Chris began to question the wisdom of this trip when the jerky stop at the rail-crossing had startled him into awakening. A green pine-tree like cardboard dangled from the mirror, exuding smell of bathroom spray. The air-conditioner was blasting cool air. Pink Floyd played quietly on the radio. It was an unfamiliar car.
"Morning hunk. You awake?" The middle aged woman at the wheel, her white t-shirt tight against her flowing breasts, flipped open the lid of a cigarette pack, tapped it twice on her tanned thigh, and pointed the poking-out cigarette in Chris' direction. "Want a cigarette?"
Too groggy to find voice, Chris shook my head in refusal. Reaching for the cigarette with her lips, she slowly pulled it out. Chris turned his face away from the smoke and looked out of the window. The passing train seemed to stretch with no beginning or end. Piles of cement and chalk – likely from the nearby quarries – were tugged along the tracks, railcar after railcar, no faster than a walking pace. It was going to be a long wait. Behind the tracks, punctured with caves, the sun-baked south tip of the Mountain sloped down into the banana plantations. Evening was falling fast.
"Are you local?"
Chris shook his head.
"A student?" she guessed.
This time, Chris nodded in approval.
"You don't say much," she said. "are you a freshmen?"
Chris nodded again.
"Going home for the break, are you? Your family must be excited. I remember when my son came home from uni for the first time."
"No, I'm here to visit some friends."
"A girlfriend? She inquired. "My son didn't have a girlfriend for long time. He has one now. A lovely girl. Everything looks better when you have a girlfriend. Don't you think?" she winked, as if sharing a secret.
Chris felt his cheeks burning red. He turned his face to look out of the window. But gentle stroke on his thigh brought him back. Holding a cigarette in one arm, having the other in his lap, the woman used her elbow to keep the car in the middle of the long road. Chris felt panic numbing his body. He had never learned how to say no to a woman. Even if he had, he did not want to risk staying stranded on this empty road, when night was falling. He had been warned about the dangers of hitchhiking, but like always, he knew better. Now he was about to learn.