My son wants weight lifting gloves. He is sixteen. He is taut muscle stretched across six feet and one and one half inch of wiry, lithe frame. He is a smear of blue and white against the night, his feet barely touching the football turf. He is sweat flung wild on the basketball court. He is sweaty hugs and salty kisses at the end of a game. He wants weightlifting gloves and I am walking the aisles of my Walmart. Its aisles are emptied of employees, save one tiny woman who speaks no English and can’t help me. She asks ¿Habla Espanol? of the couple judging the weight and grip of tennis rackets and they shake their heads apologetically and then turn back to each other and continue to converse in Farsi. I push the cart slowly through the aisles and take it all in. I find yoga gloves, black with blue bubbles rising from the palms half burst. I didn’t know such a thing existed. There are yoga videos, some tagged red, marked down, ready for quick sale. I put one into my cart. It boasts downloadable meditations to alleviate stress. It’s 9:30 PM and I am four aisles deep into Sporting Goods. There are tents and cables and lanterns and gloves to prevent rope burns. There are more things, and more aisles than I will ever need. The same tiny store employee smiles and nods at me each time I rediscover her in another aisle. On the last aisle, I find fingerless gloves. They are hanging from hooks – the gloves – they are for paintball. But, the wheels of my cart refuse to roll and I can’t push because I am staring at the farthest most wall of my Walmart. And, there is a .357 and there are deer rifles. And, guns I can’t name. And, I know that I could buy one. I could. I don’t have a record. No database condemns me and I am a respectable registered voter protected by the 2nd Amendment. Right there. I could buy that and what’s more I could take it home and use it, because I know where the bullets go and I was once in love with a red-head with freckles who lived in a trailer that bordered a wood and his father gave him a gun – a pearl handled revolver for his 18th birthday. But, it was beautiful and only a .22, so we didn’t want to fire it so much, so he bought a .45 because he could and we went into the woods and killed cans and bottles and wounded trees and he taught me how to make the gun an extension of my hand and to plant my feet and not fear the kick. We plugged our ears with bright orange plugs, but I could still hear him laugh, and read his lips when he said, Aim where the target is biggest … if it’s a man, that’s the chest … No don’t try to wound … if you miss, he will come for you and he will be pissed and we weren’t afraid of guns or intruders or rabid animals. And, I shot guns in the woods and at the Fair and got put out of a carnival for winning – for shooting all the targets – rings onto the slender necks of wine bottles; wine I gave to GI’s as they laid their money down to buy me more shot. And, now I am standing in front of guns in my Walmart and I could buy one and be seventeen again and a sure shot. But, I gave Trayvon a ride to school yesterday. It wasn’t that Trayvon, but another Trayvon, and he was laughing with my son in the back seat and he is tall and wiry and dark and it wasn’t that Trayvon, but I wish I could have squeezed him in between the boys and taken him to college or to the store or the museum – I really just want to take him home to his mother; but it was my son and another Trayvon laughing on the way to school. And, now I am in my Walmart looking for weightlifting gloves because my son wants to play football and basketball and go to college and then to law school and maybe be a judge. They both look like Trayvon, still baby-faced, but man tall and muscled. And, I am standing in my Walmart and most anyone can buy this gun or that gun and I wonder if they were ever seventeen in the woods with their first love, standing surefooted, killing cans and unafraid of the kick. There is Easter candy in my basket. My son asked for that, too. It was 50% off because it is the day after Easter and there are aisles and aisles of leftover candy; but I am still standing here in front of the guns and I have been here so long, people are starting to stare.
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This piece originally appeared in Painted Bride Quarterly.