I hate spiders.
From a very young age, I was a tender suburbanite kid; I didn’t grow up on a farm like my mother did, where nature was a fact of life. My grandfather probably dealt—every day—with more spiders than he could count. Yet, like many second generation sons of the suburb, my contact with any nature besides grass and grasshoppers was limited. I grew up catching lizards and fearing, wholeheartedly, spiders. When I saw one, I shrieked like a little girl, pranced in a cartoonish ehmigodohmigodohmigod kind of way; my dad had the fine job of killing them for most everyone in the family, which he would sometimes simply do with his thumb, eliciting further squeals of fear from me.
Becoming a boyfriend sort of forces one to reconsider things. As soon as I became the “man” of a relationship, I was suddenly faced with the prospect of, amongst other things, bug/arachnid killing. Allison would see one on the wall, clutch my arm, and tell me to kill it. I walk calmly to the nearest napkin, toilet paper roll, or tissue box, arm myself (heavily), and soundly squish the offending creature. I do this and make a casual, swaggering comment like “That was a big’un,” or something similarly banal, as if it almost wasn’t even worth the effort to get up and kill such a minor creepy-crawly.
During this entire time, I am scared shitless. You may recall from the opening sentence that I hate spiders. Most bugs, really. So imagine my horror tonight to find that, after returning from an office party in New Lenox, my car has apparently become a hotspot for spiders. I don’t know when they hitched a ride—perhaps during the five hours it was parked outside the hostess’ house, perhaps during the thirty minutes it was parked outside of Allison’s house afterwards— but as we pulled away from the curb to grab some grub at the grocery store at about 10:45pm, she gave a gasp and pointed to a nickel-sized spider crawling across the windshield. I ticked the wipers once, flicking it to the edge. Then Allison erupted in shrieking and flailing, announcing with no small amount of desperation that she had definitely felt something crawl on her, and—by virtue of having just seen one on the windshield—it must have been a spider. She immediately showed me her bicep in the moonlight, and sure enough, there was an immediate little bump where something had bitten her.
Oh shit, I thought. “It’s ok,” I said.
But it was not. Not only did she have a bump as physical proof of some biting creature’s existence, but once you have been in contact with a creepy-crawly, every single brush of fabric or errant breeze will send you swatting at your legs, arms, and neck. I didn’t even get bitten, and my heart was throbbing like a subwoofer, my mind attempting to tell myself that it was nothing important, but the manic, terrified, primitive morsel in my brain was shrieking that there is a spider in the car, probably like the one that I just flicked with the wipers, which was now crawling along the outside of my window.
Allison put her feet up on the dash, fidgeting away the anxious paranoia that manifested itself in me by way of a series of coccygeal-to-cervical shivers. I focused on driving, only to notice another ghostly-white spider making its impossibly fast way across the dash. The nearest napkin was in the glove compartment, currently blocked by Allison’s raised legs. Raising my flattened palm up in the air, I decided that I had no choice by to smash the damn thing. You’re attacking it from the top, Ben. It’ll be a pile of guts and legs before it even thinks about biting. Do it.
But I don’t. My hands stops halfway down, and suddenly I am seven years old again instead of twenty, wanting to shriek and call my dad to come crush the spider with nonchalance. Before I can do anything else, Allison is crushing it with her sandal, muttering her bloodthirsty battlecry of “Die!” This must have been the spider that bit her initially, thrown onto the dash by her flailing, and she was exacting revenge for all the misery it had caused.
Before you could say “Octuple Appendages,” there was another spider crawling across the outside of the windshield. On go the wipers, and it becomes a long, opaque smear. Then, as we approach the grocery store, another appears outside, crawling too fast for the wipers and disappearing on the roof. I pull into a parking spot and kill the engine. I focus intently on the dangling strands of spider silk that wave outside my window: they must like to build their webs on the window. Allison is sort of whimpering now, and I am whimpering on the inside. I decide then that she must have disturbed a spider on her window when she opened the passenger door, bringing that one—and please please please only that one, I think— in with her. In the car, we are safe. But we are at the store, and the food will not magically make its way out to us. We do have to exit the car, disturbing who-knows-what out the way out. In my mind, I see spiders dropping down onto my hair, crawling up my pants legs; I see entire webs wrapping around my face, depositing their inhabitants at any vulnerable point on my body. There is at least one spider that is on the roof, and one that was on my windows, now gone.
ShitshitshitohgodIfuckinghatespidersshitshitshit, I think. “OK. You ready?” I say. I’m such a fraud.
The spiders do not descend upon as we leave the vehicle, but we kill a minimum of three that are currently adorning the sunroof, front bumpering, and rear wheelwell, inspecting the rest of a car by orange parking lot light with a scrutiny usually reserved for microbes, or possibly Micro Art. We do not encounter any other spiders tonight, having wreaked our terrible vengeance upon them, but in our minds, our whole world—car, grocery store, houses—are now tainted with legions of little eight-legged villains, whom, if they were humans, would have German accents, plan on world domination, and eat babies for fun.
Even now, typing this blog but a few minutes later, I am still seized by chills just picturing the gruesome little devils skittering across the glass, and I am troubled not only because I largely fail at my conscript role of Protector, but that such a role exists in the first place and that I am more or less obligated to fill it.