Lying in bed, my face illuminated by the bright light emanating from the phone which I am holding too close to my eyes, I see — or rather sense, in my peripheral vision — a slow movement. Drowsy, almost hypnotized by the stream of Instagram posts I’ve been consuming for minutes past midnight, my reflexes are slow, but I set my phone down and turn towards the movement. Something doesn’t feel right.
At first, I think it’s a fly — lately we’ve been getting an awful lot of those as the days get warmer and the windows stay open for hours on end.
But my eyes have deceived me — it’s not a fly. Descending from the ceiling from its web, it is a spider, at the very center of my room.
Instinctively I jump out of the bed, the phone still squeezed tightly in my palm as I dial a friend. She is in a different timezone, but she picks up.
“Something terrible just happened!” I blurt out. “A HUGE spider is hanging from my ceiling!”
“What?” she asks, so I repeat.
She presses me for details, so I inch closer to take a look. As I approach, I realize I am covering my mouth with my hand, afraid that it might jump into my mouth. I move my hand up and cover my nose too, my palm now barricading almost my entire face. The thought of a spider crawling on my face terrifies me.
“It has a small body, so small you can barely see it, actually,” I tell her. “But its legs, oh god it’s legs are so long! They are super thin, like hair, and it keeps moving them around slowly. Gross!”
“Gross,” she agrees. “Those are the worst!”
I stay on the phone with her for a while, talking about how much I hate spiders and how stressed out I am at the moment. I throw in a couple of jokes about moving to another house altogether, now that this one has been invaded.
I have always had arachnophobia. It’s rare for any kid to like spiders, but when I was younger I would be unable to sleep at night even if we had found a spider early in the day and taken it outside. All night I would be unable to shake the unbearable feeling that multiple spiders were crawling all over my body.
In high school, my fear got worse, to a point where as soon as I saw a spider, even a glimpse of it — that circular body with long legs stretching out — I would break down crying, unable to recover for minutes. One time, a kid in my class pulled an ugly prank on me, connecting his computer to the projector in the classroom and reflecting on the board the picture of a massive spider. I immediately burst into tears and ran to the restroom until I calmed down. Not having realized the extent of my fear, he later came to apologize, suggesting also that maybe, I “might want to get some professional help.”
I never did. But things got better over time.
When I moved into my current apartment, which is in a relatively old building, I started seeing spiders more often than I would have liked. Though I never got close to them myself, I did get used to the idea that spiders exist in this world — and I have to deal with it.
So now here I am, face-to-face with this creature dangling from my ceiling. There is nobody else in the room but me — well, the spider and me.
And while my friend has been so supportive over the phone, she says, finally, with a tone of regret, “Hey, so I actually just arrived at my therapist’s office and have to get to my session.”
“Oh!” I say. “Sure, of course. You should go.”
“Try not to think about it too much,” she tells me. “It will probably go away at one point.”
I thank her and we hang up.
Suddenly, I feel incredibly lonely. The house that is normally my comfort zone and safe-space has turned into a prison of my most absurd fears. The room feels too quiet, and I yearn for a sound, any sound, that will make this feeling go away.
I decide to take another look at the spider. With a couple of cautious steps, I approach it, only to realize, with horror, that it is no longer there.
The spider has disappeared.
My mind goes into overdrive: Where did it go? Into one of my drawers? Is it walking on the floor? On the carpet? In my bed?!
Trying not to spiral, I grab my phone again and text another friend, explaining the situation.
“IT’S GONE” my final message reads, followed by several exclamation points.
She, too, asks me for a description, and I provide her the same one I gave the first friend.
Hmm… she texts me. I wait for more.
Another text appears on my screen: It sounds like it’s a daddy long legs.
Then another: Or something like that…
My mouth almost falls open at the casualty of these texts. I respond: A DADDY WHAT?!!!
She explains to me that “daddy long legs” is a species of spider. She assures me that they are harmless.
What does that mean? I ask.
It means they’re not poisonous, she texts back.
Oh. I hadn’t even considered it could poison me. Did she think I was afraid of getting physically hurt? Getting poisoned was never the fear, the fear was always of the spider itself. I feel like a child.
I once read somewhere that a fear of spiders had an evolutionary origin, that we were naturally predisposed to be wary of spiders and snakes because of the dangers they posed to humans in the past. I wonder why my brain hasn’t yet caught up to modern times.
I contemplate the name “Daddy long legs,” and how strange it is. I wonder why, whoever named this species, chose “Daddy” as an antecedent word to the obvious description of the animal. I realize the use of this word has transformed, in my mind, this scary looking creature into a poor soul I can empathize with, even if for a brief moment. I can’t help but think of it, quite suddenly, as what we call in human terms, “a family man.”
A family spider?
I imagine it wearing a little spider suit, carrying a little spider work bag, going to work or bringing food home to his family. Maybe I found him on his way to work or while returning home. The thought seems cute until I realize what this implies: does the rest of his family live here as well?
I push these thoughts away, embarrassed to have had them in the first place. “A spider in a suit going to work? Really?” I ask myself. I’m struck by how patriarchal and heteronormative my mindset is — even when spiders are concerned.
So then another thought occurs to me: what if it’s a she? I consider this new possibility: a fellow female making her way through life, momentarily sharing this space with me, the two of us finding comfort and taking shelter under the same roof, trying to survive.
My desperate attempts to humanize this creature start to pay off, and I return to my bed — though still cautious. Whenever I tell someone about being scared of a spider, they tell me that the spider is probably more scared of me than I am of it. Is the daddy long legs scared of me right now? Is that why it disappeared? Is it hiding?
If it is hiding, I decide I am okay with that. I don’t mind living with this particular daddy long legs as long as I have some sort of guarantee that I will never see it again. The idea of a daddy long legs, whether it’s a hardworking father spider going to work, a fellow female, or a poor creature that is scared of me, becomes less of a threat. These ideas, I can live with. Baby steps.
A text pops up on my phone, from the friend with whom I forgot I am actively chatting.
“Alright,” she says. “I’m going to bed. Good luck!”
I send her a bunch of emojis and put my phone away. With nobody left to talk to or text, I feel the crushing silence once again. That’s the thing with adulthood, I think; even when you have close friends and family to morally support you, at the end of the day, your lives are all separate, and when everyone goes to sleep or their therapist appointments and all the phones are turned off, you are alone.
In a brutally silent room, with only a daddy long legs to keep me company.
With a deep sigh, I get under the covers. Right before I turn off the lights, I take a final glance across my room, and though I don’t actually see anything, I can almost feel the presence of my lonesome companion.
Suddenly, I don’t feel so alone anymore.
I never see the daddy long legs again. But I like to think it’s still around, though I hope more than anything our paths will never cross again.
Either way, I hope it is okay. I hope it made it home.