THIS IS NOT HOW IT HAPPENED.
I had never picked up a hitchhiker before. But in the Valle de Elqui, in Northern Chile, it’s common practice. So, when I saw him standing by the side of the road, thumb pointing further inland, towards a town I had yet to visit, I thought what the hell, and let him on board.
He wasn’t a bad looking guy. In fact, as we drove further and further away from the familiar sights of Pisco Elqui and spoke more in his broken English, I found myself growing more and more attracted to him. It didn’t matter that he couldn’t speak my language. I was travelling, I wanted sex and he was as good as any guy in the Valle – better than some.
We drove to a waterfall I know about and got naked under the flow. Neither of us had bathing costumes, we had no other choice. I wasn’t complaining. I watched the constant flow of water tip itself over his body, my eyes lingering over his physique and eventually drawing upwards lazily to meet his own. I asked outright, then and there, if he wanted to have sex. No point in being coy. He said no. Probably just shy, I thought. He put his pants back on after that.
As we drove further, to the next town in the Valle, he grew quiet. I couldn’t understand it – we were doing exactly what he wanted to do, he got to do it with me, the sun was shining. Today was perfect. I stopped trying to get him to talk and stared at the winding road ahead. Out of nowhere, one of my hands on the wheel disappeared. I can’t explain it. It only lasted for a split second and then it returned, like the crackling of television static.
I frantically looked at my passenger, who was still staring out the window as if nothing had happened. Shaking my head and trying to still my thumping heart, I turned to face the road and drove on.
I forgot all about it as we wandered around the market in Montegrande, instead watching him as he looked at the artisan jewellery in the market place. The corners of his mouth lifted slightly as he brushed his fingers across the necklaces, and I couldn’t help but imagine what it would feel like to smother his lips with my own. I reached out to touch his arm, but for a fraction of a second, my own hand wouldn’t obey me, as if it was pinned at my side. Like I was doing to his arm in my mind’s eye. Then, I managed to shake it off. He started as I made contact, then gave me a wary looking smile.
I asked him if he wanted to have a drink later. He actually seemed pretty up for it, which was a pleasant surprise. Maybe I could get some after all.
We finished looking around the market and were just about to get in the car to drive back to Pisco Elqui when I suddenly found myself on the wrong side of the car. He was behind the wheel, I was in the passenger seat. I blinked, and we had changed back. I stared at the road over the steering wheel and wondered what was wrong with me.
“So, drinks later?” I asked, trying to shake it off and focus on driving. He started making excuses. I was furious. He had agreed to this only twenty minutes earlier and now was changing his mind. He had to get up early, he wasn’t staying in his own place, he couldn’t have people round, he didn’t want to drink.
I caught his eye as I took my own off the road.
THIS IS HOW IT HAPPENED.
“You say no to everything,” Carlos said, in Spanish that I could just about understand, from the driver’s seat.
I was in the passenger seat and had been warding off his advances all afternoon. Now I was being shamed for saying no. I was furious, but fear smothered my anger. I just had to make it back to Pisco in one piece.
When I said goodbye to him, I was polite. I hugged him, said thank you for the ride, and quickly walked away. I was scared; he had already dropped me off on the wrong side of town. But, as I walked away, my anger grew, eclipsing my fear. So I wrote this. A story which seems bizarre and out of place with the genders reversed, but not the way around it actually happened. Not unusual behaviour for a man who was only trying to get some of what he believed was rightfully his. Just another girl travelling alone who should have known better.