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  • Dorian Winter

An Elegy for the Black Spider in my Bathroom


To the arachnid pilgrim, there is comfort in twirling mesh doilies of silk & web across the cracked surfaces of a tile windowsill, comfort in making a gossamer hotel out of a humid bathroom. Maybe he is an artist, and this is just part of a greater oeuvre.

And so the confessional opens.

I unwittingly became a harbinger of demise for the silent textile artist of my bathroom. I drowned what was a canopy of creation and him alongside it. I understood this too late, I’m sorry.

First, the spider waved to me, in a movement of web-weaving and greeting. As he angled his body towards me, he continued to dance among his half-finished home, gazing towards me as if requesting feedback or applause. I was alarmed, I saw quick movements and assumed a threat, I imagined, in the dusty recesses of my mind, that you would leap out towards my frame and sink your poison in. I didn’t wave back. I tried to continue my shower and ignore all of it.

But yet there I was, in the still, fanless heat of my bathroom, in the armor of a terry cloth robe, wielding my half-full can of Lynx deodorant like a weapon. I didn’t want to make the spider an ink splatter against my wall, I couldn’t even reach up near the ceiling if I wanted to. There was the tar heaviness of shampoo against my scalp and the nearby almost-poison aerosols. I felt like I was in some kind of humid armory and that violence was inevitable.

I never realized that tough, achromatic beauty of your spindly body until the mist cleared. He was just a black house spider (badumna insignis) with the subtle accent of grey hairs skirting his carapace. He was only venomous the way a bullied child is, he would only bite if bitten, if someone happened to disrupt his peace. I waited a few minutes after the aerosol bomb had been released, and the hairs of my nose inflamed at that sweet chemical scent. The body of the spider hardened into marble, stiffening in a relentless grasp with his own web. He was clinging not to life, but to what he made of it.

I felt a sort of hopelessness knowing what I had done. Knowing that it could be done to me, that it had been done to me, that someone could just rest their eyes upon my body and declare me venomous.

His body went languid as death nestled him into his weaved canopy, I could see all of it, every second and hour of craftsmanship, create a diaphanous church-like silhouette against the fogged-up glass. The bathroom was a confessional, and the priest wasn’t with me. The spider was alone, I remembered. Friendless, probably hungry. Probably pouring his heart into a web that would get the most flies, and bring him the greatest feast. I hadn’t seen anything like him in my room for a while. Maybe I was his only friend, maybe my windowsill was a muse. Who was I to take a life from him, who was I to deprive him of another masterpiece?

Maybe he was my only friend, after all, he’d trap and devour the pesky flies of the summertime, he made sure that relentless percussive buzzes wouldn’t sour my mood. His bespoke sanctuary served so many purposes, both to himself and to me. I don’t know why I thought of you as an enemy, I thought you to be some militant viper, some agent of intimidation who wanted to rid of me. But you were my mirror, a feeble and naked creature in reality. I’m sorry for treating you otherwise.

Writing this elegy for the black spider, I ask of him to meet me in another life, and to rebuild a canopy of art with me together.

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