Few things could make me enter the garage at night but thirst was one of them. Although the space was lit by a bright, automatic light on the garage door mechanism, the lighting always felt inadequate. On one side, a refrigerator stood like a steel grandfather clock next to shelves of old junk. Nearby were a couple of tool shelves and a working table. Next to the door was a shoe rack full of old shoes that looked unwearable. On the other side, a massive yellow boiler hissed next to a filing cabinet full of old papers. Everywhere were shadows that reminded me of graveyards at night.
After I stepped into the garage to get a bottle of lemonade, I noticed a huge spider slowly walking across its web above the refrigerator. It was as slow as a snail and bigger than a quarter. It was brown with a round head and an oval body. Looking at it made me feel small, as if something was wrong, as if I had my back turned to a massive beast with red eyes.
Trying to not disturb the creature, I tiptoed very slowly to the refrigerator. My thirst was more motivational than my fear, but I moved with the speed of a broken wind-up toy car. As I slowly opened the refrigerator door, the spider positioned itself almost directly above my head. I could see it, and I was sure it could see me. With the carefulness of the snakeman who caught green mambas with his bare hands, I opened the door. Quickly but silently, I grabbed the drink and felt the coolness of the bottle. Just as I was closing the refrigerator door and carefully watching the spider, thinking I was safe, the garage light turned off.
I had forgotten that the light detected movement, and maybe my slow movements had been too slow for it to recognize my presence. But waving my arms to turn it back on would alert the spider, so I just stood there. In darkness. The spider and me. Right then, I knew that my fear was like swiss cheese, full of holes. All I had to do was face the fear and eat it. After all, what is a spider but a hairy, air-breathing arachnid with eight legs and fangs that inject venom? And how many people die each year from spider bites? Two? Five? A hundred?
The garage was absolute darkness except for the moonlight shining in through a window next to the refrigerator. I could almost feel the spider’s thin legs crawling slowly across my head. For a tiny moment I thought about what I would do. I had several options: I could throw the bottle of lemonade in my hands at the spider, I could run, or I could shout for help. However, throwing the bottle of lemonade at the spider would mean dislodging it from its web, and then I wouldn’t be able to locate it. It would be angry and suddenly crawling around in the mess of lemonade on the floor, somewhere near my slipper-clad feet. Shouting would only alert it of my presence. Running would mean risking crashing into things that I couldn’t see in the dark.
With no options left, I nearly panicked, but I told myself that my fear of spiders was irrational. Spiders are mostly just small bugs that slowly crawl around eating flies that occasionally get trapped in their webs. A spider would have no reason to descend on my head, no reason to chase me, no reason to bite me. After all, I was a thousand times larger than the spider, and the spider was probably more afraid of me than I was of it!
Realizing this, I decided the best option was not to run, not to shout, not to throw a bottle of lemonade, but just to simply walk away. I closed the refrigerator door as silently as I could and started to exit the garage. Calmly, I avoided boxes and racks full of items that might otherwise have tripped me while I was running. As I approached the doorway of the garage, I turned on the garage light. When I looked back from the door, I saw the spider very slowly walking toward me on its web in the corner of the garage. I looked at the spider and I thought it looked at me and I thought about how spiders are their own individual selves, just like humans. They are just trying to survive and live longer. People are cruel to spiders just because they look strange, while in reality, all spiders do is keep the bugs out of our homes.
Then I shut the door and dashed into my room, thinking about what I had just done. For several minutes, I sat in the chair at my desk and considered the other spider in the bathroom, the small one that lives in the corner behind the toilet. The next day, I moved the whole package of lemonade to the refrigerator in the kitchen to let the garage spider have its space. After my encounter with the spider, I’ve made an effort to recognize that spiders are not the monsters they appear to be, but harmless creatures that do their own thing. I still don’t like them in the same room with me, but my fear of them is a half-eaten piece of swiss cheese.