Leaving the Apartments: Embedded in Gun Cultures
Before having kids, I don't think I appreciated enough the ability to leave the house quickly, just grabbing my keys, wallet, phone -- and out. With kids, the effort to be prepared for little human needs is extensive. Over my life, I tried to stay away from the chain of the purse, but the net that traps you is the fashionable, cute diaper bag.
I was packing my dark green and brown camouflage diaper bag at the entrance of our apartment, getting ready to take our toddler out for ice cream, when the sharp pops rang out, followed nearly instantly by the squeal of tires.
The door to our apartment faced the courtyard, and my irrational instinct was to open it and look at the direction of the sound with all the indignance that naivete can bring. My husband leaned over me and slammed it shut and pulled me back down to where he had pulled our daughter. "Are you crazy?" he asked.
Years earlier, we talked in the dark in his childhood bedroom in Mexico, clearing up our drunken blood. Similar pops rang out in the distance, and I asked him if those were gunshots. "Yes," he said simply. It was his calm that chilled me that night.
He was similarly chilled by my lack of reaction to guns in the United States, particularly when he saw open carry. We once followed an older gentleman into our local warehouse store, dad shorts and high white socks, who had a pistol strapped to his side. My husband, carrying our daughter, leaned over and whispered to me. "He has a gun," he said. "Yes," I said. "That's America."
Years before, as he introduced me to his hometown where the cartel violence was high, he was a reporter who took photos. We were with three of his friends, all of them squished into the back when he saw the lights of the police. He apologized, but he needed to get a picture before we could head to the bar.
He parked us nearby and ran to get a shot. He explained it had just happened; they hadn't even roped the area off yet. He pointed out the truck, half-balanced on a hip-level, concrete median. "They were afraid and trying to escape any way they could," he said. His friend from the backseat bent toward me in the front: "That's Mexico."
After that shooting at our apartment complex in the United States, I decided to be serious about looking for a house. I say that shooting because it wasn't the first. Even though I had lived in that complex for about 10 years, during the three years my husband had moved in with me, we had three separate gun-related incidents. One was a man shot by the police not 50 yards outside the window under which we slept in our bed. It was the sirens that woke us.
The second incident was when a man came at the cops with a samurai sword at the other end of the complex and was shot. My mom was sitting on the other end on a set of stairs smoking and came inside only when cops started shooing people inside.
After she informed me that something was up -- we didn't find out the situation until we heard it on the news -- I opened my door to peer out. A state police in gear ordered me back in and to close the door. I closed the door, and I sauntered to the living room window, debating if I could still make a run to the dentist as they started roping off the parking lot with yellow tape.
I'm not sure what I pin my ease with guns in America on versus the fear I feel in Mexico. Maybe it's coming from a military family childhood. Maybe it's a continued naivete. Maybe it's a sad acceptance of things you cannot change. But how much can you claim comfort when it's the place you call home and it's the same place you may have to send your kids through metal detectors that hope to ward off the threat of those with guns.
Cassie McClure is a writer, wife/mama/daughter, fan of the Oxford comma, and drinker of tequila. Some of those things relate. She is also the Executive Director of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and can be contacted at email@example.com. To find out more about Cassie McClure and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.Copyright 2021 Creators Syndicate Inc.