His hands were wrapped around the gun but he wasn’t going to pull the trigger. He wasn’t going to become just like him. It was just a reflex – a natural instinct woven into the strands of his DNA. When someone points a gun at you, you don’t just stand there like an idiot and let them know that you feel afraid and intimidated by the weapon they possess. You take out your own and say “Fuck you!” and then you confidently walk up to them, branded by your uniform, and tell them “I have power when you do not.”
Tanner didn’t know why this scrawny little kid was pointing a gun at him. Heck, he didn’t even know why the kid had possession of a gun in the first place. Oh yeah, that would be the country’s stupid gun laws that they promised to reform after every tragic mass shooting.
“Drop your weapon,” he commanded with a voice of authority. He could see the kid’s hands were trembling. You could tell he had never been trained with a gun from the way he was holding it, his knuckles protruding from how tightly his hands were gripping the thing.
“Don’t come closer! I’ll shoot!” He stepped out from behind the dumpster he had been using as cover. Now, Tanner could see that the kid was a lot taller than him, though he had more bone than muscle. He had dark circles around his eyes and a network of scars that crisscrossed him arms.
The young officer stopped in his tracks, but kept his weapon raised. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he said.
“Why?” The kid was testing him, teasing him. “Are you going to shoot me too?” Tanner didn’t know what he was talking about. His finger wasn’t even on the trigger because he was so afraid that he would slip up and do something he was going to regret. “You look just like him, you know?” No, this was not happening. He knew what was coming now, knew that this was something personal. “Your father.” The kid spat the words in front of his feet along with his saliva.
Tanner knew very little about what had happened that day. His mom refused to talk about it and his dad had disappeared without a trace. But he knew there was a child in the car who watched his father die because of a crime his own had committed. Now the child was stood before him, grown into a young man on the brink of adulthood, and still shaken by the memories ten years on.
As realisation kicked in, the words dried up. There were no apologies that could heal the wounds his father had inflicted.
“Shoot me, Tanner!” The kid had lowered his gun. This time, when their eyes met, he could see years and years of pain and hurt within them. This kid, whose name he didn’t even know, also had his life taken away from him on that tragic day.
He dropped the gun. It clattered onto the concrete by his feet and he kicked it away from him. All those years he had trained as a police officer because he thought that was what he really wanted. Now, he realised that it wasn’t what he wanted at all, that he had instead just become the man he didn’t want to be.
The kid placed his own gun on the floor, raised both his hands to show that he was harmless. “I don’t want to hurt you,” he said. “I thought I did… all those years, I was just consumed by seeking revenge. I was angry.”
“I’m sorry.” The words came out in a whisper.
“Don’t apologise for what he did.” The kid offered his hand and they shook for longer than socially acceptable, the colours of their skin merging into one.
“What’s your name?” Tanner had been wanting to ask that question for so long. When he looked before him, he didn’t want to see a black kid with a gun or the son of the man his father had murdered. He wanted to see an ally, a friend, someone he could refer to by name.
“Taylor, but only my mama calls me that.” He laughed a laugh that was so raw you could tell he didn’t laugh often. Tanner laughed with him, not because it was funny but because laughter really was the best medicine.
And in that moment, whilst they were both laughing in spite of their sorrows, it was as if they were healing the harsh wounds of their divided races and building the bridges for generations to come.