If most of the men in my life have one thing in common, it’s a fear of spiders. I don’t mean the kind of ickiness where you know there’s something weird and it freaks you out — like one man who had a fear of birds. This I came to understand. The eyes. They’re dead. You never know what a bird is thinking, and at any point, that bird might decide your eye is the most delicious thing it’s ever seen. Okay, so that man convinced me to be afraid of birds. I get it. Done. Birds are scary.
But the spider fear, I don’t get it. I’ve watched men shriek and run. stee gets so terrified around spiders he’s actually pushed me in front of him to take care of the thing. Little spiders. Tiny spiders. Ones you wouldn’t even know were on you. He doesn’t care. If there’s a spider in our path, he’s running the other direction.
One day Ray made the dumb-ass decision to TiVo a Discovery Channel special on Spiders and Bears. I don’t think he had a fear of bears, which is also a rational fear. Bears kill people.
Ray was soon screeching. Ray is not a man you imagine screeching in fear. Stee and I ran in to see what the commotion was about. And soon stee was screeching. Because in this special, a spider was hatching baby spiders, and soon we were watching Spiders on Spiders. This is the scariest thing either of them had ever seen. Spiders were crawling on other spiders in a chaotic mess of welcome-to-the-world wonder, and Ray and stee seemed certain that the spiders were about to crawl out of the television and into our living room. I’ve never seen anything like it.
So I’ve been the spider killer for as long as I can remember. Because I can’t buy into it, like I did with the birds. There are so few spiders that actually want to do anything to hurt you. But this doesn’t mean I’d ever keep a tarantula as a pet. What the hell is wrong with some people? Like that guy who carries a parrot on his shoulder at the 7-Eleven and gets all mad when you talk about his parrot. This is a weird tangent, and I apologize, but why do people get weird pets and then get pissy when everybody only looks at the python or the ferret? You want focused attention? Put on a parrot costume. Then all eyes will be on you, dude.
Being the spider killer means I’m also the lizard catcher, the moth chaser, the bee swatter and the worm tosser. One unfortunate incident with an extension cord and a salamander has made both stee and our cat Olive terrified of anything that looks like it might have a long, thin tail. What the hell is a salamander going to do to you?
No, wait. I’m not afraid of hummingbirds. But Dan is. He’s sure they’ll fly into his ear and kill him. A hummingbird. All it wants is sugar water. It doesn’t want your brains.
Here’s something I’m afraid of: saying goodbye. I’m not good at it, and I hate doing it, because I’ve had to do it so many times in my life. Yesterday I chickened out of saying goodbye to someone who was the most important person in my life for many years. The man afraid of birds. His life is changing as he’s moving to another time zone with a family, so he was throwing a going away party. His evite remained on my inbox, unanswered, for weeks. I knew the day was coming, and I kept saying I’d go, I’d bring a gift, I’d do the right thing, even though I wouldn’t know anybody else at the party because once he left my life, he changed his completely. That’s what he does. He’s very good at goodbyes. He says it, means it, and then he moves on.
Well, not so much with me. He and I have been saying goodbye for years, in little ways, big ways, hurtful ways, loving ways. We just keep taking another step backward, then leaning forward to make sure the other one is still okay. But this time he’s making a giant leap away, and I didn’t have the heart to be there when he did it. It’s lame on my part. I know it is.
I last saw him a month ago, when we went out to dinner and he told me he was moving. All I could think after that was, “This is the last time I’m ever going to see him.” Even after he said we should get together again for drinks to say goodbye. Even after he invited me to this party. I still knew we had our last evening together. Dinner led to drinks which led to him looking through my wedding albums, because he couldn’t come to the ceremony. I wanted him to see what he missed. I was there for his wedding, and I’m glad I went. Not just for the ceremony, which was very nice, but because I knew that was one big party full of goodbyes to people who meant a lot to me. They still mean a lot to me. But I know they’re, for the most part, gone. And that sucks.
Although, with the way he and I work, it’s quite possible I’ll see him again, when I least expect it. I do keep a rather public profile, so he could easily find me, or at least drop me a few words to let me know he’s okay. He’ll send pictures, I think. But sitting over a beer, discussing The Arcade Fire, joking about his dad fixing cars? Probably not going to happen. Closing a chapter that big in your life, however good it is for both of you, is still very difficult to do, because it’s admitting that things change, people change, life moves forward, and sometimes you’re not needed anymore.
I was scared to go. I’d be standing in a room filled with strangers, pretty much wearing a sign that says “YOUR PAST.” And with where his head is, with what he’s focused on now, he didn’t need me to be there. It wasn’t going to make anything better. See, I try and make it all sound like I was doing him a favor, but the truth was it was going to be harder for me than it was for him, and therefore weird for my husband at my side, and blah, blah, blah better person, blah, blah, blah doing the right thing and blah, blah, blah people sure can fuck each other up. Spiders on Spiders.
Right, I was talking about men and spiders. What’s the deal, Indy? Something one-one millionth of your size isn’t going to do anything to you that won’t get fixed with a little salve. Or a balm. Or calamine lotion. Spiders want to be left alone to eat the bugs that drive you crazy. They want to live in your corners and eaves and just hang out, waiting for something stupid to come by and become their lunch. All these Little Miss Muffets freaking out makes me have to think of spiders as something scary, when I’d rather be impressed with them.
I don’t know many women afraid of spiders. Maybe it’s because girls grew up on Charlotte’s Web and took the advice in To Kill a Mockingbird to heart, and that makes us think of spiders as strong, independent, crafty homemakers. … Like women.
Shit, I just figured something out.