“I said I want to hear from all you young women” -@lemonhound
We toppled out of the van onto the dark main street in San Pedro. I hooked my small backpack over one shoulder and pulled out a flyer with a hand-drawn map for a hostel. It was only 7:30, but it felt like midnight, and I didn’t know San Pedro at all. Julia and I puzzled over the instructions as the driver passed bags down from the roof of the van. Local men in shorts and flip-flops stood in front of a travel agency, ready to lead us to our destinations. I suggested we find our own way to avoid paying a guide and asked the driver to point us in the right direction, but he turned to a local man and told him to take us.
“Ahh, si!” the man, who was rather drunk, exclaimed at the name of our hostel. “Mucha fiesta! Unstss! Untss! Untss!” he shouted, trying to emulate the sound of heavy bass. Julia and I shouldered our large backpacks, placed our small ones onto our fronts and followed.
I asked Julia where she had stayed in Antigua and how she had heard about this place. She said she'd been staying at the Blue Banana where I’d picked up the flyer. They recommended the hostel to her. Plus, a friend was staying there. The drunk man stumbled on ahead still going “untss, untss, untss,” and slurring his Spanish. At the end of the road, he took a right down an alley. We stopped and I pulled the map out again, but he motioned us to follow.
“Vamos! Aqui! Aqui!”
“Si?” I asked in cobbled-together Spanish, “Es seguro que este hostel es par aka?”
“Si, si. Vamos!”
He kept on walking. The map did say we had to take a right, so we followed.
“I really hope he knows where he’s going,” I said as we turned another corner to discover a wall painted with the hostel’s name. When we rang the doorbell a curly-haired Australian answered and invited us into the small office.
“We’re looking for two beds in a dorm,” Julia explained.
“Sorry, all our dorms are booked.”
“Shit.” I worried this would happen. Taking the last van of the day, we ran the risk of a full hostel and there was no way to call or e-mail in advance.
“We’ve got a private room with two beds, though.”
This seemed like a good option: we had already made the journey and Julia had spotted her friend.
“Great! Right, I’m Adrian. We’ll just get you signed in.”
Julia and I handed him our passports and set down our bags. The drunk came in asking us for quetzals, we shook our heads and tried to explain we hadn’t wanted a guide, but Adrian cut in in Spanish and paid him. Mariel, a Canadian girl, found our key and led us to our room.
In the yard, groups of people sat on benches around tables, rolling joints and drinking beer. One guy sat in a corner playing guitar while a couple giggled in a hammock. Julia offered to share her bottle of wine, and we took a seat on a bench around the table where four Israelis played cards. Julia struck up a conversation with the guy she knew from Antigua and I turned to the larger guy next to me with the square, black plastic glasses.
“How’s it going,” he nodded, breaking conversation with the guy next to him, “Sam.”
“Nina. From the States?”
“Cool, Canada,” I pointed to myself.
“This is Darren,” he gestured at the tan, dark-haired guy next to him. I gave a little wave and Sam pulled some wrapped candies from his bag.
“They’re quite strong,” he told Darren. They were pot infused chocolates, 15 quetzals each, two for twenty five.
I turned to Julia, “Want to try one?”
“They’re actually really good,” her friend with the Austrian accent said.
I paid Sam and passed a chocolate to Julia. We unwrapped them, made a little cheers and ate them in two bites.
Taking a sip of wine I sat back to take in the scene. Adrian sat at one end drinking Quetzalteca, the local moonshine-like liquor, straight from the bottle. Groups of guys slapped each other on the shoulder and boasted about their sexual conquests. A few professed their “gayness” for each other. Like a bro-y high school party, I thought.
I eavesdropped on Sam as he brought up sex or something of the sort. He seemed a little queer to me, but as it turns out, my queer radar is terrible. I asked him if he preferred men or women and he looked at me like I was an alien.
“Sorry, I don’t care either way, I was just curious.” Cue the social awkwardness, and this is why you suck at meeting people. He shot me a dirty look; I apologised again and got up.
I made my way over to sit with Mariel. She’d recently lived in Montreal so we shared stories about shows and snowy days, and she gave me the scoop on San Pedro. A group of guys broke into song and I took a joint that was passed my way. I tried to learn the Israeli card game, but couldn’t understand the rules. I fumbled a cigarette out of my pack, resolving to smoke and watch instead. The smoke was thick and tangy, and my mouth became pasty. I stubbed out the cigarette and headed for the kitchen. Adrian stood by the fridge, reaching behind it to add his empty bottle to a growing collection on the windowsill.
“It’s all I’ve drunk since I’ve been here.” He leaned backwards into the counter and rambled on about something unintelligible. I laughed as he stumbled out of the kitchen only to fall down in the garden.
“Shit,” I said, half-skipping over. A guy tried to help him up, but Adrian groaned. We decided it was best to let him be.
I got a glass of water and went back to sit with Julia. As I sat down, I overheard Sam talking to Darren. “I will give you three chocolates” he said, “if you stick your dick in her face.” I froze, my head foggy with weed and wine.
“I just have to, what, stick my dick in Nina’s face?”
“Excuse me?” I turned around. “You think he can just stick his dick in my face?”
“Well, for three chocolates.”
I looked to Darren, who sat thinking about the proposal. “Are you fucking serious?”
Darren shrugged; Sam passed him the drugs. Challenge and satisfaction permeated Sam’s smile, and it hit me, this is going to happen. Sam was determined and I was too inebriated to walk away.
“So what?” I continued to argue, “You will pay him to stick HIS dick in MY face without even asking me?”
“And, what, if I hadn’t been listening he would have just surprised me with a dick in my face?”
Sam gave a short laugh. I could see where this was going, but it was too late to back out. “So he is going to do this to me and I don’t get anything?”
“What?” Sam asked, “You want some chocolates too?”
“That would be fair wouldn’t it?”
“Ok, I’ll give you one.
“Are you fucking serious? It’s my face.”
“Yeah, but it’s his dick.”
“Three, or fuck you.”
“Yeah, right. But fine, three and he sticks his dick in your face.”
And there it was: the deal I was making. The realisation hit me as I took in the group around us. I fumbled for a cigarette. “Yeah, sure, whatever.”
Sam’s face lit up; I caught Darren’s eye but he turned away.
“Darren here,” Sam announced, “is going to stick his dick this girl’s face.”
He gestured in my direction. I swallowed my wine and shrank further into the bench as Sam talked to a guy with a camera. I smoked slowly and looked at Julia. She frowned; I laughed at the absurdity.
The chatter died down as Darren began unzipping his pants and pulling his penis out of his boxers. I sat alone on the bench listening to the laughs and whispers around me. A camera flash went off. I tried not to look at anyone, tried not to look at the man walking across the bench, his dick half out of his pants, towards me. I turned to the side as he lifted his penis into my face, barely touching my nose. Several flashes went off in succession. I scrunched up my eyes.
Then Darren was putting his penis back into his pants and hopping off the bench. A round of cheers went up from the men in the group. Sam clapped. Darren zipped up his pants and Sam gave him a pat on the shoulder. And that was it. I took a sip of wine and went over to Sam.
He pulled three chocolates from his bag. “Yep, it was pretty fucking great.”
I took the chocolates. “Do you realise I just had to bargain for myself?” I asked, knowing that what I was thinking wasn’t going to come across.
“You offered to do it.”
“You paid for it, and I didn’t offer. You weren’t even going to…”
“Look, you got the chocolates, it’s not like you didn’t want them.” That wasn’t the point, but I couldn’t explain it; that there were pictures, that I had been humiliated in front of strangers, that I felt I had to prove something. It was a fair deal, right? I waved the thoughts away and went back to talk with Julia.
More weird shit ensued that night, including a naked guy with a guitar dripping hot wax on his balls. But I couldn’t shake what had happened. I drank more wine, smoked a few joints and threw up in the bathroom. Adrian rose from the garden and stumbled into some tables. Two guys helped him into his dorm room where he fell asleep on the floor. I stumbled off to bed and woke up with a wicked hangover.
I could have left the next day. I could have run off, but I had met some good people at the hostel. We went kayaking on the lake, hiked, smoked joints, and I learned how to play Yaniv with the Israelis. We had bonfires and sang songs, but I avoided speaking to Sam.
A few months later I returned to San Pedro for Christmas. Sam was still there, partying, selling drugs and working at another hostel. When I ran into him again, I said hello as if nothing had happened and he didn’t bring it up. Somehow, I had earned his respect that night.
nina jane is a poet, short story and non-fiction writer from Ottawa, Canada. She works in social media for a literary festival and serves coffee in a hotel. She is a volunteer for several writing organisations in Ottawa, has had her poetry published by In/Words Magazine and has self-published two chapbooks. She graduated from a creative writing, English and theatre program, traveled throughout central America and now calls Ottawa her home. She is always looking for adventure.
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