Fear of a Thing
Last night we found spiders in the house. Big, long legged, fast moving spiders. We chased them into corners and squished them with the end of a mop. It took many strikes before their bodies curled into themselves and they were still. They were the biggest spiders I had ever seen in real life. I couldn’t bring myself to squish them. I made him do it. I stood on the bed and made high pitch noises that came from the base of my spine. I didn’t know my body could make sounds like that.
When the house was torn apart, when couches were toppled and beds dismantled and corners of closets exposed, we slept. The lights stayed on. I read that spiders prefer the dark. I woke up often feeling things crawling on my skin. In the morning my eyes were red and my brain was foggy.
I called an exterminator. I have never called an exterminator before. I believed that we should let beings be. Until these monster spiders we practiced capture and release. We were gentle. Kind. Understanding. They came inside because it was warm. And doesn’t every creature deserve warmth? But these were different. These kept us up at night. These terrorized our dreams. When one ran across his foot in the shower last week we sealed up the bathroom door and haven’t opened it since. We are both terrified.
Maybe they’re coming up through the drains, I said. And he plugged the tub. Maybe they’re coming down through the vents, I thought, and together we closed each one. Maybe, I thought, they’re living in the walls…
The woman at the pest control office said she could send a technician out next week. Next week. Where would we sleep between now and then?
I went to the hardware store hopeful for another solution. Cans lined the shelves with images of each pest they were supposed to target. Ticks, fleas, wasps, mice. How cruel we were to invent such horrors. The images of spiders blown up to cover the packaging made me shudder. I couldn’t look at it directly and turned the label. There were sticky pads too. Designed to capture their eight legs as they scurried across its surface. Was there poison in that as well? Or did the spiders die, instead, of starvation. Or maybe they pulled apart their own bodies trying to escape. My stomach did a lurch and I was almost sick there in the aisle.
Pull yourself together! I said. They’re only spiders. And they’re too big to capture, and where would you release them? I thought of the glass cups we used to trap insects when they got inside, of the paper we used to cap the top. Of how softly we carried them into the yard before letting them fly, crawl or hop away. The spiders were larger than the base of all the cups in all the cupboards. It would have to fold in its legs to fit inside, I thought.
I paid for the can but left the sticky pads.
I called another pest control company and the woman there was sympathetic and understanding when I gave voice to the fear that was keeping me from walking back into the house. She said she could send someone over right away. That the spiders were in a lot of houses. That I wasn’t alone. That they could take care of it so I could go back inside and unseal the bathroom and sleep. When I hung up the phone I cried.
How ridiculous I thought, to be so afraid of such a thing.
I made note of the money in my account. After my mortgage and the exterminator, I would have $22 remaining. That would be enough, I thought, to fill up my car with gas so I could get to work for the rest of the week. I’ll make it work. I said. I’ll figure it out.
When the technician came he didn’t want to look inside. There’s no point, he said, they’re coming in from out here. Spraying in the house isn’t as effective. What about the drains? I asked, and the vents? Could they be coming up from the crawlspace or down from the attic? Didn’t he want to look in those places? But he was sure that the perimeter between out and in, was the place to be. With a backpack full of poison and a spray nozzle aimed at the house’s edge, he went to work coating everything in a slow death. No web or insect was spared. While he walked and sprayed he told me stories of spiders floating on electro-static waves. That whole colonies of them were seen out at sea, traveling in the air above ships. The image was so horrifying that I recoiled from it. They’re amazing creatures, he said, my reaction unnoticed. They always find a way to survive. I wanted to wrap myself in a blanket to shut out this new world in which spiders could fly. I wanted to be bound by the fabric so tightly that not even the sound of his voice could reach me.
I paid the bill he gave me. I signed the documents. I committed myself to a checklist of pests and told him I’d call if I found any in the house. When he left I pulled the cushions off the couch to check for spiders before reassembling and then folding myself into its corners, too terrified for sleep, and too exhausted to calculate how long $22 could be made to last.