There is a particular kind of self-loathing that accompanies a guest’s configuration of fleeting feelings. Inhabiting the home of someone else’s making; the bathroom basin screeches, turning on the light is with the snap of a bone breaking. Worry renders the most sumptuous meal bland. No matter how welcome the guest might be, they continue to slip into a rejected heap in their un-knowledge of the seamless making of the home they intrude. Where do the chopping boards go? Can I use the soap?
On the precipice of separation, a French exchange student stayed for no more than six weeks. In the habit of lighting a candle at mealtimes, the family plus one sat down to the soup and bread of the father’s making. Unbeknownst to the hosts (then), in his suitcase the visitor carried aftershave, as any fifteen year old does, which had spilled in the cross-hemispherical flight. All of this colluded to the boy’s sleeve catching alight during his first antipodean meal when he reached for the butter (otherwise kept in the fridge). Welcome to Australia, was the general feeling, as the father poured water from his glass onto the boy’s arm.
In south-central France dwelt the now young man’s grandparents in a three-story, elaborately decorated family home. During her belated reciprocal stay which fell during their annual holiday and grandparental visitation, Frenchman and the girl (now young woman) still competed. There was an army-related obstacle course near the house and they’d go there and measure up. A snake showed itself in the grass, and he turned to her about what to do. His grandfather made a joke about them sleeping in the same room. Nothing ever came of it, despite Parisian meanderings, train station goodbyes, a private flight to the beach and many conversations (antagonistic). The very thought would instigate mutual scrunched noses. One day she went for a shower on the top story of the home surrounded by blooms. The door didn’t lock and his mother walked in, kind of laughed and exclaimed and then left. The young woman was naked, looking in the mirror.
She will return home to her first in many years, probably since the one where the boy’s jumper was seared, and the air will resonate with retrospective heat held from the day. Mostly gone; cool like bitumen on midnight in May. Consideration must be given to loneliness. She will drop her gear. Looking at the takeaway wrappers in her room and the thicket of clothing (now flooring), she will understand why her mother never liked to leave without having put away the dishes. Estimations perpetuate that sharing space, like meals, is better than not. Hermitage can hold.
Agatha enjoys writing non-fiction, fiction, and editing everything. Her play Fraser Island was recently performed for SNATCHES as part of the Melbourne Fringe festival. Her work can be found in The Suburban Review as well as in GORE Journal and Yowl: RMIT Creative Writing Anthology.
Photograph provided by Loni Jeffs.