I am a bad house guest, even though I try to be a good guest by minimising the amount of space I take up

Paula Harris

when I was fifteen I flew to Christchurch
for two weeks of the summer holidays
to stay with Eve, who had been my best friend
since we were twelve but whose mother
got royally sick of her earlier that year
and so sent her down south to live with her father
and step-mother and half-siblings and their dog

after a week her father and step-mother sat me down
and told me I was Very Selfish and A Bad Guest
because I hadn’t helped with the dishes
or done any vacuuming or put on a load of washing
and I’d never stayed anywhere
where I hadn’t just been told what to do
so for the second week I kept awkwardly
putting dishes away in the wrong places
or stacking them up high on the benches
and trying to get to the vacuum cleaner first
and feeling awkward and embarrassed
for being Such A Bad Guest

last night I stayed with Rawiri and before he got up in the morning
we had sex that made the most of my sleepy flexibility
and then I went back to sleep while he folded laundry
and when I did wake up I found myself lying in blood
because my period had arrived at some point during the night
even though it wasn’t due for at least another four or five days

I found a tampon in my bag and cleaned myself up and got dressed
and then found Rawiri outside, mowing his berm
– which is bigger than my entire front and back lawns combined –
he turned down the mower’s engine and came over to give me a kiss
while I felt awkward and embarrassed
even though I knew that after being married for ten years
at some point he would’ve had to deal with blood

I confessed I’d been a bad guest
and he smiled that wicked smile of a man who is Very Satisfied
and said I was a Great Guest,
I agreed but also told him that there was blood,
that I’d stripped the sheets from his bed,
he nodded and then I knew that he already knew,
I said sorry, I’m really sorry
and he said nah, it’s fine and put his arms around me
and kissed me and then went back to his mower,
his legs dotted with flecks of cut grass