There was a shyness about Carlos, despite his intimidating appearance. Muscles earned from years of required physical fitness bulge under his black shirt, his sleeves pushed up to his elbows to reveal a maze of tattoos covering both of his forearms.
Shiny rhinestones rested in each of his earlobes, and a steal post pierced the area below his lower lip.
Carlos nodded bashfully, and greeted me in a quiet voice: “Hello, ma’am.”
Almost as a reflex, Carlos then turned to look behind him, his eyes scanning the crowded patio. He smiled a bit sheepishly when he caught me watching him.
“I’m always looking, searching,” he told me. “It’s a habit. If I can’t look around the room to check for danger, it just eats at me.”
There were a few moments of silence, a natural awkwardness between two people from completely different backgrounds and experiences that were meeting for the first time.
To break the tension, I asked him about his Fourth of July. Independence Day is, ironically, an extremely difficult day for the men and women whose military service we try to honor on that day. The fireworks can trigger flashbacks for battle-worn veterans.
For Carlos, it was something different. It was then that he told me the story of the suicide bomb attack in Al Qa'im.
“The smell of burning human flesh – I’d never smelled it before the suicide car attack. But it’s a smell I’ll never forget as long as I live.”
The odor of cooking meat at a barbeque, so common on the Fourth of July, would still bring Carlos back to that horrible day in the Iraqi desert...
On Monday - Even the Devil Can't Fool a Dog, Part 5
(Read the previous installment of “Even the Devil Can’t Fool a Dog” by clicking here.)