Angela Bocage

The Arachnophobe and the Butch Knight in Shining Armor

I’ve only met one individual, my lovely co-worker Mahesha, who seems to really understand arachnophobia. She agreed that when a spider’s on the ceiling, the worst thing, ever, is for some klutz (or–and a very arachnophobe-specific paranoia kicks in here: a crypto-arachnophile! *shudder!*) to take what will inevitably appear to the arachnophobe as a half-hearted shot at it causing it to dangle or drop rather than eliminating the threat! The memory of the fear of arachnid revenge this phenomenon evokes is visceral; so is the red rage at the inept or possibly species-quisling would-be saviour. Mahesha, Goddess bless her, even understands that part of the fear is that of the spider’s inexorable return to avenge. It would appear to be some kind of preverbal-infancy-rooted powerlessness thing or guilt thing….but analyze away, and it makes no more difference to the physical panic of the phobic experience than the fact that I intellectually know all about our garden friends, their spinnerets and spicules and elegant design, their gorgeous webs and mythic relations to a Goddess who wove a story of injustice into her cloth. I am unable to sleep with a spider wandering the walls or ceiling until it’s dead or physical exhaustion enables me to rationalize myself to sleep. 

What happened to the tarantula in one of my favorite movies, Nadja, upsets me each time I see it. I cried like every young girl who reads Charlotte’s Web. Nevertheless, when I saw a strange shadow on the ceiling last night, and slipped on my glasses to resolve the blur into a spider the size of a cookie (including the longish legs–if it had been the kind with the sturdy legs I would’ve screamed) I knew it had to die. “I shall kill it,” announced my gallant beloved upon my confirming the sighting, musing that she usually uses magazines for that. Reading her mind effortlessly, I knew she was thinking that her print-crack, People magazine, had only just arrived and she’d been just about to read it.

I offered her a thick paperback instead, as my racing thoughts about the situation took an anxious turn. We are mature women, as she puts it, “when left with no viable alternative.” We’ve been together for some time and by no means initiated cohabitation on the second date or even the second year of our coupledom. “My driveway is steep, to discourage U-Hauls,” quoth she. But would she fail at this most important task? (Providing the psychic sense of safety I’m too immature and irresponsible to provide myself?) Would I be enough of a jackass to let it affect my trust in her if she missed?

She declined the book, and stood on the bed with her shiny new mag in hand as I babbled incoherently about the importance of waiting until the spider was over the bed and not the pile of knitting yarn and clothes and books that have accumulated on the my-side floor, so it wouldn’t be lost in the mess if it fell: no body, no proof of death! I was at the same time attempting to underline the importance of getting it in the first blow. The importance, the importance. WHAM! The tiny body fell. On the sheets. My love scooped it up in some Kleenex, threw it in the toilet. “Burial at sea,” she muttered, humming Taps in acknowledgement of the nobility of her opponent; and proceeded to freight the groaning symbolism to the breaking point by peeing.

“You’re peeing on the spider,” I croaked. “Aren’t you afraid it could crawl up and bite you on the–”

“It’s dead, Angela,” she said firmly.

“You are my destiny,” I concluded.


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