“Thing is, he’s going to kill me.”
“Have you gone to the police?”
“Yes, of course I have.”
“And what happened?”
She shakes her head from side to side, wraps her arms protectively around her chest.
“I got a restraining order against Ned, that’s my ex. But you know what good that is, don’t you?”
She inscribes a big zero in the air.
Five Minutes Earlier
It’s a crowded Sunday morning in the Martin B. Retting Gun Shop in Culver City.
There’s the usual cross-section of customers:
Two elderly black women, sisters, who have been robbed countless times by drug-addicts. Ignored by the LAPD, they have no choice but to buy a gun for self-defense. The women wear colorful bonnets. Yup, they dressed up to go gun shopping.
There are a couple of hunters buying high-powered ammunition; they sound like Los Alamos scientists as they discuss the exquisite physics of various exotic slugs. It’s way beyond my comprehension.
Two Marines on leave are stocking up on rugged, combat-ready clips for their side-arms. Semper Fi.
There’s also a young Hispanic apartment manager who lives in a high-crime area. His wife just had a baby—Mazal Tov!—and he wants to protect his family from the local “desperadoes.”
I’m waiting my turn.
And so is a young woman who absolutely sticks out in the gun shop. She’s wearing a cream colored linen baby doll with blue grosgrain trim; on her feet, pink flip-flops that just pop off her white skin. Her hair is the color of Kansas wheat. Mid-twenties, she’s an iconic all-American beauty. Flash of memory to my great childhood crush: Tuesday Weld in The Adventures of Dobie Gillis.
Looking as if she’s on the edge of a meltdown, she paces, glances nervously at the display cases lined with gleaming rows of pistols and revolvers. She makes a move to exit the gun shop, then returns, as if yanked by a fishing reel.
“Excuse me, do you, do you know about guns?”
She’s even got that vulnerable, tremulous Tuesday Weld voice.
And she is talking to yours truly.
“I’m terrified of guns.”
I hold out my hands as if checking for rain.
“Sounds crazy, I know, thing is—do you think the salesmen are going to be much longer?”
“There’s tons of paperwork if you buy a gun.”
Her eyes dart about, then she just looks at me straight-on:
“Thing is, he’s going to kill me.”
That’s when she tells me about Ned; the evil, the obsessive, the ex-boyfriend.
Ned is a stalker, a human virus who has infected every aspect of her life.
She speaks of restraining orders:
“The thing about them is that people like Ned always find a way around them. He’s there on my computer. He’s a computer guy, for Chrissakes. He knows when I start going out with a new dude and he makes sure to tell the new one all sorts of trash about me. And d’you think the dude sticks around? No one wants that level of drama. I’ve moved twice already and he always finds me. Ned’s always there. Sometimes I wake up at night, go to my window and I’m telling you he’s watching me. Hey, I’m sorry for unloading on you. You must think I’m such a loser chick.”
“It’s fine. I feel awful for you. But it’s good you’re taking steps to protect yourself. It’s admirable. Men like Ned count on women being scared and defenseless.”
She pauses. Looks down at the display of guns.
“I can’t believe I’m here. I’ve been against guns and violence my whole life.”
I let this pass. Now is not the time for a self-righteous lecture.
Intertitle: UTOPIA IS THE OPIATE OF LIBERALS.
“Did Ned threaten you, physically, I mean?”
“Said I belong to him and no one else. That’s about it. But I know what he means.”
“What did the police say?”
“The last cop, as he was leaving, whispered for me to get a gun.”
I tell her that owning a gun isn’t sufficient. She has to take safety classes, self-defense classes. She has to know what she’s doing. From the counter, I grab a handful of NRA brochures and press them into her hands. I make her promise that she’ll sign up as soon as she gets her gun in ten days.
“Ten days?” she says.
Nodding, I explain:
“First you have to take a test, here in the store, a written test. They’ll give you a booklet to study. Then you get a certificate making you eligible to buy a weapon in California. After you purchase the gun there’s a ten-day waiting period until you take possession.”
“Background check. To make sure you’re not a felon, a psychopath, an illegal immigrant, a terrorist, a drug addict. It’s the law.”
Once again, she wraps her arms around her chest, as if trying to keep her heart inside her body.
“Ned’s really smart—a psychozoid like you wouldn’t believe.”
I do not ask her why she went out with Ned in the first place. The answer is obvious: psychopaths are clever at disguising their pathologies. Evil is seductive.
“You’re going to be okay. I know you are.”
She shrugs, scans a row of pistols.
“Are those good?”
Her hands are tiny. I doubt she could even rack a .45.
She manages a thin smile, her first since I’ve met her.
“One piece of advice, even before you buy a gun, and this is important.”
“Lose the flip-flops.”
She looks down at her feet, curls her toes, lacquered a hot psychedelic pink.
“You can’t run or maneuver in those things. Get in the habit of wearing a good solid pair of running shoes.”
“Oh, right, right. What was I thinking?”
I lead her to the glass case that holds the wheel guns, weapons that are simple to load, easy to handle, jam-proof. And, you better believe: lethal.
She scans the display. She seems overwhelmed, lost.
Finally, she looks up at me and says: “What’s to stop Ned from killing me in the next ten days?”
I have no answer.
Resolution, Not So Much, But This, Unfortunately, is Reality
Hours later, I tell my wife Karen about the conversation. In the background FOX Cable News is reporting the brutal murder of a pregnant woman. The chief suspect is her ex-boyfriend, an evil piece of human garbage with a history of stalking women.
“I’m terrified I’m going to wake up one day and see that she’s been murdered. Maybe I should have done more.”
“What more could you have done?”
Shrugging, I admit I have no idea.
But Ned is out there, obsessively dreaming, watching, waiting for the right moment — to make her his own.
The Cornered Cat is an excellent resource for women who wish to learn about self-defense and firearms. Highly recommended.
As Shrink Wrapped explains:” I linked to “Stalked” as an example of what happens to a pacifist when reality intrudes.”