What is desire but a shadow that shades the edges of everything you touch. It starts as just a slumbering thought, there at the edge of your night, then soon stirs, waking. You can ignore it, but like a dog long cooped up, soon it will begin to howl, and you have no choice but to let it free.
Have you ever wanted something so bad you could almost feel it? As a kid, it might have been that first bike, in high school, a car, something, a want so deep and burning it was almost outside your consciousness.
Myself, what comes to mind is not such things, simple trinkets or jewels that glimmer in the light.
It was a Colt Python, and I wanted it so badly I could taste the recoil. It wasn't a feeling I was used to, after years of calm, speculative detachment to choices made, willing myself not to feel for what I would not have again. I had been doing fine, until I saw it, and just that once, ever so briefly, held it.
My non shooty friends said "you could get a huge, new TV for that cost!" My shooty friends said "damn, I want one". Some of both said "but that's old, don't you want something new and high tech?" No, I didn't. I had a little plastic gun with all the personality of a Pez Dispenser. I wanted something that had seen some years, as I had. A firearm that had discharged its duty, the marks of use etched on its frame like forgotten words, an indictment of danger faced. I desired not that which was fresh and unspoiled, but that which had seen those griefs and shames with which hearts much less strong, would have strained and burst into unremembered dust.
Keep your new Glock, I wanted a gun that had seen a battle or two, and won.
The gun store owner let me put it on lay away. I was a regular and they knew I was reliable. I'd come by every couple of weeks with a few hundred more to put down on it, taking it out of the case just briefly to say hello, stroking the dark blueing, the profound dark deep of the sea, a dense darkness in which even the light of the sun could not give color. Just a couple more weeks, and it would be mine.
It sounds silly, doesn't it, in retrospect, to be a slave to an object, something that's purchased with gold, like any other object, something for which your only toil was that toil you give anyway. But at the time, having lost most everything I had, it was a symbol of more than a firearm. It was a symbol of possessing something that no one could take from me, that I alone would be responsible for, not subjugating my responsibilities by default to others that did not care. It was going to be MY Colt, and if it shot every weekend or just stayed in the safe, it was mine to do with as I wanted, knowing in return, with care, I could always rely on it.
After a decade of being directed in almost everything I did, down to what I wore and how I cut my hair, it was beyond liberating. It was freedom with a .357. It was desire with the full capacity one is capable of, a measure of worth far exceeding the coins that enacted its transaction. It was so beyond "worth it", its weight in my hand beyond the proportion of its convertible value. Those that didn't shoot shook their heads at me like I was mad, those that did, only nodded in silent agreement as I waited to pick it up and transport it home, like a new parent.
I still enjoyed my little .22 but like Charlie Brown said "nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter like unrequited love". I could not WAIT to hold that Colt in my hand and squeeze the trigger for the first time. I lay motionless in my bed at night, legs straight and close, thoughts of how it would feel framed there in the rich sprawl of red hair. I started "nesting" a week before I even brought it home, buying the right accessories, making sure it had a safe place to sleep.
And just a few weeks later it was mine. They say with desire, that sometimes when requited, it loses its luster, that once you're held it in your hands, your interest wanes. You hold it a while, you drive it a while, and soon you're looking on to the next great dream. But sometimes once you've held it, everything else pales in comparison.
Finally, I held it, taking in the deep blued finish that seemed to hold all reluctant light and breath, feeling the weight in my hand. Then I simply stepped up and fired it. A single shot, in which a lifetime lay behind me. A single shot, upon the bare and pock marked wall, the shadow of its form shuddered in what was not the wind, but my own trepidations, until holding it steady, I squeezed the trigger with one intake of virgin breath. In that moment, in the rich, trembling roar of its power, the trepidation fell behind and I knew that this would be one desire that would stay with me always. "They" don't' have a clue, I thought, as the sounds of everything I had every shot came in that single converging noise that was the .357, spoiling me for anything else.
It was more than I'd ever operated, but not more than I could handle. A good instructor, some targets and practice to be safe and I felt like I'd owned it for years, even if my shot placement spoke otherwise for a while.
I went back to the .22 for practice and plinking, as always a cheap shot placement tool, but against the Colt, its firing seemed like frail whimperings, and it just didn't seem the same. I was hooked on the recoil, on the bore. I learned about blueing about cleaning, and about gathering brass. I shared it at the range with others that wanted to try it, like a proud parent saying "see, look at the newest member of the family".
But it wasn't the Colt, it was me. I'd gone from a timid beginner playing grown up, picking something up and putting it away, then running on home for someone else to clean up, to being a shooter. One who owned my own equipment and cared for it. One of many that were at the range alone every Saturday morning, come rain or snow. I'd not really grown into the weapon, I'd simply grown into myself.
Months passed, and with career changes and moves, the weekly shooting became a thing of the past, and the Colt was only taken out to play every couple of months. It wasn't that I'd lost interest, there was just so little time, for anything but work and tending to elderly parents, a home and life in a suitcase.
Then the day came when I had a family member in need of money for university. Even with a full time summer job and scholarships, there just wasn't quite enough. The Range already had a large mortgage, I just needed a little cash to help them out.
I sold the Colt. It wasn't much, but it would pay for books for the year or so. A Colt is history, but so are our children.
It wasn't the best decision, but one at the time that felt needed to be made. So I sold it to someone I knew for top dollar, knowing even as I released it that I already regretted it. Already missed the clarity of its touch, the roar of its might, that smell of spent longing that rises like a cloud of signal smoke; that feeling even as I handed it over, that I was letting something good slip out of my hands, not likely to be reclaimed.
Years pass, and then it's there again. A look, a touch.
What is it about desire, that follows us when our guard is down. that longing fire tinged with the sadness of loss. It never really goes away, and I pray it never does