When he turned up in my apartment that afternoon I made a snap decision to coexist like the bumper sticker reads. Going against every grain of instinct and good motherly advice, I told him he could stay under certain conditions. One of them being that he keep a safe distance, you know, respect boundaries. Silently he hung there seeming to neither agree or disagree, nor did he leave.
And so it was that I went about my mornings that summer, waking to find him in the same familiar spot. I never learned his name and he never requested mine.
A “jumper” if my imagination allowed. Black, hairy, big. He could leap swiftly out of sight, under the bed. Even worse, creep unannounced between my sheets. I, remarkably reminiscent of Annie Hall’s bathtub scene, racquet at the ready. My minds eye saw my cohabitant seeking retaliation while I slept soundly in the wee hours. Make his way from ear to ear, lingering on my nose, disappearing before I startle awake. Taking stealth cover beneath the covers. He’d lie in wait just long enough for me to doze off. Then crawl up along my left arm, tickling the fine hairs enough to send me into a blind panic.
“Spiders don’t bite.” Mom always said. There was something in the anxious way that she said it, always accompanied by, “Hurry uuup! Step on it before it gets away!!”
“I’m afraid it will bite me Mom!”
“It’s crawling toward me! Go get your Dad and step on it!”
Although I knew Mom would never lie, I knew a biting creature when she panicked.
This endeavor into arachnid besties some five odd decades later is nothing less than an epic act of courage. I resisted my DNA instructions to squash my eight-legged squatter into protoplasm. He spent the summer blissfully wandering around the bedroom. One afternoon he could be found in the northeast corner, another southwest corner, other times anywhere in between. As long as I had a fix on him, we got along just fine.
The summer wore on, days shortened. My arachnid friend suddenly disappeared. Gonzo. Out of sight but not out of mind. It took me a few weeks to get use to the idea that he’d just up and left without so much as a trace of goodbye.
Four seasons turned and summer once again arrived. I’d nearly forgotten about arachnid when in dark of night, a sharp sting followed by severe itching on my posterior neck awakened me. I gave it not a thought and returned to slumber. The stinging/itching worsened over the next several days, becoming quite swollen, red then turning blue. A vicious lump of an itch. A consultation with a “provider”.
Damn! A vile spider bite!
Well, so much for coexistence, Moms arachnophobic word to children, eight-legged besties, and uninvited guests in the boudoir.