by Matt Cassadey
Back in the 90s I lived in the southern Costa Rican city of San Isidro del General. I owned a car, but my preferred mode of transportation was the bicycle. I rode almost every day and one of my favorite training runs was to the top of El Alto, the highest peak between San Isidro and Playa Dominical. The climb was over a thousand feet in a distance of less than ten miles. I did it as much for the exhilarating high-speed ride back down the mountain as for the exercise. The last couple of kilometers before beginning the ascent wound through a neighborhood called El Hoyon. I would psych myself while passing through, preparing for the torturous climb. It was here, in a spot along the road that overlooked a warehouse of some kind, that I began encountering a man who hid himself in the high grass on the embankment above the warehouse. When I passed he would often be there, lurking, visible only from the waist up. He would shout something to get me to look, and when I glanced over while passing he would make odd, slurping sounds, sometimes saying, “ooo, que rico”, always those words. Though I couldn’t tell for sure in the couple seconds of view, he often appeared to be playing with himself.
One morning, I must have been riding a bit slower than usual, and he emerged from the brush and crossed the street in front of me, grinning at me as I approached. He plainly grabbed at his crotch as I passed, made the slurping sounds and said “ooo que rico.” I rode on without responding. In my teens and early twenties I had hitchhiked over thousands of miles of highways and had certainly had my share of weird experiences and strange advances, so there was nothing startling or scary about his actions. Besides, I was twice his size physically; he was a bedraggled looking guy in his 30s, dressed in jeans, dank work shirt and cheap black rubber boots. I felt sorry for him. He was clearly poor and likely simple in the head.
I kept an eye out for him any time I rode by. Sometimes he was there, more often not, but any time he saw me as I rode by, he would shout to get my attention and I would glance over as I sped by, catching a glimpse of his leering face. He would usually be a few feet down the embankment, so that his head was only a couple feet above the edge of the road, framed by the wild uncut grass. I sometimes wondered where he lived, if he had family in the area, but as time passed, I noticed him less and less.
One morning as I pedaled through El Hoyon, I watched from the distance as he emerged from the bush and said something to a passing group of school aged children. The children quickly crossed the street to get away from him. As I passed he was stepping back down into his area and did not see me. I rode a hundred yards past, filled my left hand and pocket with several small rocks that I scooped up from the broken road side, and rode back slowly toward him. When he saw me he began his routine, but I stopped, dismounted from my bike and began firing rocks in his direction. I was only about ten feet away from him and though obscured, he was still an easy target. When he realized what was happening, he shouted something, a command, and suddenly three dogs tore from the bush and ran at me, barking. I fired a few more of the rocks in their direction, jumped on my bike and sprinted back toward San Isidro, growling dogs nipping at my heels.
Shortly thereafter, I moved to Quepos, and I never saw the guy again. I return to San Isidro from time to time, but El Hoyon has undergone a lot of development in the past ten years and the place where he once lurked is now the entrance to a large, open depository of some kind. Alas, the pervert is no more—but the memory of him lingers, like the residue of a bad dream.