Towards the end of my elementary school years, my mom would pile my little sister and I into her car on Tuesday nights and we would go pick up my brother from his weekly golf lesson. My brother would insist riding shotgun on the way home, leaving me to relocate to the back of the car to be my sisters reading buddy. At the time, she was really into pop-up books, consuming them like they were unreleased Harry Potter manuscripts. On one particular Tuesday her book was about animals and she was very excited to share her favorite pop-up with me. She opened the book directly in front of my face making sure there was no way I would miss her favorite animal.
It was the biggest f*cking pop-up spider in the entire goddamned world.
I blacked out and imagined the hairy beast crawling out of the book and into my mouth. I had never before felt fear like that and did what any brave young boy would do: I screamed, started to cry, and got out of the car to run away.
This, of course, delighted my sister. When I eventually made my way back to the car, she was there waiting with the book open to maximum stretch for extra pop-up spider effect. I decided to walk the 4 miles home, and haven’t seen her smile like that again to this day. Fast forward 17 years and my fear of arachnids has never subsided. I’ve left my car in random parking lots overnight because I’ve looked up and seen a spider on my rearview mirror. I’ve jumped out of a car going 20 MPH because someone “thought I felt a spider on my leg” Sometimes, on Instagram, I see a picture of a spider giving birth on a meme page and I give up on the day. Who can go on living after seeing something like that? Until recently, I feared that I would die from spiders crawling into my mouth at night while I slept.
The point of this story is to provide context for what happened last Wednesday when I got home from work. Freezing cold from the commute home, I came through the door tearing off my boots and jacket. Trying to warm up, I fell into bed and rolled onto my stomach for maximum dad bod cushiness. My eyes fell to a corner on the floor.
There, a spider met my gaze.
My life flashed before my eyes, bringing me back to that fateful day in the backseat of my moms car. The spider crawled behind my boots, which I assumed were still warm from the blood it wanted to suck from my veins. I was trying to figure out how to get out of the room alive when something incredible happened: I felt sympathy.
It was too cold to feel anything else. Indifference and acceptance washed over me and I learned to love my new eight-legged friend. The little dude was probably just looking for a warm place and accidentally walked into the wrong building. He was just trying to get by in a big city, like me. I got up off my bed to introduce myself to my new roommate. Maybe he wore a monocle like most spiders do, or maybe he was on roller skates. Maybe he had a name tag and we could avoid an awkward introduction. I bent over and picked up my boot.
There was no spider. It was just dust all along.