was a series of hooks and fishing twine that held Remington Model 870’s, revolvers small enough to tuck in the back of your jeans. The first thing I learned, after the Hail Mary, was that the guns were my father’s. We didn’t touch my father’s things. Have you ever known something for so long you don’t remember when you were taught it? Like basic multiplication or to spit out food when it’s too hot? Reflex. Doctors hitting your knee with a tiny hammer. Kids have instinct about guns that disintegrates after puberty. Maybe we heard things like “firearm” on the radio and news and resounding like cherry pits our parents’ mouths, maybe we hear the word so much we get hunger pangs for it. Maybe John Calvin was right and we can’t control it when little boys pipe up, I want to be a soldier. Most kids are afraid by nature but some stick forks in wall sockets until the metal buzzes like honey bees, drink bleach when the top is left off. Those kids maybe have different wiring, their brain misfires touch touch touch, that they crave anything surrounded by velvet ropes. I wonder if there’s a red thread connecting them to the adults who try PCP and swing themselves over the guardrails of bridges. Looping their ankles. I wonder if it’s healthy, how much I think about prop guns. Water guns. Nerf and airsoft and bb. How we rationalize a little bit of pain. How we score it from one to ten. How we like to be slapped during sex. How we get tattoos; how the product is worth the needle. How hurt, if it’s something we choose rather than something that happens to us, is acceptable, intriguing even. How there’s no metal as pleasant, as polished as the barrel of a revolver. How guns are automatic— automatic: expected, natural, reflex. Trigger happy. Brace for kickback. I used to draw petals around bruises on my knees colored like oil slicks in parking garages. Watching men shave with old style straight razors, metal fingers, watching them nick themselves. Do you remember when we learned that we should cover those up? Do you remember the rules to blind man’s bluff? Did it feel good, that silk over your eyes? Maybe we’re sick, all of us, with that urge to press on our wounds, to remind ourselves they're still there. Maybe we’ll never really get clean.
The gun wall
Katerina Ivanov is a graduate of Boston College, where she studied English and Political Science. She has won the Boston College McCarthy award for poetry twice and the Cardinal Cushing Award for fiction. She has been published in Bird's Thumb.