B A H j o u r n a l i s t

Brian Anthony Hernandez

A slap kept inside …

Her breath tickled the top of my left ear.

Busy reading, I didn’t acknowledge the sensation until her breath touched me a second time.  It was warm and uncommon. I looked away from my book, “The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, and my fake blue eyes met her real teal ones. Teal, an anemic blue, I thought.

“Most people don’t read,” she said, startled, in an attitude and tone that bore no resemblance to someone her age but rather to a child learning to string together words.


I don’t know her. At that moment on the light rail Saturday night, I’m not sure I wanted to. People talk about bad impressions. This was one of them.

Perhaps she was drunk. A whiff of the train’s occupants reeked of cheap perfume and even cheaper alcohol. I didn’t respond to her generalization. I feared I’d tell her she sounded stupid or, worse, slap the dumbness out of her while her friends watched.

“Most people don’t read,” she repeated, this time adding a hesitant disclaimer: “That’s impressive.”

My throat released a faint laugh before I extended my arm. “My name is Brian,” I said, trying to be polite as her hand met mine. She was Carmen, a girl who for a few minutes ignored her friends – all of whom joined her in wearing black “Tour de Light Rail Pub Crawl” T-shirts indicating their night’s activity – to focus on a stranger:

Carmen grabs the book from my hand and investigates it as though she were a skeptical home buyer looking curiously at a new house. We talk about how the characters don’t have names, about the boy and his father in a post-apocalyptic world filled with ashy air, empty cities and people eating people. I want to go back to reading. I wait impatiently for them to reach the next exit for their pub crawl.

At her stop, Carmen asks me to join them.

“Most people don’t drink,” I tease.

I’m not in any mood to drink, let alone be around them, I think, suspiciously.

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September 14, 2009 - Posted by | Arizona, Personal, Phoenix

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