The bus from Estelí led to the border crossing at Las Manos, where I stepped into Honduras in mid-afternoon after a brief stop at its immigration window. The border official told me the last bus to the capital city (Tegucigalpa), leaving from El Paraiso 15 minutes away, had already gone. I jumped in a van-taxi; I could stay the night in town if the bus had indeed already gone.
When asking for travel directions and bus departure/arrival times in Central America, one should not trust just one opinion. The van pulled on to the main street of El Paraiso, where I could see the bus waiting and still boarding passengers. I paid one driver, got out then paid another.
The highway route, shaped like a semi-coiled snake, was methodically indirect with stops in every town and in-between town. I looked over at the row across from me and noticed an attractive girl, travelling alone but for her cel phone. Darkness approaching, I wondered where night bus rides in Honduras ranked on the danger scale. She didn’t seem nervous until a man with greasy hair and skin, and food between his teeth style, sat down next to her. With many empty seats on the bus, he chose the one beside the beautiful young stranger half his age.
He spoke aggressively, imploringly inspecting her up and down. He appeared oblivious to any level of discomfort or boredom she might be feeling, or maybe he didn’t care. Perhaps in his mind, he saw it as his right to talk at this girl for however long he liked. Perhaps he even thought it was her privilege to listen to his entreaties. Such negative impressions tallied from across the aisle.
He finally got up. It appeared he was a money collector, collecting fare from newly boarded passengers. In near 30 C heat, I was not the only passenger sweating; I looked over at the girl, now unobstructed by the greasy over-talker. She looked back. I offered a tissue to her smile. I crossed the aisle and handed it to her. Thinking I could probably sit and speak with her, I returned to my seat feeling somewhat gentlemanly instead.