…continued from After 30,000 Kilometers Hitchhiked: The Top Three Lifts.
#3 – July, 2011 – Destination: Kopenhagen, Denmark – Albert
Albert found you standing in a little sliver of concrete on the motorway, where some sweet old lady had deposited you without a care. You’d been feeling frantic in the rush hour traffic. Every passing truck and horn-blaring car set your nerves on edge. Please, someone, just take you away!
When a car finally did stop, you ran to it, threw your bag in the back seat and hopped into the front without exchanging any words with your driver. It didn’t matter where he was going. Any place was better than that concrete island. You breathed easier, settled back, and stared down the road as your driver pulled back into traffic. He was speaking on the phone in Danish and seemed distracted.
It was only after he’d hung up the phone that he began to pay attention to you. You noticed the frequency with which his eyes flicked between you in the passenger’s seat, and the road. But he seemed harmless. More interested in his unusual passenger, perhaps, than most. But harmless.
You told him stories and explained yourself. You were a backpacker, of course. Had been hitchhiking around Europe for a couple of years, sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. You’d just left your travel buddy at the airport in Wroclaw, Poland–said farewell–and were en route from Hamburg to Norway with a stopover in Kopenhagen. Same old spiel every time. Maybe a joke. A self-disparaging remark. Probably a lot of information on how you make the budget work–the little rules you play by. And a rough time here and there.
“I have a proposition for you,” Albert said. “When we get to Kopenhagen, I would like you to join me for dinner on the condition that you tell me more of your travel stories. After the dinner, I will drive you to your host’s flat.”
You inhaled slowly, absorbed the implications of his offer. You were not naive. Not at all. No man his age, with such flickering eyes, would suggest such a thing for the absurd exchange of travel stories. He would doubtlessly begin to flirt with you, and you would have to tolerate it.
But free dinner!
You were ahead of schedule. Who could say no? You decided to take him at his word. 100% on his word: dinner for stories, and then you get a lift to your host’s flat.
He drove to his hotel on the outskirts of the city. It was nothing fancy. But it had a restaurant on the ground floor. You sat across from him at the table, ordered something standard, and began to talk. What you said didn’t matter. His eyes were fixed on yours the way a child stares into an aquarium. He nodded sharply–confirmed too readily–validated too much. And before you knew it, he was reaching across the table to gently brush hair off your cheek, out of your face. The pad of his thumb lingered.
You gave him a blank stare. Said nothing about his gesture. Simply leaned back in your chair, further from his reach, and continued on.
He mentioned something about hanging out in his hotel room, and that you could absolutely sleep there, if you needed to. You didn’t have to go to the city.
You looked at your watch, “I really appreciate the offer, but I’ve already committed to meet someone else, and I keep my commitments. I think it’s time I go into the city now.”
Albert offered no resistance. You went back to his car and let him drive you back into the city, to the front door of your host’s place. But you were still half an hour early. So you decided to walk around the city center. “Would you like to go on a boat ride?” Albert asked, gesturing to the canal in the old town. You smiled weakly, unwilling to accept his offer; you felt uncomfortable when people spent too much money on you.
“That’s alright. Let’s just walk.”
When you returned back to your would-be-host’s flat, he did not answer the door. Albert offered you the use of his phone, so you called the kid only to find out he was still 5 hours away; he wouldn’t be back in Kopenhagen until after midnight.
“Shit happens,” you said, and told him you would be fine before hanging up. You handed Albert his phone, “Any chance your offer still stands on your hotel room? I don’t have a place to stay right now.”
Albert was delighted. Of course you could.
The hotel room was modest with a double bed, patio, and a mini fridge. Albert cracked open a beer, asked if you wanted one, “We could do something really silly and drink all the beers.”
You declined, not wanting to give him an excuse. “I don’t see how silly things could get. There are only four beers. Not enough to get anyone drunk, and besides…” You had gone dry several weeks beforehand, after a god-awful bout of alcohol poisoning in Bosnia–one that sent you to the hospital. No more booze for you.
You and Albert sat on the patio, talking. He was overly complimentary. Commented on your bravery, your energy, your appearance. Everything. Not like a panting dog. Just like a polite 46-year-old man who didn’t want to coerce his younger guest. Still, you were onto him, and you bristled with you defense mechanisms. Immediately fell into tales of sexual harassment in Greece. Admonished men everywhere for trying to get sex at inappropriate times.
Albert listened, but did not immediately recoil. He retreated, slowly, step by step, until he was seated comfortably in his chair, eyes appropriately averted, with his energy sufficiently placid. By the end of the hour, one would be unable to determine any sexual interest on his part.
He retreated! It worked! It finally worked!
You were impressed, truly, because most men are too thick to know they’re fighting a losing battle. But Albert backed down, and you could breathe a little easier.
The conversation became more balanced, He began to speak about himself. He had two children, and he’d been married for 25 years to his high school sweetheart. He did well for himself–worked as a consultant. Paid the bills. Had the house. Supported his family. Was a good father. He had goals and ambitions, love and support. He was a well-balanced male.
Except for one thing…
“I had an affair,” he admitted, not quite solemnly. But you could sense his discomfort with the statement.
“Until I met this woman–” someone he’d met while abroad on business… it could have been Germany, or Italy… or both– “I’d only ever made love to my wife.”
“I love my wife. Very much. She is perfect and wonderful. Except…” he struggled for the words. “The sex. It’s good. Of course it’s good. 25 years with the same person, you learn everything about their body–and she, everything about yours. But the sex is… very limited.”
He explained that his wife had issues. Small issues with certain sexual behaviors. Certain positions. And oral sex. “She is uncomfortable performing oral sex. She tried it once, just for a few seconds. But she couldn’t continue.” Gag reflex? “Sort of. It’s more psychological, I think. She does not feel comfortable doing it. And because she does not perform oral sex on me, she feels guilty, and she does not want me to perform oral sex on her.”
You knew exactly how he felt.
“Generally it’s not a struggle. I don’t try to break her out of her comfort zone anymore. But the sex has–” Plateaued. “And I felt sad. I wanted experience. Sex is so beautiful. And there is so much to discover.” So he met The Mistress. “It was incredible. Not the sex, exactly. I wouldn’t even say that the sex was better. But it was different. So different from what I’d known, and it was exciting.”
“Did she give you a blowjob?” you asked.
He seemed almost embarrassed, but confirmed it. “It was wonderful.” He and The Mistress had been meeting infrequently over the past two years or so. “We both know it isn’t serious. That it isn’t going anywhere. We’re satisfied with our arrangement. And it could end tomorrow, and neither of us would regret anything.”
“Don’t you worry about giving yourself away?” you asked. “Bringing back some technique learned from this woman, and trying it on your wife? Would your wife notice?”
“I have been very aware of this,” he said. Also, about sexually transmitted disease. “And if my wife discovered what I have done, I know the marriage would be over. But she trusts me.”
This wasn’t the first time some man had detailed his adulterous behavior to you. In fact, a couple of truck drivers had admitted to seeing prostitutes, even though they were married. But they usually spoke of such behavior flippantly, as a way of suggesting that they would be open to sex with you. Despite the obviousness of Albert’s earlier interest, you didn’t interpret his sudden sexual admissions as a secondary plan to get you to consider sex with him. He simply spoke about his life, almost as if speaking to a therapist.
“I’ve never told anyone before,” he said. “But for some reason, I felt like I could tell you. Perhaps it’s the anonymity of this confession. We don’t know each other.”
“It’s good to talk about things,” you offered, suddenly very curious about this man–whether he would continue to flay himself before you. He had, in some way, traded his position of power over you for his own vulnerability.
When it was time to sleep, he offered to share the double bed with you, and you can honestly say you felt no tension. But you declined, just to be extra cautious. “No thanks! I’m good. I’ve got this sleeping pad and bag and everything, and I will be super comfy on the floor. I’ve been sleeping in a tent for the past six weeks anyway. I’m used to it.”
When the lights went out, you listened intently for any muted masturbatory noises. And heard none. You thought about him curiously. Wondered if sex wasn’t such a bad idea after all. But it was too late for all that.
Albert was gone in the morning, but he’d left a note on the desk and some cash. He’d be back in the evening, and please take this pocket money and enjoy yourself in the city; treat yourself to something outside the budget. Oh, and there’s a continental breakfast downstairs, and internet is at a computer in the hallway. He’d be back around 6 o’clock.
You made good on the continental breakfast, loading up on fresh fruit and vegetables–a luxury when traveling on a budget. You strapped on your shoes and went for a 2-hour run, then let yourself back into the hotel and showed and groomed and did all those things best done fully naked in a large, private space–one that had towel service. Much more valuable than more old buildings
You thought about Albert occasionally. Wondered if you should be direct with him later in the evening when you saw each other again–ask him outright was his intentions were the night before. Put him right there on the spot, just for shits and giggles. The poor guy might deny any sexual intention with you whatsoever; but you felt he would own up to it. Then what would you do? Tell him the story of Dionysis in Athens, to help reinforce his decision? Or tell him that sex with you could not be sweet or passionate… that it would be purely mechanical on your part, with little or no enthusiasm? Ask him why such sex even appeals to men? Nahh….
“I have a question for you,” you said to him later in the evening, once returned to the hotel room. He’d paid for another meal–not out of a sense of obligation, or as an investment–but as a courtesy. And anyway, he’d spent the majority of the meal on a business call, and you’d taken great interest in a bee which had landed on his hand and remained there for 20 minutes.
Albert perked up in anticipation, “What’s that?”
“Why didn’t you try to have sex with me last night?” The question startled him. You elaborated on his behavior, so there left no room for him to escape your accusatory implications.
“You just seemed… like you didn’t want it,” he said.
“You’re right,” you said. “I didn’t want it. Why kind of self-respecting female hitchhiker actually has sex with some random guy who picks her up?”
The same type that has a one-night-stand with some guy from a bar.
“But now I think we should have sex,” you said. You surprised yourself, actually. But he seemed like a nice, respectful, clean guy, and you were curious about intercourse with a man who’d been making love to the same woman for 25 years, barring The Mistress. You said this in so many words.
He looked shocked, almost. Then like he wasn’t sure how to react to such honesty. He tried not to sound so surprised, or too eager. “Ok, then. I’m just going to have a shower.”
They always want to have a shower first…
He happened to be the sentimental type. It wasn’t a surprise, based on how he’d previously spoken about his wife and about the cruelest thing he’d ever done to her–to any person. He’d tried to force himself into her mouth once, for oral sex. She’d cried. And he’d felt so terrible, so guilty, that the action still haunted him.
You weren’t worried about that. No, what worried you were his feelings. It doesn’t take much for a man to became unabashedly smitten with a woman. And he was shamelessly sentimental–to a degree you found inappropriate, considering how little you actually knew each other. But to you he had confided much; opened himself. And then, like a bleeding wound, he didn’t stop. He bled his feelings to you for two days more–in the room, over dinner, at the sea side, with ice cream, mussels, and more–and you listened politely and asked him questions and thought very long about how it doesn’t take more than a few hours for two people to reveal to each other parts of themselves to which the rest of the world does not have access. In his case, it was his deception to his wife and his unmet sexual needs which seeped, perhaps, into his emotional fulfillment; in your case, it was a curious romp with just another guy… so… hmmm… okay… correction: only one person was revealing anything. You tell, but never show.
“You’ve touched me in a very deep way,” Albert said to you. His eyes showed everything.
These kinds of statements bother you when they come from men because you are completely unable to reciprocate them. You lie there like a curious spectator as he snuggled and ran his hands, face, and skin over your body in total worship and allowed him to think that being receptive to someone’s words and gestures and physical touches was anything other than passiveness. The truth was that no act of deliberate touching–not to be taken literally–came from you.
Nonetheless, Albert said something very memorable: “A shipwreck can be beautiful. It’s not placed for our sake. It’s just there.”
You were simply there.
Asymmetry in any relationship is difficult. For this reason, you truncate you encounters with the opposite sex as quickly as possible, to spare feelings. On the morning of the third day, you decided it best to leave. Left his pocket-money cash on the desk and braved the rain.