You know that feeling when you get home from a long trip? No more hotels, no more suitcases, no more security lines. With the journey behind you, you can finally relax in the comfort of home sweet home. You shower off the virus-filled recycled air and coach-class pretzel smell and put on your softest cotton pajamas. The ones you thought you had brought on your trip, but forgot. As you crawl into your cozy bed— the one that is like no other, because it is imprinted with the unique shape of you and your loved one— you spot something new, something you’ve never seen before, sitting on the vanity. It is small and white, cube-shaped… and as you move closer… its identity becomes clear. It is a die. But instead of the usual dots, it is covered in red hearts and instructions on how to pleasure someone. It is a sex toy. But it is not YOUR sex toy.
Do you know that feeling?
It’s a strange combination of shock, confusion, violation, and holy-crap-I-can’t-wait-to-write-about-this.
I’ve never asked anyone to housesit. But since my nanny is also my neighbor’s housekeeper, I thought she might want to save herself the commute and stay at our place. It’s also helpful for me to have someone mind the house while we’re gone. A human to manage in case of a plumbing crisis or armed robbery. At least someone would be here for that.
To protect her privacy let’s call her… Theresa. Like the saint. Respectful, hard-working, kind-hearted. The woman is straight as an arrow. 50’s, married. Firm. Conservative. She’s also so religious she doesn’t even celebrate Halloween. I wouldn’t dare insult her by accusing her of owning this object of obscenity. What if she quit? I need her! Besides, she stayed in the guest room. My bed was just as I’d left it, with my favorite forgotten pajamas folded neatly at the foot.
In a fit of panic I posted to Facebook and asked “What would you do?” I received 50 different responses ranging from “Fire her!” and “Burn the sheets!” to “Relax, sex is fun.” and “Roll it!”
I never felt the need to bleach or burn anything. And I never wanted to fire her. Theresa has been with our family for years. She and her sister (who has also worked for us) are like family.
At least I think she’s like family. I mean, that’s what people who have help are supposed to say, right? “She’s like family.” But family is family. Family doesn’t give a fig how you like your towels folded, or that the kids need to finish their broccoli before they eat dessert. And they certainly won’t clean your toilet even if you did pay them. No, hired help is much much BETTER than family.
But that doesn’t mean that I really know who she is.
I left the die exactly where I’d found it. If it was hers she’d see it, gasp and quickly hide it in her bun. Like some mistress in a telenovela. But alas, it remained untouched. For seven long days.
I looked at my husband. “Honey? Is this… maybe from a past relationship? Maybe… fell out of a box? I don’t care of course, just tell me.”
Jonathan turned the die round in his hand. The facets reading “Caress my”, “Tickle my”, “Massage my”…
“You call this thing a sex toy? One of the kids probably found it somewhere.”
Really? Our children (ages 3 and 6) should not be anywhere near items like this! A new kind of panic emerged. But I had no other leads. OK, so maybe our eldest found it in the woods on one of her camp hikes. I didn’t show it to her but I described it. Her face scrunched up as she struggled to visualize the strange object. Nope. Not her.
Who the hell brought the sex toy into my house?!
It wasn’t ours. It wasn’t the kids’. And it wasn’t Theresa’s.
So I decided it must be… her mother-in-law’s.
Why? Because I learned that while we were on vacation my neighbors Jane and Greg also left town. They invited Theresa’s entire family to spend the week at their house. Theresa and her husband José, her sister and her husband and their two daughters ages 8 and 13, her cousin and her husband… and her mother-in-law.
I had to pick someone to blame this on. Mother-in-laws are notoriously vindictive are they not? I’ve never had one, but history and fairy tales inform me. I decide that this mother-in-law is jealous of Theresa and the beautiful life she has created with her son. I will plant this sex toy in her employer’s bedroom, she’ll lose her job, she’ll lose José’s respect and José will move back to Mexico with me, his madre, the only woman who ever truly loved him!
Yes, I have watched a telenovela or two myself.
I needed to meet this mother-in-law just to prove my theory. So, with my neighbors still out of town, and Theresa’s family still in residence next door, I sent my kids over to play with the nieces. I gave them 30 minutes, then slipped the die in my jean shorts pocket and walked over. The tiny bulge made me feel self conscious but also fueled my quest.
As you may know, I live among many Jones’s here in West LA. My neighbor Jane’s house is a zen oasis, with a huge tiered-yard lined with bamboo, a waterfall fountain rock pool and a deck overlooking the pacific ocean. Her kitchen is wide open with high ceilings. When I walk in, the spacious island is covered with bowls full of salsa, enchiladas and blocks of cactus dulce.
“Something to eat?” Theresa asked. “No, thanks,” I told her, my eyes darting around the room. I continued walking through the kitchen to the backyard, pretending to look for the kids. I had a mission: to confront my nemesis and destroy her.
Theresa’s family members were scattered throughout the property engaged in cards or taking in the view. It was a beautiful day. The vibe was mellow. This was not a crowd that engaged in wild sex parties. And even if they did, why would they do it at my house anyway? I mean with the fountain and the deck, those are far better places for—
I felt eyes on me. I covered my bulge. Did they know it was there?
I kept walking and found the kids happily playing in the vegetable garden with Theresa’s nieces. I spun around and marched back to the house.
“Where is your mother-in-law?” I asked. A little too loudly, a little too intensely.
Theresa looked up from rinsing fresh-picked cilantro. Her eyes got wide as she prepared to deliver disappointing news. Her mother-in-law had left an hour ago to go back to Mexico.
OK. Fine. I didn’t need to meet the woman to know what she’d done. But I did need to tell Theresa. I glanced both ways to make sure we were alone. Then I took the die out of my pocket and held it in my palm.
“I found this,” I said.
The pause was long enough for me to imagine our lives after her resignation. My heart stopped. She is family.
“Oh,” she said. She took the die out of my hand.
“It’s yours?” I asked. My face turning red.
“Yes. Mmmhmm,” she said.
“But I— I didn’t think…I thought maybe… why was it in my room?”
“Ay, dios mio! Your room?!”
The answer to the mystery is this: My neighbor Jane received it as a gift. It originally came with a blindfold and some other implements that formed a complete kit. Jane regifted this kit to José, Theresa’s husband, on Valentine’s Day. (They’re close, they make these kinds of jokes.) It was lost in Theresa’s trunk for a few months. When we were on vacation, one of her nieces found it and, not knowing what it was, brought it into my house while with Theresa on a routine check… and left it there.
“Well? Did you use it?” She asked me.
“No!” We both burst out laughing. Three years and this was our first belly laugh together.
“You should’ve,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun.”
I’d had her on a pedestal for too long. Saint Theresa. In that moment I saw her in a way I never had before. Still a saint, but apparently not above having a little fun.
And as she left the house with the die now in her pocket I have to admit, I felt a tinge of regret that I’d given it back.