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Sunday, March 20, 2011


Rifles are huge and heavier than you would think and when you squeeze them the right way they release this emission that causes a mess wherever it lands. This can be said of a lot of things that are usually considered the domain of men. But am saying it about paint-ball rifles.

A couple of weeks ago a group of my friends and I went paint-balling. When you arrive they outfit you in different colored overalls so that you can differentiate between your teammates and the enemy. There is something about wearing a uniform t that changes the way you view yourself. If someone who wears jeans for a life puts on a well tailored suit a sense of power and confidence descends immediately as if these 2 attributes were sewn into the suit when it was being made. When you put on overalls and the face mask you become a killer. Well not a killer but a person who paints others with malice. The mask reminds me of a hornet, it has a windshield thing because a paint-ball can put out your eye if you're not careful and it has these 2 breathing apertures that makes your breath sound.

Once we had these huge heavy rifles in our hands it was time for some target training. Before we could start we were given a dress down by the guy in charge. His mandate seemed to be to make sure we knew that those were not toys. He talked on and on about safety and rules, he made it sound so scary and serious that I almost would have rather read for exams. But all thoughts of such a dark bend dissipated immediately I fired my first bullet. It went wildly off base not getting close to where I was aiming but the kickback was sufficiently satisfying.

The ammo consisted of these things that look like ball-gums, so much so that the impulse to eat them is a constant presence at least until you see them sploosh and watch the paint flower over everything.

Once target practice was over we were divided into teams, the game to play was capture the flag, a game whose main objective was to capture a flag that was in the middle between the 2 teams and to manoeuvre it to the enemy base at the other end of the field. This had to be done while evading bullets, getting hit meant pain and the possibility of a welt forming on your skin, it also meant a return to base to begin the harrowing journey again. The field was fixed up like a war zone. There were stacks of tyres everywhere and walls that could be ducked behind to decide how best to run away from a relentless onslaught. There were trees in some corners a development that would soon prove frustrating as they were perfect sniper spots. The best touch was a decrepit car that was left in the middle of the field. A car without the doors, steering wheel, engine or anything but the basic body. I kept thinking about how the owners of the paintball field went and got this one touch, this detail that changed everything, made things more lifelike by making them more unusual a paradox I found fascinating.

Then the whistle was blown. Our plan was simple one of our number would run for the flag while being covered by the rest. Covering meant blindly shooting bullets into the distance and hoping that the wind would redirect it towards a target. I ran shooting, I could see the little bullets flying off the gun into the distance having more of a bark than bite then I got hit. I have heard many stories of bullets making contact, the excruciating pain as it rips apart skin, muscles, tendons, cartilage and bone. But there is this thing called adrenaline that's a natural painkiller well mostly it was the fact that they were not real bullets not even rubber bullets.

In game all there was was you and your gun. i would weave and warp around objects, ducking down, coming out, shooting away,hanging back, shooting again, gaining ground, losing it, driving forward, being driven back, a constant give and take. As a result I kept forgetting that if got hit I should go back to the beginning. But the point hit home because once someone got a line of fire they would use it relentlessly endlessly firing, they were as insistent as a buzzing mosquito and after a while i would start to hurt and that's when I remembered to put my hands up in surrender and go back to base.

My first hit was probably luck but like with most things in life success only came when I decided to repeat. When I would find a person who was too out in the open. And I would begin hammering away at my inaccuracy, shooting wide and adjusting to the left or right, shooting high and bringing the scope lower, getting better and better, getting closer and closer until the satisfying feeling of a hit tremored through my hands. Now that I had him in my scope I continued, I had found a weak spot and continued to pull the trigger again and again, over and over until I saw the sign of surrender. As luck would have it someone else had been scoping me the whole time and I got hit. On my trigger finger, this is the only place that's not covered by any clothing or protection and it hurts. Like hell. So I went back to base.

There is something about shooting and getting shot at that makes everything blurry and quick. In no time at all there were no bullets in anyone's gun but we got a quick refill. It was only on the second round that I even manged to get my hands on the flag. We came up with this napoloenistic ruse that involved one of my teammates running off like he had the flag while I would use this decoy to get it to the other side. I took a deep breath and began to run. The bullets flew right by me like a Rambo movie. I would stop and feint, run in a different direction, brake and turn, slow up and speed down, all in an effort to get to the other side and win the game. When I was within sight of the base I got hit. Right in my face. The paint splattered over my windshield thing and vision was blurry after that.

A useless run that had left me dog-tired. I was panting ad sweating. And I could feel that globule of spit that accompanies exertion. A sports field may be one of the last frontiers in the world that allows one to spit, because that globule forces its way out worming its way up your throat till there is no choice but to hark and let it go like one of those paintballs. While this may be allowed in a sports field never, never do it with a mask over you face. As soon as I spat the stickiness was a part of me. In my mask threatening to invade my face and force itself back in. of all the times I got hit or forced back when I was within sight of the target this was the worst experience of the day. I had to take a timeout to wipe it away before I went back to the carnage.

I can almost see those bullets in my mind's eye, sinking into the barrel of the gun and leaving with enough force to take out an eye. And the thing about missing so much is I got to kill 2 birds with one stone. First I went paint-balling and second because my balls hit everything else I finally painted a landscape.

Codename: Monet.