When I returned from my morning run today, I was surprised to find two strange women in the apartment that I’m renting.
“We’re here to clean,” one of them said by way of introduction. It was a curious way to start considering that she wasn’t mopping the floor or dusting the blinds at the time, but preparing an elaborate meal on the stovetop.
“Did you not know we were coming?” she asked.
In truth, my AirBnB host did tell me that she had a cleaning service visiting the unit “on Friday.” But I assumed she meant the following week – the Friday I was checking out. Advice I needed yesterday: Clarify that.
In any case, it was of no real concern to me that there were two women wandering around the apartment, frying onions while supposedly changing my sheets. I always lock my valuables in my suitcase before I leave. Not that I would expect the regular housekeepers to make off with the equivalent of $45 in cash and a corporate-issue MacBook Air anyway. I mean, why would they? They’d likely lose their jobs and then where would they make their lunch?
“I’m sorry to be in your way,” I said. “I didn’t realize you were coming today. I’m just going to take a shower and then get going.”
“Take your time,” the woman said, leading me into the bathroom and handing me a fresh towel before returning to the stove to add more oil to her pan.
When I emerged fifteen minutes later, having traded my gym shorts and headband for a sundress and full face of makeup, the women looked startled.
“Is that the same girl?!” one hissed under her breath, as they both looked me over from head to toe.
“Yes, I’m the same person,” I laughed. “I just changed my clothes!”
They both sighed in relief.
“It’s her,” the second woman said. “I can tell the voice.”
The conversation that followed is one that I would only expect to have in Africa. In a single breath, the women gave me the run down of who they are and how they’re related, listed anyone they knew who lives in the United States, including one niece who married a Navy man with a “white, white uniform,” and suggested where I might get a nice lunch for a fair price without a booking. They finished by performing a portion of their over-60 club dance routine that will be featured in this year’s Carnival celebration.
“That’s very nice,” I said, clapping. “But I must be going. What are you cooking anyway?”
“Ox,” the woman said. “Do you know ox intestine?”
“I can’t say I do,” I replied.
“Well you are missing out!” she said. “I leave a piece for you? Will you eat?”
“I’ll try it,” I assured her.
“I’ll leave it in the microwave,” she said, which, coincidentally, is exactly where I hide the key to my suitcase. (I took that with me, because I don’t feel the need to test my theory on the honesty of housekeepers.)
“Sounds wonderful,” I replied, before heading out the door to enjoy a latte and finish a book (Naked, David Sedaris) on the Waterfront.
When I returned, as expected, the women were gone and a generous portion of ox intestine topped with braised onion and gravy was awaiting me in the microwave.
I considered the plate carefully. I’m not a picky eater, but I’m also not one for adventure. It looked like a regular piece of meat, but one bite confirmed that this was no ordinary fillet. Ox intestine, like quail eggs, black pudding and Mountain Dew, are what I consider “local delicacies.”
I spit the bite of half-chewed meat into trashcan. Then, because there was no one else to offer it to, I scraped the rest of the plate into the bag too. I hate to waste food, but I just couldn’t stomach it.
If the ladies happen to find out, I certainly won’t admit to it. It was that bitch in the sundress.