A spider soon becomes a metaphor for all of my problems…
Tuesday. A (comparatively) busy few days are making themselves known. I have a nasty virus. My entire body hurts. We’ve had a guest, so I’ve not slept in my room for several nights. As soon as I get the chance, I make my bed back up, and I sleep in it for most of the day. I am so out of it, I do not notice. Somebody else has taken up residence.
I go back to bed later than usual. I lie down, then immediately spring back up again, as if my mattress has rejected me and pinged me away. There is an unmistakeable black shadow suspended between my bookcase and my bedside table. The black shadow is just as alarmed as me, and scurries away in-between two books.
I cannot bring myself to fetch my wonderful, endlessly patient dad to come and take it away. Even if I had the energy to go back downstairs and find him, it would be an impossible task. He’d never get it out from there, not without dismantling the entire bookcase, and thus being reminded that I hoard just as much dust as books. Fortunately, I have one other spider solution up my sleeve, and it’s perfect for this situation. If I can’t see it, it might as well not be there. And right now, I can’t see it. So it’s not there. I hastily plug my headphones in and attempt to be unruffled.
This sadly only works if the spider continues not to be seen. (I should point out, at this stage, that I can’t just blow it up like in Monty Python. I can’t kill spiders. I’ve read James and the Giant Peach. It feels like murder. Also, once you kill a spider, you then have a dead spider to deal with, which to me is just as terrifying as a live spider. Or if you’ve blown it up, along with your somewhat flammable bedroom, then you have fire, which is also terrifying. Plus your parents might be cross.) I can’t resist peeking. Just in case. It’s there.
Both me and spider jump out of our skins again. It hastily returns between the books, I sit up in bed. A third solution occurs. If I can’t get rid of it, and I can’t pretend it isn’t there, how about I acknowledge it is there, and live with it? I lie back down, and think about this for a while, as the spider gradually shuffles sheepishly back into the open.
In the rational part of my mind, it’s just a spider. They’re fascinating predators, and this one could potentially come in useful catching the carpet moths we currently have in our house. I’ve been trying to find out more about them, in the hope that this will make me less afraid of them. This one looks like the giant house spiders we get coming into our house in the autumn, but it’s a bit smaller. I can tell that it’s a male from the prominent palpi, which leads me to wonder if it’s hoping for a female. I do not want to become host to zillions of baby spiders. Again. I once, as a child, managed to get myself covered with baby spiders whilst out on a walk, and as you can imagine I was not pleased.
In the irrational part of my mind, every time it moves I get this horrible instinctive reaction which pumps adrenalin through my body and makes me want to fling myself out of the window. I really don’t want it to move. But I have to keep checking it, in case it moves. Because if it moves, I need to know. I don’t want to lose track of it.
Eventually, I give up and go to sleep. I am uneasy all night. As soon as I wake up, the spider is the first thing I think of. I feel even more ill on Wednesday. I do not have the energy to do anything about the spider, except peer into the corner where it hides whenever I go into my room. I can’t not look. I need to know. But I leave it. I go to bed again, eyes pointing in different directions, one on my book, one on the spider. I fall asleep again. I think I dream about it. I’m nervous, going to the loo in the night. I’m seeing spiders everywhere I look. It is the first thing I think about when I wake up this morning, Thursday.
I spend all day ignoring it again. After my bath, in the evening, I stand in my room and watch it as I get dressed. I can’t take my eyes off it. This is no way to live my life. My bed, particularly when I’m feeling rotten, should be a place where I can relax, a sanctuary. There shouldn’t be stressors. I should take better care of myself. I have to do something.
I am not ready to attempt capture. I don’t have a bloody clue how I would go about it. But I do have one idea, that’s been rolling around in the back of my mind. I fetch a long-handled duster, and get rid of as much web as I can. Then I go downstairs and write a blog post about it. Perhaps, now, it will see sense and move on. We can both move forwards with our lives. As I write, I begin to feel some sort of affection for the spider. As if we’ve shared something, or I’ve taken possession of it somehow. At one point, I pause writing and pop upstairs to check on it. And all affection immediately falls away. It’s still there. It’s still a spider. I want it gone, and it isn’t.
I check again, a little while later. It still has some web, in-between the books. It’s clinging on. It won’t give up. I can hear my grandma saying to me: ‘you’re allowing yourself to be bullied by an animal, Bryony’, and it’s not even a cat this time. Not even a mammal, a vertebrate, with some semblance of personality, that can at least understand your tone of voice. It’s a bloody spider. After everything I’ve been through, am I really going to be defeated by a bloody spider?
It would seem like it. Because I’m too busy writing and eating chocolate mousse and feeling furious to go and actually bloody do something about it.
It’s the next day now. I was determined to wait until today, until my morning head, to finish writing this. I wish I hadn’t waited, because the ideas are much more difficult to squeeze out now.
I decided I didn’t want to be bound by whatever happened. I didn’t want to get caught up in the web. If the spider stayed, I didn’t want to be stuck with what was weighing me down, and if the spider went away, I didn’t want a miraculous escape. Basically, I was tired and depressed and placing too much importance on a spider. And I realised this. I knew I could distance myself from it. I was lying in bed thinking: even if I killed it, I wouldn’t be worried that I’d harmed myself somehow. It’s nice to know that I am not bonkers enough to rest my fortunes on a spider, and it seems silly to assume that I ever was. But at the same time, I’m proud of myself for not resting those fortunes. I feel like I overcame something.
The spider, by the way, was gone this morning. At least, I looked and I looked and I couldn’t see it anywhere. It’s probably still somewhere in my room, but it’s found a better place to live now. Perhaps I’ll come across it again sometime soon, and jump out of my skin again, laughing at myself as I do. It’s a ridiculous phobia. How can so many people be so afraid of something so tiny, so harmless? What are we fighting or fleeing? What are we protecting ourselves from?