A virgin discharge

I shot a gun for the first time two days ago. My friend’s girlfriend has a shotgun and he has a pistol, though I’m not sure whether they got them before or after meeting each other. Since with two guns and two people they had reached the point of mutually assured destruction, no doubt they brought me in as a proxy that could take bullets from both sides instead, like Vietnam. So they invited me to go “shooting.” Of course I was happy to join the ranks of those mountain men so rugged that they dared to turn a transitive verb into an intransitive. “To shoot.” “To go shooting.” This actually works for me, as I like to think of myself as a sort of existential shooter, defining myself by the action itself and not its object, which is to say I wasn’t even aiming at anything in particular, let alone hitting it. I was just in it for that cocky twitch of the wrist from the pistol’s recoil, that totally unearned sense of power which is a consolation for the massive humiliation that the human body suffers from the mere existence of guns.

The caveman brain of humans still tends to think of a fight as the sort of tiff or scrum where you have a chance of protecting yourself. It’s hard to accept emotionally the frightening asymmetry of the modern age, where any battle involving firearms means, as far as the human body is concerned, all offense and no defense. Still, maybe our helplessness to protect ourselves from our own inventions has paradoxically made the world a safer place in the end, has given pause to all those wishing to do each other in but fearful of suffering the same in retaliation, just like in a more extreme sense world peace has flourished in the shade of the mushroom cloud. In any case, that’s not the source of the satisfaction you experience when blasting away with a .22 on the side of a mountain. But even though like Zeus we were standing aloft raining down hot-blooded justice on random rocks and trees, he showed us the inferiority of our arsenal to his by promptly raining us out. If only every army commencing hostilities in some fetid drainage ditch like Belgium could be so easily dissuaded.

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