Some car troubles had left me short of funds, and so one evening last month I found myself browsing through the Craigslist ‘Help Wanted’ section, hoping to pick up an odd job so I could make rent. Buried within the ads trying to find skilled workers for yardwork, house painting, and other undesirable manual labor, was a request for a “watcher” in a nearby upper-middle class neighborhood. Curious, I clicked the link.
Couple seeking discreet individual willing to watch them perform bedroom activities – Westwood Hills ($250)
Looking for a third party to help “spice up” our marriage doldrums. We are not swingers or polyamorous!!!! If hired, you will be expected to passively observe as we make love, and not to participate!!! You will not pleasure yourself during the experience, and will leave promptly when it is over.
The needed skill set was right in my wheelhouse. I’d been watching stuff and doing nothing from the moment I first opened my eyes. I dialed the number, and after making a verbal (and non-legally binding) agreement never to disclose details about the night’s events, made arrangements to meet at their place that Saturday night.
I arrived on time at the provided address, taking a moment to admire the professionally manicured lawn and picture perfect flower garden before ringing the doorbell. A scowling girl of about 9 opened the door. She had on an ankle-length nightgown featuring the snowman guy from ‘Frozen’, and had a finger about two knuckles deep in her left nostril. She said nothing.
“Uh, are your parents home?” I tried.
A split second later, the girl’s mother, Mrs. X, shouted the little girl’s name and rushed her upstairs to bed. Mrs. X turned back to me, looking a bit embarrassed.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “Please, come in.”
I followed her to the living room. She was a not unattractive woman in her early 40s, graceful and bird-like in her motions. She was wrapped up in an oversized pink terrycloth bathrobe, and a few strands of blonde hair showed under the white towel twisted up like a turban on her head.
“Hi, I’m-“, I began.
I was interrupted by the entrance of Mr. X.
“No names, please,” he insisted.
He was a relatively short, stocky man who might once have had a high-school athlete’s body, but it had long ago gone to seed, leaving him looking more like a high-school gym coach. An argyle print sweater vest couldn’t hide his protruding gut. He wore glasses with thick black frames, and his dark hair was greying at the temples.
He already knew my name, just as I knew theirs. We’d just made arrangements to have money transferred to my PayPal account a few days before. They were endearingly trusting, the Xes, paying me in advance and inviting me into their home. I began to wonder if they were just naïve, or whether I was being set up to be murdered and buried in a crawlspace under their house.
“Right. No names,” I said, playing along.
‘I’m gonna go upstairs and freshen up. Can my wife bring you anything to drink? Water? Soda?” He put a significant emphasis on my wife. It was both a reminder and a threat.
“Do you have any beer?” I asked.
“Oh, no, I’m sorry,” said Mr. X. “We don’t drink alcohol anymore, do we honey?”
I groaned inwardly, but smiled and told him that was fine. He gave me an apologetic smile and bounded up the stairs. (Could I actually hear the Viagra pills rattling around in the bottle as he shook one into his hand, or was I imagining it?)
The shower came on, and Mrs. X shot me a conspiratorial look. Pressing a finger to her lips, she reached up to the top shelf of a bookcase and pulled down a half-full bottle of Laguvulin 16-year single malt. She went to the kitchen, and came back with a pair of juice glasses each containing a highly liberal pour of scotch.
It’d been a long time since I’d had a drink of such quality, and I badly wanted to savor it. But Mrs. X insisted we knock it back in a hurry, that Mr. X takes short showers, and we should be getting to the bedroom. I downed the lovely, smoky ambrosia like a spring breaker would a shot of cheap tequila. What a waste. Still, the warmth in my belly took the edge off of a situation that was getting more awkward by the second.
As Mrs. X predicted, Mr. X’s shower was soon over, and he met us in the hallway at the top of the stairs, wearing a bathrobe of his own. He opened up the bedroom door, gesturing for me to enter. There were two twin beds in the room, like Mr. and Mrs. X were a 50s sitcom couple. The bedding was tidy, the sheets tucked in military tight. In a dim corner was my seat of honor, a high-backed arm chair, upholstered in fine, well-worn red leather. Apparently I was meant to blend into the shadows unseen, like the Cigarette Smoking Man from the X-Files. I sat, making myself as unobtrusive as possible.
There was a TV on, playing some old black-and-white western film. Gunshots and phony sounding ricochets filled the cool emptiness of the room. Mrs. X sat demurely on one of the beds, smoothing down the cloth of her robe against her legs. Mr. X sat on the other bed and picked up the remote. Rather than turn off the television, or at least put on a smooth 70s R&B groove, he began flipping through the channels. Professional bowling. An infomercial for knives. Some non-descript cop drama. The movie ‘Gladiator’, with Russell Crowe.
“Ooh!” Mr. X burst out excitedly. “I love this movie! We went and saw it on one of our first dates, didn’t we, dear?”
Mrs. X nodded. “Yup.”
“Let’s watch for just a little while. It might rekindle warm memories of better times, and help calm our nerves. Haha!”
Mrs. X gave me a world-class eye roll. I shrugged, giving her my best ‘It’s-your-$250’ look.
So, we watched Maximus kill some Romans. About the time Crowe delivered the line “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?” I excused myself to use the bathroom across the hall. As soon as Mr. and Mrs. X thought I was out of earshot, I began to hear their angry whispering.
Mrs. X: I knew you’d pussy out.
Mr. X: The marriage counselor suggested taking a trip or buying a sex toy. She didn’t mention anything about bringing in some random asshole to watch us fuck. That was your idea!
Mrs: X: You don’t think I already have sex toys? I’ve got 8 different kinds of vibrators with a combined 124 different settings. Under this bed is a purple dildo the size of your arm. If toys were the solution, then we’d be the Couple of the Goddamned Century!
Mr. X: I still don’t see why we couldn’t just go to Italy.
Mrs. X: Maybe if you’d been a man and went after that partnership at the firm, we could have afforded the trip!
Mr. X: Or maybe if you had a job at all instead of sitting around on your ass all day while the nanny raises the kid. And don’t think I can’t smell the scotch on your breath!
I flushed the toilet, and the bickering stopped. When I came back into the room, the TV was off and Mr. and Mrs. X were all smiles, sitting on the same bed arm-in-arm.
“Okay,” said Mr. X decisively. “I think we’re ready to start. For real, I mean.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “I mean, you already paid me, but we don’t have to go through with this if—“
“NO,” said Mr. X, just a bit too loud. “You’re already here. Go sit down in the chair. I’m gonna show you how it’s done.”
Stunned, I took a seat. Even Mrs. X seemed momentarily impressed. The two leaned in and started to kiss, hesitantly at first, but then with something that might have been confused for real passion. Mrs. X, either in the heat of the moment or to call his bluff, grabbed Mr. X’s hand and placed in inside her robe over her breast. The spell was instantly shattered.
“Nope! I can’t do this,” Mr. X stammered, getting up and leaving the bedroom, his face burning bright red. He went into the bathroom and locked the door.
The silence in the room was thick as a Texas steak.
“He’s gonna be in there a while,” said Mrs. X. “Did you want to…?” she asked, starting to untie her robe’s belt.
“NO! No…I’m good,” I managed. “Thanks for the, um, offer and the …uh, you know. The job.”
Mrs. X sighed deeply, pulling a pack of cigarettes and a lighter from her nightstand. “I guess you’d better get going, then.”
“Yes. Right. Okay,” I mumbled, beating a retreat with whatever dignity I could muster.
Outside, I took one look back at the house, and saw the little girl watching me through her window. I gave her half a wave, and a curtain dropped, hiding her face.
I got into my car and immediately drove to a bar, determined to trade what was left of my $250 fee into as much alcohol as possible. The rent would have to wait.