America has gun control issues and the sky is blue. Once again, another senseless massacre has sparked the empty “we need more gun control” rhetoric that gets reignited whenever some unstable person decides to kill masses of people instead of using their words. My theory is, the only way we’re going to get this situation under control, like other “developed” countries have, is to tackle capitalism and greed. Without the two, there wouldn’t be so many guns. I believe that politicians work with the NRA to make people believe hat they need guns because…they have the “right to bear arms.” Yet, most of the people who are diehard about their “rights” don’t even know what amendment that’s from.
Anyway, more gun purchases mean more sales. And don’t think that people with illegal guns (i.e. criminals in the streets of Chicago, New York or any city USA) don’t purchase them from people who got them legally but don’t care who they sell to, because of the bottom line—money. Those are just my theories. I can’t actually prove any of these statements with tangible evidence.
However, I’ve seen the effects of gun violence too many times in my life. I’ve seen people sprawled on the ground after being shot. I’ve seen people senselessly shooting into the air—as if bullets just disappear—as a way to say “Happy New Year!” I know people who got shot because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, as the saying goes. I’ve been escorted off the playground pre-shoot out (At least we were warned, right?). I escaped being a victim of gun violence on more than one occasion. But there’s one experience that is the most vivid in my memory because it’s the closest I’ve been to a gun that was drawn on someone. The intended target was a few feet away from me and some friends. That night started with a date.
I met a Marine through my cousin during Spring Break of my freshman year in college. He was nice but we didn’t have time to hang out after initially meeting because I was heading back to school shortly after. We kept in touch and he expressed that he wanted to hang out when I got home in the summer.
Fast forward to that summer evening. I was hanging out with my best friend from high school, who I hadn’t seen since Christmas break. Eventually, he called to see what I was doing. He had a car—which is big deal for NYC dwellers—so he recruited his friend (who I was already acquainted with) and they picked us up. We were all about 19; maybe the oldest was 20 so our hangout options were limited. After some deliberation, we ended up in the West Village. Our journey began with us sitting in Washington Square Park and eventually walking around so that we could people-watch (which was great in that area) and to see if we could find something open that we could get in to legally.
We ended up at a place called Groove that was hosting a poetry slam—this was when live spoken word was at the height of its popularity so we were excited. After killing a few hours there, we decided to get some food. At this point, it’s probably about 2:00am but the streets were still teeming with people.
We intended to make our way to a pizza shop across the street from Groove and ended up walking behind what appeared to be a transgender woman, let’s call her Britney.
Out of nowhere, Britney started yelling obscenities at a group of people across the street that was standing in front of the pizza shop. To my group of friends and I, Britney’s rant seemed to have come out of nowhere. The group across the street—who were all dressed up as if they came from some type of 35 and up prom—were chortling and had been for a while. From what my friends and I could make out from Britney’s string of obscenities was motivated by the ringleader of the Across the Street Crew who allegedly said something smart about her, and she wasn’t going to be played.
Everyone else surrounding the scene could have easily dismissed the Across the Street Crew as people who were enjoying each other’s company and laughing about who knows what. But in hindsight, Britney was probably so used to getting snide remarks from people about her appearance—it was obvious that she was a man at some point—that she wanted to fight back, probably to her detriment in some cases. I’ll never know if what Britney perceived as an insult was actually real but it didn’t warrant what ensued.
The Across the Street Crew was comprised of about four women and one man, who seemed to be the ringleader. He was wearing a white zoot suit in 80 degree weather—think along the lines of Dick Tracy—and based on his appearance, I was waiting for him to tell Britney something like, “Get outtaheyah crazy dame, seeee” but I digress. He should have been the last person with jokes on anyone.
My friends and I watched Britney argue with Zoot Suit primarily because we were still trying to figure out why it started, and because we just couldn’t stop.
Britney’s stream of obscenities went something like, “I will fuck you up! You want to talk shit! I will come over there and beat that ass!”
Zoot Suit remained calm at first and his friends were quiet, probably mortified. By this point, we were still walking slowly behind Britney hoping that we could still get some pizza from our desired destination (the pizza at this place was that good). Like New Yorkers, we figured this would resolve itself without major incident. Eventually, we ended up on the same sidewalk with Zoot Suit and his friends, still watching and still behind a screaming Britney.
Zoot Suit finally replied, “Nobody, was talking about you, ma,” but this only makes Britney madder, as she started inching closer to him and menaced as if she were going to get in his face.
“You don’t want it with me,” Zoot Suit repeated, still calm and still looking silly in that suit.
Britney ignored him and got closer. She still wasn’t in his face, but she crossed personal boundaries and was still yelling, so Zoot Suit started tapping the right side of his belt loop with two fingers (his jacket was open). That’s when we saw the imprint of his gun and collectively gasped or wailed, “Oh!” in some cases. Eventually Zoot Suit put his hand under his shirt and grabbed the gun. It was tucked behind his belt (I don’t know how he managed to not shoot himself). My friends and I—no strangers to guns—still stood there and watched. Passersby and other bystanders who couldn’t quite see that there was a gun involved were also watching, trying to figure out the situation. The only people who could actually see the gun were those directly behind Britney, who, by the way, got more riled up following the threat.
“Oh, you gonna shoot me motherfucker!”
Britney dumps a nearby trashcan and hoists it over her head. We all thought Zoot Suit was bluffing with the gun.
“I ain’t scared of you motherfucker!” She shouted as she charged forward and attempted to launch the garbage can at Zoot Suit, whose response was to finally draw.
Zoot Suit pulls out what looked like a mini Tommy Gun or an Uzi. I’m bad with gun names—but it definitely wasn’t a pistol and it looked more on par with something that would match his suit. Without hesitation, he walked toward her pointing his weapon in full view of everyone.
“I said, you don’t want it with me. Ma.”
Britney dropped the garbage can and everyone scattered. My friends and I split up in the fray. My girlfriend and I stayed together and ducked into a nearby sunken stairwell (in front of a business) at basement level—still peaking our heads out to watch. The guys we were with had bolted somewhere unknown.
Britney trotted down the block and Zoot Suit briefly followed with the gun pointing at her but stopped his pursuit as Britney wisely barreled into a cab. He put his gun away, returned to his friends and started chatting about where they were headed next as if none of this had happened.
Eventually all bystanders began resurfacing from their hiding places and my friend and I found our boys and decided to take our party to a diner in the Bronx. Not once did we consider being grateful that we didn’t get caught in what could have been an ugly situation. Instead we laughed about how “gangster” Britney was to attempt to throw a trashcan at Zoot Soot.
Not once did we talk about level of mental instability that it took on both parts, especially Zoot Suit, to go off the way they did. A simple misunderstanding between two insecure people who should have just ignored each other almost got several people killed or seriously hurt, but this is something that we’ve seen so many times that in some ways, it has become the norm.
And as far as our dates who ran without any regard for our well being…there was no second date for either party involved.