a spider, a panther, a man

This here is a spider I came upon on a hike on Mount Diablo this weekend.  It’s mating season for the tarantulas, so they are out and about.  Despite the gigantic size of this arachnid, it somehow wasn’t that scary.  It did feel a little crawly when one of its legs grazed against my toe as it felt its way along the edge of my sandal, but it wasn’t as spooky as I thought it would be.  It was not my most unsettling spider experience.

My most unsettling spider experience was some years ago when we were living in an awful dump in Palo Alto.  That apartment was always crawling with bugs.  There were so many ants that we couldn’t even leave food out for the cat.  We generally liked the spiders, as they ate the other bugs.  But one time, my husband came upon a spider that made him scream like a little girl.  He shot out of the bathroom and entreated me to kill it.  I went in with a fistful of wadded paper towels to meet the enemy, and quite an enemy it was.  It wasn’t so much that it was enormous; it was that it looked so fucking evil.  I don’t know how else to describe it; it looked like something that would eat Frodo Baggins.  Something about its proportions.  It was arresting, sort of beautiful in a haunting way.  I did look it over for a while before I smushed it (and when I did so, it was truly vile–a gelatinous material exploded from its crushed abdomen).  It had been stark white, with a little red symbol on its underside.  I had never seen anything like it before, and haven’t since.

I just thought of that spider today, and it occurred to me for the first time that it may have been an albino black widow–the scarcity of such an animal explaining why I hadn’t seen one before or since.  Or–it may have just shed its exoskeleton at a pivotal stage of growth, which would explain its stark white color and why it was so, um, juicy when squished.  Yikes!  How rare, for an experience to be more thrilling in retrospect than in the moment.

I must have stood there for an hour, completely transfixed.  I had never seen anything move with such lethal grace.  Its fur was so black it that it did not shine; it was just pure oblivion.  How could its musculature be so fine, so rippling, when it lived a life that did not allow it to hunt?

Because of the pacing, the endless sinuous pacing around and around the cage–why, when it would go nowhere?  Did it hope with every circuit in its prison that this time there would be a breach?

How long did I stand there praying that it would look at me with those shifting yellow eyes?  Did I really think, you’re so beautiful, you can kill me if you want?

There must be a man like this for every woman, a man she thinks of with the aching melancholy of a former junkie remembering his needle.

Yes, you nearly destroyed my life, but oh, such times we had.

Once your body knows the feel of it, it can never unknow.  Never stop yearning.  Like an icy wind whistling in your hollow bones, as long as those bones exist to carry you.

Never, never get near you again–but if I did, could I say no?


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