I have a phobia. Well, okay, so I have more than one. Who doesn’t? And this one is a biggie – SPIDERS. I hate the way their legs move in a stealthy manner wherever they go, always leaving a silken thread to mark their territory. Yes, I know it’s not deliberate in the full sense of that word, but they do creep along one or two legs at a time making them seem all the more…intentional…in their behavior, and I find this supremely troubling.
Just finding one hanging from one of those threads fills me with waves of anxiety. Yes, I do scream on occasion because I’m startled. Like, almost every time. And I feel them sometimes when they’re not even there – but might be. Go ahead and call me a scaredy-cat. Sticks and stones may break my bones but, as the saying goes, names will never hurt me. Spiders might, though. You never know.
I’d like to blame Stephen King for my inordinate fear, but I was afraid of spiders long before I ever heard of him. He was having nightmares about spiders whose webs he turned into gold while my fear was fine-tuned by personal experience, not dreams that blew away like dusty, old cobwebs when the sun rose in the morning.
I went swimming this morning, clocking in at just over a mile which I do at least once a week. Even while I’m counting laps, my mind chases words and ideas around and I must juggle the two (or three or four) simultaneously. Mental gymnastics that work sometimes but not others. This morning I wasn’t focused on anything. Just enjoying a forest of trees on the other side of the massive windows and watching the sun rise to pour its light over the water and play on its surface.
After my shower, I reach in my locker to retrieve my gym bag, and that’s when I see it. A small spider suspended in mid-air a couple of inches from the inside of my elbow. Way too close for comfort. Jumping back, I barely suppress a scream, and a woman in front of the mirror asks “What’s the matter?”
It’s a mosquito, I say – more to make myself believe it than to convince her. I needed to believe that’s what it was, but there was something about the way it moved when I moved. As if my movement away from it drew the air it was in, toward me. It, like a spider rather than a mosquito, was moving with me and in my direction.
You can imagine my dismay.
Jumping back a step, I almost fall over the bench behind me while watching it move in mid-air laterally across the row of lockers before disappearing, its color an effective camouflage against the grayish, nondescript lockers providing its backdrop. A mosquito would do that. Setting my bag down on the bench, I looked it over carefully but didn’t want to set alarms bells ringing in the woman who was saying she could deal with a spider better than a mosquito because she was “a mosquito magnet” and always getting bitten.
Still, better a mosquito than a spider, I’m thinking. Hurriedly grabbing her things, she leaves, and I’m left to fight the battle with myself and the spider/mosquito on my own.
As I was drying my hair I kept wondering where he/she/it (covering the PC bases here) had gone, though I doubt much that he/she/it would care one way or the other. Was it too much to ask that it not be there when I turned around and gathered my things to leave?
Getting into my car, I set my bag on the seat at the same time scanning it and everything else, just in case I’d missed it somehow. I’ve heard of people having a car wreck because of finding a spider in the car, and honestly, I could envision that happening to me, too. I wanted no surprises once I was on the road.
You always have to worry when you’re in the car because spiders, pregnant ones, have the ability to find their way in via the vents, if nowhere else. And if they give birth inside – well, you can guess the rest. This happened to my daughter Laura once when she and a friend got in her car and turned on the defrost, blasting hundreds of baby spiders out of the defroster and onto the windshield (on the inside, naturally) which said spiders chose to ascend, crawling onto the roof above their heads, and – that’s right – dropping down on those glistening threads while Laura and Anna were swatting at them left and right and having hysterics which who knows how many people witnessed in that parking lot at Chapel Hill. They spent the trip home gazing at the roof instead of the street and were lucky to make it back in one piece.
An apartment I once had in an old house a long time ago had a nest of spiders, too. When those babies were hatched, were born, or whatever, I, Ms. Scaredy-Cat, suffered a full-on case of paranoia in that awful moment of clarity that began when I saw tiny little white figures writhing on my dark blue comforter. I couldn’t understand at first, but with great trepidation, looked upward and found hundreds more wending their way down on those ropes of silken threads.
Spiders are insidious creatures. Just last week I opened the trunk of my car to put something in it only to find an even bigger, uglier, more purposeful spider doing somersaults from the trunk’s lid as I raised it. I’m sprouting goosebumps just from the memory of it as I write this. It curled up its multiple legs/tentacles, seemingly independent of each other, and rolled itself into a loose ball before letting itself down a bit on its silver thread (matching the color of my car, I noted, which would have made it harder to see if the trunk interior hadn’t been black). Then it began swinging back and forth.
A nightmare in broad daylight.
Stephen King wrote a lot of his stories based on his childhood nightmares, and spiders prominently figured in at least two of them – It, a novel, and “The Mist,” a short story/novella in Skeleton Crew. If spiders didn’t bother you before, read these and they will now. Have a big can of bug spray (FYI: they make some specifically for spiders) and a roll of paper towels at the ready, too. I never use Kleenex tissues for vanquishing enemy spiders unless I have nothing else, and even then I grab at least 7 or 8 of them so I won’t be able to feel them through the layers of Kleenex.
Some of you might be wondering if I’ve ever seen that stellar film, Arachnophobia. Surely, you jest.
And for the record, I don’t do snakes either.