K.S. ANTHONY: 08/01/2022 - 09/01/2022

20 August 2022

Down the Barrel

I was exhilarated the first time I had a gun – a black revolver, probably a .38, held by a white guy in a black watch cap that he had turned into a ski mask by cutting eye holes into it – pointed at me in anger. I was 21, working close at a pizza place where I spent four years. He wanted the money in the register, which I delivered to him by opening the cash drawer, then the money in the safe, to which I didn't have access. I don't recall thinking that he'd shoot me, but I remember thinking that he could easily pull the trigger and put a hole in me. Most of my focus was on the gun in his hand: it seemed at once incomprehensible and all-too-real that he could simply extinguish me. 

He didn't get the safe money. He ran out the back door and, for reasons still unclear to me, the owner and I gave chase until we ran out of breath. As we did, he turned and pointed the gun at us and we both took cover behind cars, though he didn't squeeze off a single round: he was just trying to get away with a couple of hundred bucks. It was intense and I loved it. 

I started carrying my pistol to work after that: a 9mm that I carried next to my appendix in an IWB Bianchi holster with no retention. I remember the initial discomfort of carrying that pistol and the mixed sense of security that it offered. I say "mixed" because in addition to its physical weight, I also carried the weight of wondering if I'd ever have to use it, if my limited time on the range had afforded me the skills necessary to win a gunfight, and if shooting someone in self-defense would be worth the incumbent legal shitstorm that I knew would follow. I never felt terribly exhilarated when I carried, either then or later: I was always aware of that weight.

The second time was similarly exhilarating, though I had left my pistol at home that night. This time it was a young African-American male wearing a rubber gorilla mask about three months later. He was agitated, waving around a medium-sized black automatic pistol and the girl I was working with was scared to death: she pissed herself. Despite his agitation, I remember thinking the entire thing was absurd and I, perhaps out of a mixture of disbelief or some weird fear response, had to force myself to not burst into laughter as he got the money and left. I was close enough to the cutting knife that I might have been able to grab it and take him apart with it, but his agitation did not allow for such a window of opportunity. I didn't give chase. I was more concerned about the safety of my co-workers so once he left, I hit the emergency alarm, locked and bolted the back door, and waited for the cops. Afterwards, I went out for drinks with one of my co-workers and met the woman I would later marry: the latter being an absolutely disastrous decision. 

A few months later, I walked into a running gunfight in the middle of downtown Oakland. I had just emerged from the BART station after work (again, I wasn't carrying) and heard the pop-pop-pop of gunfire and return gunfire. I watched as people ran and I couldn't be sure where the shots were coming from, so I took cover behind a car's front end, trying not to catch a stray bullet. The volley of shots was brief – a few seconds of bad luck for me – and when it ended, I walked to my bus stop and went home. I wasn't exhilarated, exactly, but it felt really good to not get shot. 

When I started working armed security a couple of years later, I never had to draw my pistol, but by then I was confident that I possessed the modicum of marksmanship abilities required to win a gunfight, a confidence bolstered by the body armor that I wore every day. I'm glad I no longer do that kind of work.

While I don't think about those experiences very often, I think about being shot every day, despite living in a city with the most restrictive gun laws in the world and not being able to so much as own a gun without jumping through innumerable legal hoops. I am always aware of my environment: where I might find cover, whether or not I possess the calmness to treat a gunshot wound, whether I still possess any of the perishable skills that I spent so much time working on when I carried, not that it really matters. Any sense of exhilaration has given way to a perpetual anxiety, not just about getting shot, but about conflict in general. 

I have friends who've been in gunfights, but I have never asked them how they felt during and after. What I have noticed about them is that all of them are far more grateful to be alive than I am. I'm here because two guys decided to not shoot me and because I didn't catch a stray bullet... and that's all. I suppose some people might chalk it up to divine intervention, but I've never had much of a feeling of any benevolent force looking out for me. 

If I had been shot and killed, the world would have gone on without me, just as it'll go on without me whenever I do finally die. Sometimes that thought brings me more comfort than it should: a sense of relief that in the vacuum of not-being, I will no longer have to bear the calculus of death and dying. The flip side to that is that death also holds no exhilaration, no sweetness, no anything save the darkness of a void that I find as incomprehensible and all-too-real as the barrels of life's pistols pointed at me. 

19 August 2022

Traffic, Lights

I checked the traffic on this page for the first time in nearly a year yesterday. I cannot imagine that any of the data is correct; that anyone still comes here to read anything, let alone that some stranger staying the night at a hotel in Nyack, New York read nearly every word that I've written here at 2:30 in the morning on the 4th of July. I'm less flattered than I am embarrassed. 

I suspect the traffic is made up of bots or miscellaneous clients who note the difference in domain suffix between my email address and my portfolio: a difference to which I have long been indifferent, wildly disinterested in changing. I suppose there is some small chance that actual people still read this and an even smaller chance that some people are reading this for the first time. 

This doesn't exist on any Google maps – I made sure of it – and I don't give this address to anyone. 

So, if you're here, it's because you chose to come here: not because you took an impulsive detour from the flow of your usual web traffic onto a dirt road that you had never noticed with no street lamps, no mailboxes, just a single, dim light in the front room of an otherwise dark house. 

You lost? Looking for someone? Leave your name and I'll let him know you came asking if I see him around. Sure, you can go to the end of this road if you want, but you're just going to have to come back the way you came: there's no way back out to the highways and lit streets but the way you came in. This road wasn't made for traffic and it certainly was not made to be a shortcut or a detour. 

Like I said, no one comes here anymore unless they choose to and I cannot speak for anyone's choices, especially those made insomniacs haunted by God-knows-what in a hotel next to a graveyard in Nyack. 

Anyway, traveler. I'll leave you to it. Stay as long as you like or leave as quickly as you came. 

This is where I've parked my dreams. I'll come back for them eventually. 

That light will stay on: tend them if you like.