“This semi-automatic pistol is a weapon of life and death. When you hold this thing, you gotta make sure you know exactly what’s in front of you and what exactly you’re gonna do in the precise moment of sparing or ending somebody’s life.”
The way Blake talks about using a gun is so exhilarating he makes it slightly hard to breathe for me. The pistol I’m holding is loaded and feels scarier to hold than usual, my clammy hands afraid of shooting something unintentionally. But Blake has covered all of the bases. In the spacious, woodsy area that we’ve occupied for a little over an hour, Blake taught me the prompt protocol for handling a gun, loading and unloading a gun, and most importantly, firing a gun. I must say, contrary to the firearm lesson, I was more hesitant about things location-wise. It’s just too soon. The crooked looming trees, the soil, the thick forest floor, the way my senses automatically smell gunpowder even though there’s no intruder in a 5 mile radius among us. Blake had to hold me for awhile. He felt I was extremely uncomfortable and reassured me that this was necessary. We couldn’t pratice opening fire on the street, so we had to be in a remote location.
Now here I am, barely fathoming a weapon of death in the grasp of my hand. Never in a million years would I have even thought about a gun, much less ultilizing one for murder. I am going to have to kill someone eventually. Just thinking about it makes me feel debilitated. Courageous nonetheless, but still debilitated, being that I was just a sorry bully victim a few weeks prior. My life has changed so much. No more depressing high school and no more harassment. No more Squirtle plushies and no more trying to figure out where I fit in in life. My mold has been shaped by a dangerous aspect. My mold has been taken in by a boy who is just as broken as me.
Suddenly, I am catapulted from my thoughts. Blake has noticed how faraway I am. Our arms are touching and I can smell the nature on his skin, but I am faraway. My senses escalate when a nearby crow a good ten feet away starts wobbling around looking for a corpse I’m guessing. Blake and I are equally quiet, watching the bird as if it will attack any moment. All it does is wobble around on stick legs. It’s black, furry wings fan in and out, hungrily scoping out something that is dead nearby. All of a sudden I feel a rush of heat wash over me. My blood boils. My face scrunches into a cruel scowl. I feel Blake eyeing me from my peripheral vision as I pop the magazine in and double check for ammunition in the chamber.
Once I load the gun, I slowly aim it at the crow. I just spent an hour in these woods with Blake expounding on Gun Terminology 101 and The Basics of Firing Ammo 102. I don’t even plan to kill this thing on pure knowledge. I plan to kill it off of pure rage.
It looks at me and does something strange. It stretches it’s neck a little higher and fans it’s wings a little wider, establishing dominance in this face-off. The crow is a bold little bitch. It’s not even remotely fearful or bothered by the fact that I have a gun in my hand. Maybe it doesn’t know, and if that’s the case, then that’s too fucking bad.
I start seeing red. Old and misplaced anger starts to burst within me. The woods morph into a resemblance of hell. I show no mercy as my finger starts to pull the trigger. This crow did nothing wrong towards me, but it deserves to die.
One deafening pop is all it takes. The crow emits it’s last cry of despair as it’s life ends. That’s it. It was that easy. I took a life. I actually killed something. Didn’t miss either.
My face is still twisted in a scowl and my hand starts to shake. My heart is pounding against my rib cage and sweat simmers on the base of my skin. I don’t know why I’m so livid but it feels good to have killed something. It feels good to have let it all out.
I remember Blake is right next to me when we make deep eye contact. He’s the only thing that makes me soften. I calm down from my unanticipated trance and lower my gun. Blake’s face is oddly blank but there’s a smile lingering in the depths of his features. I bite my lip, shuffling on my feet to come back down to Earth. Blake roughly grabs my shoulder and jerks me back and forth. He looks like a proud dad who just witnessed me do something profound and exciting. All I did was kill a bird.
“See? I told you.”
“You told me what?” I ask gruffly.
His eyes bore into mine, and once again, he is all my senses take in. My heart clenches in my chest as he smiles, running his hand down my arm, giving me goosebumps. A blush glows hot on my face, exposing how good he makes me feel.
“I told you that you mad as hell. And one day, you was gone explode.”
Upon first getting to know Blake, I was always uncertain as to what he meant by me, “being mad.” Of course I was mad in a sense. Mad at the world, mad at my “perfect” family, mad at everyone who lived a better life than me. But I get it now. The whole time, Blake and I have been distinguishing two different definitions for the word, “mad.”
Blake really meant that I had potential. That I was full of heated passion and internalized displeasure and was just holding it all in. That one day I would just combust. I was, “mad.” I could break out of my shell. I could defend myself. I just had to let it out. It was within me the whole time.
My eyes find themselves preoccupied with marveling over Blake’s clean-cut jawline. His lips are upturned in a small smirk as his large, dazzling dark eyes are taking me all in. I can’t break away from him. My feelings intensify the closer we get to one another. My heart is in my throat when he closes the distance between us.
Kissing under these harsh circumstances instantly puts me in euphoria. It isn’t too slow or too fast, but just perfect. Blake feels perfect.
I groan when Blake’s hands find my waist, tugging me into his body as hard as he can. His lips detach from my mouth to start grazing down my neck. I sigh, gripping the nape of his neck and feeling my blood rush. He then whispers in my ear. Sweetly and slowly.
“I love you, Ron. Do you know that?”
My soul evaporates from my body. I’m peering over his shoulder, eyes watering at his intimate confession. My teary vision blocks everything out. Everything is swimming before me. When I blink, the tears seep into Blake’s shoulder. He kisses my neck lightly, still gripping my waist in place. I shift the gun from my right hand to my left, allowing myself to gnaw on my knuckles as he continues to love me. I combust. All of me. In his arms. I come alive.
“God Blake I love you too,” I cry, kissing his wet shoulder. We hold each other for forever it seems. This embrace is full of so much more than just love. I feel longing, hunger, fear. I feel Blake trembling against me. I feel his tears on my shoulder next.
“I just want you to know that Ron. No matter if I die today or tomorrow I just want you to know I love you.”
“Don’t say those types of things...”
“It’s possible. All of us could die at any moment now.”
“No,” I pull back, feeling my voice shake. Blake is red and his eyes are glassy, looking down at the ground. I want him to snap out of it. I can’t let him think like this.
“Look at me,” I demand. He complies. His eyes look so defeated and lost. I put the gun down the front of my pants and grab his face in a panic. I speak to him, fighting through tears and pain and hysteria.
“Look at me Blake...I-I can’t lose you. I have never been more serious about anything in my life until I met you. Do you know that? Do you know how much I appreciate you and want to give you the world because I think you’re so special and deserving? Do you know that I know life is unfair and things just SUCK? I know they do. I’ve experienced it. I know things suck. I know you grew up feeling lost and lonely. I did too.”
The tears start falling from him like a waterfall. He can’t even look at me anymore. He holds my wrists and starts coughing while crying. I’m about to have a panic attack if Blake breaks down any further.
“Blake, ssshh, baby just look at me. I’m here. I love you. I always have and I always will just trust me Blake. Trust me. I need you...”
I kiss him and he pulls me close, sighing into my mouth with short breaths. Shortly after though, he breaks away and starts bawling. He exposes just how human he is. He is strong and he is tough but he is human, and humans can only take so much.
And he’s just a kid. We’re all kids. We’re kids who have been hurt. We’re kids who had to mark our place and worth in life. No matter how solid we are, we eventually wear down over time. I know I’ve definitely been worn to the core, which is why I’m so passionate about protecting Blake’s core. I want to be the one who heals him and has his best interest at heart.
“You have nothing to worry about, I’m right here. I love you.”
And I repeat myself over and over and over again because he hasn’t heard this enough from the people who were supposed to love him. He hasn’t allowed himself to be open and vulnerable because that’s a sign of weakness when you’re in the business like Blake. I repeat myself until he believes me, comforting his body against mine and kissing his face until he calms down and faces facts. He finally understands I’m here for him, and that he never has to feel afraid with me. I make sure of it. I’m firm with him.
“Thank you Ron,” he wipes his face, steadying his ragged breaths. I hold his face against my chest as he’s crouched down on the ground, absent-mindedly tracing his finger through the Earth’s soil. The air is getting cooler by the minute and when I look up, dawn is approaching. The colors contrast amazingly against the dull, jagged appearance of the woods we’re in. I let myself become apart of Blake by holding him close until we’re ready to go.
“No, thank you Blake. Thank you.”
He kisses me hard on the mouth, his lips tasting of saltwater from his abundance of tears. I don’t let him go. I kiss him until we’re ready to go.
“We’re leaving tomorrow morning for Chicago. It’s us against them. It’s wartime. No questions asked, we’re pulling up blasting. Kill each and every motherfucka you see clad in red.”
We all know what this means. It is literally wartime. We all let the truth seep in. I wear a brave face. I know how to shed blood now, so I’m more than ready to avenge Barbara and stand up for something for once in my life. I am finally ready to defend myself.
Blake knows how serious this is. We all do. But we can’t allow angst to control us. That will ruin everything. We have to be brave. We’re a family. Family sticks together.
Antonio nods in affirmation. Valerie stares off into space letting her thoughts run wild. Blake makes eye contact with me. I nod to him. It’s final now. Whatever happens, happens.
“Oh, and one more thing,” Blake says, capturing our attention. My heart tightens. I feel my nerves skyrocketing. But all he does is smile. Fondly, like a little boy.
“I love you all. Whatever happens, whoever gets hurt or worse...I just want you all to know that I love you very much.”
“We love you too homie!” Antonio fake wails, theatrically throwing himself into Blake’s body for a hug. Valerie and I laugh and for a moment, it doesn’t seem like we’re shooting for blood tomorrow. Everything for that split second just feels like four kids in Winchester having a good time in a tiny motel room. Except there’s guns and the intent to murder. I could die tomorrow. I could go to prison tomorrow. All of us run that possibility. But I’m not letting that control me. I can’t let it. I know what this is. I know what this means. So for the time being, I join the gang for a well-needed group hug and allow myself to love all of them. This is our last moment before bloodshed. I hold on to it for dear life.
I hold on to my friends for as long as physically possible.