghosts. The geography has been written over with big houses and big cars, which here do not always mean money. I am not the little girl in pink smocking. I am the little girl in pink smocking. My grandma is gone, but here are her things and the smell of her things. I can hear her voice in my head and see her in everyone’s faces. Her sister has her gestures. Her baby pictures are my sister’s baby pictures only in black and white. I inherit her buttons, her dress form, her poetry book. Also, her beer straws. They do not have the summers in them: Golden Books and cigarette smoke and cut-off jeans, harsh jokes. They do not have fierceness or bitterness, intelligence or love.
This was the world. Desert mountains. This family. Myself, unknown and and small yet loved inside it. The highway west is the same highway, though we drive faster now. We buy, for the last time, a road trip bag of Hostess Donettes. Plastic donuts. Wax donuts. That smell that nothing else has. That smell that is leaving the world.
I don’t usually post pictures of myself where I look like a happy gray one-eyed zombie. But I figured this one was only fair warning. Turns out, I can hit things with bullets.
I did not grow up with guns. My dad had a 22 from childhood, but it wasn’t allowed in the house so it stayed at my grandma’s with his high school literary journals and the photo of him with his hair curling in a kind of gutter around his head. If I ever saw a gun in a house, I should leave, my mom said. Also, I couldn’t be a ranger like I wanted to be because they carried guns. Once, my mom brought my sister and me animal-shaped squirt guns from the co-op. Mine, I think, was a panda. “I just gave my kids guns!” I overheard her worrying on the telephone. This, of course, was before my brother and his maleness and his endless begging and his eventual arsenal of cap guns and air soft rifles and his bookshelf full of knives. Times in the family have changed.
When I was a kid, I had a dagger and a pocketknife and a homemade bow, but I had never seen a gun that wasn’t on a policeman. I held my first gun in Montana — a beautiful hunting rifle that had just shot a deer I helped carry out. Even then, I wasn’t near the shooting part. But as of yesterday, I’ve shot three guns. It all happened at the Factoria shooting range with Nate and his buddy. It was loud and full of guys and the light was weird like we were in some bunker. When someone shot a big one, it was loud right into my heart because sound is vibration like a punch or a heartbeat.
But shooting itself was pretty fun. Using a 22, especially, because it didn’t slam me around at all. And I would like to point out that the target I am holding here has thirty or forty rounds fired into it, which I fired, and if the target were a pop can, I would only have missed the can once. But there aren’t that many holes, you say? That’s because the rest of the rounds went through that big hole just southwest of the bullseye. Yep. That’s why I say all you evil pop cans that are five yards away, watch out. And Mom, don’t worry. I won’t join the NRA.
So Monday, I put on my alien-skin chest-suppressing sports bra, black shirt, black leggings, black socks, and ugly, ugly white Nikes, kissed Nate off to work, and took my dog for a run. My ponytail was bouncy and blonde. I pulled my sweaty keys out of my bra and drove to PCC, where — remembering to bring my own bag — I spent $93 on organic onions, Greek yogurt, and gorgonzola cheese, among other things. I fielded a cell call in the grocery aisle about the futon I’d put on craigslist and threw in some Fair Trade local chocolate. Then, I went to Lowes. I trotted all around in my leggings and tacky shoes, and bought a mirror, weatherizing supplies, and one solitary board. It was a 2X4 and I know that. But it was only one — obviously I wasn’t doing any serious carpentry. I fit the board in my car by rolling down the window and resting the end on my shotgun mirror. Then I went to the bank. Later, I sold my old futon and frame to a kid on craigslist for a small profit. He bought it as his bed despite the fact that a) I drove home in my ad that it was a better couch than bed because each individual board of the frame articulates itself clearly to the spine, and b) after measuring it he determined it would not fit in the room while the door opened and closed. Good luck, kid. I also made some soup.
I mention all of this not because it is interesting. It’s not. But you guys, it’s my life, or at least one Monday of it. I am one of those women who goes to Lowes in her jogging outfit. Does this just come with being in one’s thirties? Is it a necessary Seattle stereotype that has to be absorbed to be diffused? I don’t have the preschooler or the husband or the Honda CRV to go with the image. I am just me, with time I supposedly get to spend writing aaahrt. But where does Monday morning find me? Lowes in black stretch pants holding a solitary board.