Missing the rally would’ve been okay, really. I woke on Saturday with doubts about whether I should go. What kind of people will be there? Extremist, anti-gun supporters? I didn’t sign up to spend my Saturday with kooks. I wanted to go with family, even though they all own guns.
When I signed up for the Everytown for Gun Safety rally in Austin, it sounded like a good idea. The orange t-shirts from Everytown arrived on my doorstep just in time. Friday morning my whole family became poster children. Keaton sent me his picture from work—hugging his dad, the two of them posing for the picture. He works for Randy like his brother does, but Lance couldn’t be in the picture. Lance had a mild case of shingles. He called, though, to say he was feeling good enough to meet halfway between his house and mine. I met him to give him a shirt, watch him put it on, then captured it with the iPhone. I felt better already, standing there with my gun owner. I wanted him to be with me the next day. If anybody got too rowdy, Lance could have my back. Without using a gun. I hoped.
But his support this weekend was just wearing that shirt in public, a quiet protest. We met in a parking lot next to a shopping center where two highways meet alongside Bull Creek. I parked near a grove of oak trees. One of the symptoms of shingles is sensitivity to light. Lance showed me his blisters from his virus. They’d all scabbed over. I handed him his orange t-shirt. He puts it on, and in the shade of the trees I take a selfie of the gun owner I love.
I drove home and posted pictures to Twitter, signing off with # WearOrange. I felt a warmth creep over me. My family was standing with me, posing for pictures. I wear my orange for Jon, and I wear my orange to say no—it’s my own version of Wear Orange: no more recklessness of gun owners. I suspect others at the rally won’t make any room for gun ownership. I have a family who’d disagree on that point. Is there room for my compromise?
At dinner that night, I sat across from Randy, still wearing our t-shirts. We’re at Flores our favorite Mexican restaurant. We sip on margaritas and dip chips into the salsa. I tell him I’m nervous about going to the rally by myself tomorrow. I say this while staring down at my plate.
Randy is a good husband, the kind of guy who wears a t-shirt because his wife tells him to, even when he’s not sure about all of what it stands for. I see empathy in his eyes. He asks, “Do you want me to go to the rally with you?”
Yes, yes I do. I feel a sense of relief. We make a plan: he’ll play an early round of golf, and then we’ll go.
The morning of the rally I have plenty of time to prepare. It’s also a while to think. Maybe the rally isn’t such a good idea. Randy doesn’t really want to go and he’s only doing this to make me happy. Why do I want to go? I think about the gun control extremists that might be there. Am I going to be bombarded with anti-gun semantics? How do I stand up for myself, or must I say nothing at all?
I move through life as an observer, asking questions like that. I’m the woman who sits in the back of the room, quietly watching others. I don’t like to rush into anything. I take my time, better to scope things out. There it is. Scope. The language is so infused in our lives.
I open my MacBook, check my mail. There’s a message from my girlfriend Susan. It says, “You should have let me know about that rally. I’d walk with you if you decided to go and wanted a friend with you.”
Hallelujah! Randy can be out of the range of fire. Susan’s a good rescuer—she speaks her mind. Not the woman sitting at the back of the room. I take a long shower. Then fix my hair, then add some make-up, and then put on the t-shirt. I wear the one from yesterday, because I only bought enough shirts for the family. This one will have to do, but first I check the armpits for that smell. Years ago I was a student at the John Robert Powers modeling school. Lesson #23: (I think) never, ever wear a shirt twice. But in this case—a girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do. I slap on an extra rub of deodorant then check myself in mirror. I am ready for the rally.
I drive to Susan’s house to pick her up. She wears a plain orange t-shirt, and blue-jean shorts. We try to decide on the best route to the rally point, Austin’s Schultz’s Beer Garden. Legendary liberal hangout, I’ve heard, so of course it’s there, right downtown. Susan says how surprised she was that she didn’t hear anything about this rally. She’s right. Other than the text message from Everytown I haven’t heard anything, either. There’s been nothing on the radio, TV or any news Web pages I saw. Why is that? Are only the people contacted signing up for Everytown’s cause? Will the crowd’s belief system be that all guns are bad and should be destroyed?
I have a lot of questions and I know where the answers will be. I’m an observer and I consider how that kind of person behaves at a rally.
Downtown Austin is abuzz with people and cars parked on both sides of Martin Luther King Street. A street named after a man who was gunned down. We see groups walking together. I ask Susan if she thinks they’re going to the rally.
“No, none of them are wearing orange.” The t-shirts can’t be the only thing to wear, though. There’s not as many as I hoped.
Then we notice a girl getting out of a car. She’s has on a blue gown with a matching cap. We realize it’s a high school graduation, just a few blocks away. Thousands of graduates in the citywide ceremonies. Something to compete with the rally.
Susan asks, “Why would they hold a rally on the same day as graduation?”
“I don’t know, but if this turns out to be lame we’ll leave and have lunch.” I don’t know if I like the way that sounds, but I don’t want to have dragged Susan down here for a bust.
I drive along the street with Schultz’s on our right. We peer into the backyard beer garden where a small group in orange shirts gather around a table. Parking isn’t a problem, either. We find a front row spot in the garden. I wanted it to be crowded, rowdy with protest. Where is the celebrity? People Magazine had a Julianne Moore. We’re cool enough in Austin to draw somebody who’s People-grade.
The women at the table are volunteers. There’s a sign in sheet, and a poster board with names of lost loved ones. We sign the board with Jon’s name and then Susan and I sit at a nearby picnic table. There aren’t two dozen people in the garden. I wonder how many people really care about safety. Susan point at a lady taking pictures of protesters, each of us who will pose for her. At the photo table, orange costumes are draped out for us to wear. We begin to dress ourselves in the some of the gear, all of it orange. Susan puts on the orange tutu, and I pin on an orange hair band that reminds me of a Whoville residents’ hair. We’re laughing at a rally. I didn’t expect this. Rallies have speakers, don’t they?
This one will have a someone speak who’ll make me glad it’s Susan next to me. Not Randy. At least Betsy Riot doesn’t go topless. But she’ll undress some real feelings. After all, I wanted something more important than just lunch.