Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"An Unexpected New Friend"

I thought he was in the house.

I thought he was dead.

It turns out, I was wrong on both counts.

Three counts, if he’s not a “he.” (Until further verification, I will arbitrarily adhere to the masculine.)

Two weeks ago, I noticed a medium-sized spider clinging to the middle pane of our kitchen window. Not moving a muscle (this assuming that spiders have muscles), just an identifiable spidery presence, a quarter-sized, blackish blob with eight thread-skinny legs.

My immediate impulse was to reach for a paper towel. I have two assignments in this house – one is bulb changer; the other, spider eradicator. When Anna was little, as I’d envelope the leggy interloper in a scrunched up sheet of absorbent paper, I would pretend that I wasn’t squishing it, but was instead gently corralling the intruding insect and relocating it outdoors. This was rarely, in fact, the case. It was usually more a matter of “Accidental Arachnicide.” Though in my defense, those spiders rarely co-operated.

“Hold still. I’m merely relocating you outdoors.”

“Oh, yeah? Then stop squeezing the life out of me.”

Our current spider, though alive, was already outdoors. There was, therefore, nothing I needed to do.

I love it when there’s nothing that I’m needed to do. For the obvious reason – it means I don’t have to do anything, which I like. But it also means that, there being nothing that I’m needed to do, there is then no possibility of my doing anything wrong.

Which I also like.

With no action required, I was free to study our new visitor, and wonder things I could Google and find out about, which I did but got bored, so I went back to wondering.

I wondered about their appeal. Spiders are, to my eye, not particularly attractive.

“We are to other spiders.”

“I do not happen to be a spider. That obviosity notwithstanding, I nonetheless cannot imagine that, within the spidery community, there are not at least a percentage of spiders who are regarded by other spiders as unattractive.”

“Spiders are not that superficial.”

Well, that spider put me in my place. I think I shall not be speaking to him anymore.

Observing the spider on our kitchen window, I am seeing very little in the way of action. Maybe the occasional stretching of the legs, which understandably takes time, given the volume thereof. Mostly, he seems to be lying there, doing nothing. I don’t see a web. I don’t see eggs. I don’t see a little magazine he’s reading to kill the time, as he wiles away his days, clinging to what can’t help but be, given the lateness of the season, a rather chilly pane of glass. Who knows? Maybe he’s observing me. And thinking,

That guy’s not doing much either.”

Our wonderful housekeeper Connie reported that she saw him consuming a fly. So at least he’s eating, which is good for his survival, though it eradicates the possible scenario of some Gandhi-like protest. It’s a little disappointing, in a way. If Fate places you in the company of a spider, one would hope he was an iconic spider, a spider for the ages, his revered portrait hanging proudly every spider family’s home. Or at least the “Some pig” spider from Charlotte’s Web.

No such luck. What we’ve got here is just an ordinary spider, clinging to a window. A spider, much to my surprise, to whom I have gradually grown attached.

Generally, I am disinclined towards relationships with insects, or any other animals for that matter, including most humans. We once had a six-year involvement with an outdoor cat, but he eventually succumbed to an outdoor cat disease, which hardened my resistance to any future entanglements of that nature. They are simply too painful.

And now, here I am, doting on a spider, who has attached itself to our domicile, and thereby has become a constant presence in our lives. Well, not constant. One morning, after a number of days at his regular spot on the window, I came into the kitchen,

And he wasn’t there.

It is in this manner that I became aware of the depth of my attachment. As Joni Mitchell famously trilled, “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” My spider was gone. And, to my surprise, I experienced a visceral feeling of loss.

Later that day, I returned to the kitchen,

And there he was.

My spider had returned, adhered to the window at exactly the same spot. I felt an overflowing sense of relief. I had been “that close” to posting flyers around the neighborhood.

“Lost spider.”

With a rough drawing included, as I am highly deficient in insect portraiture. (Or any other kind.)

Since then, there have been no further departures. Maybe he imagined the glass was greener on the other window, discovered he was mistaken, and returned home. Where he belongs.

I appreciate the comforting reliability of his always being there. Two weeks, from when he first appeared, Henry’s – when he looked like he was sticking around, I gave him a name – loyal Henry remains dutifully at his station – I like to think – guarding the house. So far, no intruders. So I’d say he’s doing a very good job.

Two weeks may not seem like a long time. But my research informs me that the spider’s life span can be as little as one year. Two week encompasses one twenty-sixth of Henry’s entire life. Converting that into “people years”, if a man’s life expectancy is, say, seventy-two years – wait, that’s too scary – seventy-eight years, then the equivalent in “spider years” is…one twenty-sixth of seventy-eight…

That’s three years.

Three years is a long time to be friends with a spider. And he’s still on the window. So it’s three years, and counting.

I feel like I’ve been transformed. Remember the movie Shallow Hal, where Jack Black grows into being unable to see Gwyneth Patrow’s obesity, because he is smitten by her inner specialness?

Once, I was the Shallow Hal of spiders. Now I’m Jack Black, later in the movie.

Spiders are beautiful.

Well…maybe just Henry.

Somebody’s got to get this Blogger Boy out of the house.


Nathan said...

> Or at least the “Some pig” spider from Charlotte’s Web.

That would be, I believe, the eponymous Charlotte herself.

Frank said...

Maybe when the spider is not there he has gone to look for the bathroom.

James said...

I was convinced that this story was going to end with you taking a newspaper and killing it, as Ted Baxter did.