Printed in the Conscious Creation Journal
December 2000 – January 2001, Issue 15
I named the spider ‘Victoria’ because Queen Victoria liked spiders, or so a woman at a crafts fair once told me. I don’t know what kind of spider Victoria is, but she’s primarily black, with reddish legs and two yellow quotation marks on the back of her abdomen, one set above the other. She’s fairly big, too; if she stood on a quarter, her legs would touch its rim.
As far as I can tell, Victoria moved into the attic about a week after I did. Her web is in the corner created by the window above my desk and the wood-panelled wall, which seemed like such a clever place for a web – what with all the flies banging themselves silly on the window – that I just couldn’t tear down her efforts.
In the morning, I sit at my desk sipping coffee and looking out at Greenlake through the bows of a large maple. That’s when I see Victoria adding to her web, which gets whiter and more shroud-like each day. In the evening, her suitors come and shyly tap out rhythms on her web. She taps the same rhythms back, the male steps forward and taps, she taps back, he steps forward and so on… When Victoria finally makes a move, advancing towards the male, he panics and leaves. She’s larger, and probably venomous, so it is difficult to build trust. Of course, I know how that goes.
I’ve known Miles for three months now. We met in Chin’s pet store one rainy day when I called in sick. It wasn’t quite a lie – I just felt sick to the soul and wanted to be left alone. So I floated about the city without making eye contact, keeping my thoughts to a minimum and acting invisible. But Miles didn’t play along. He bopped into the fishroom and kept aiming little smiles my way, pointing and giggling until I finally gave up and looked at him. He was intriguing because his attention didn’t seem like a come-on. He just couldn’t help sharing his delight and would’ve acted the same if I’d been a guy or an old lady.
We ended up at his apartment drinking tea and listening to Brian Eno’s version of “Peter and the Wolf.” I told him right away that I had a boyfriend, which was a lie, but I wanted to be careful. I was grateful for the tea; it gave me something to do with my hands while Miles hopped around, yacking like an old hermit who hadn’t seen another living soul in twenty years.
Miles was a buffet of new ideas – just what I needed, something to snap me out of the endless mental loop I’d been in. Little did he know, but he healed my broken heart that day. He put so many thoughts into my head that it just blasted the last strands of Keith right out of there.
During a lull, I told Miles about Victoria and how a spider can get stuck in their own web if they aren’t careful. Then, recalling Keith, I muttered, “I guess we all can.”
At this, Miles gave me such a direct look that I half-worried he was reading my mind, or that I was revealing more about myself than I knew. And then, just as suddenly, his hands began their dance again and more words rolled out. “The Hindus say that Mother Maya sits in the sky, weaving the fabric of the universe out of nothingness – only we take it seriously. They believe that everything is made out of a whole lot of nothing. Which is what our modern chemists tell us today.” He laughed. “This web of illusion is our world and we can get stuck in it, too.”
Walking home, weaving our way through the joggers, Miles asked, “Do you do this?” I shook my head and he smiled. “First there was jogging,” he said. “Then there was race-walking,” he continued, imitating their complex stride. “Now there’s competitive skipping.” The only way to keep up was to skip beside him.
“We could be rich…if we could design…special skip-wear…and an excercise video,” I said, as we galloped along.
“Look at these masochists,” he said. “Running is too serious! Skipping makes you smile.”
Spiders generally give me the creeps, but Victoria is a homebody, never straying from her web. Unlike those dewy orbs you see in nature photos, Victoria’s web is a funnel-shaped shroud, sheer white, like a bridal veil. Over the months it has expanded. No longer an inconspicuous white spot in the corner, it is now a major creation stretching down from the window to the back left corner of my desk where it is anchored to an Elvis postcard and a miniature globe. Victoria’s insect victims dangle from the web like decorations or trophies. When I move through the room, everything from the metallic blue abdomen of a fly, to the frizzy, beige velour of a moth sway lightly in the startled air.
I make concessions for Victoria. I don’t pull the curtains – that would tear her web. I snatch flies from the air and release them into it. The first time I did this, I threw the fly too hard and it ripped the veil. After that, I learned to release flies below her web so they would fly up into it. I like the way her web bounces as she walks across it; like a carnival ride I recall from childhood – a huge, air-filled mattress called “Moonwalk”.
Sometimes I wish I were Catholic. I wish I could go to confession, atone for my sins and clear out my consciousness. So far, the only way I know to purge myself has been to move to a new apartment. I’ve moved two or three times a year since I left home. Each time, it feels like New Year’s Eve and I make a lot of resolutions. Each time, I feel lighter and freer, ending up with fewer and fewer possessions, discarding what’s unnecessary or too awkward to carry. I keep my sentimental possessions, though; photos, a charm bracelet, and a balding troll doll. My new territory is not truly established until those items have found their places within it.
I’ve lived in this attic room for ten months now, however, a real record for me. It’s cramped, and there isn’t much light, but now that I have tangible reasons for moving, I don’t want to. Besides, what would happen to Victoria? She would be sprayed or squished or vacuumed up into some hideous machine. Honestly, I’d miss her. Oh, I suppose I could put her in a jar and take her with, but it doesn’t feel right. I like her where she is. I like what she’s done with what she has. To catch her would be thievery, taking too much.
Each time I move I see the world with fresh eyes; my mind is alert and full of ideas. When I stay in one place too long, my world dims and I find myself walking down the sidewalk, oblivious to the chamomile prying its way through the cracks, oblivious to all the little details creating my world. If the world is only as large as my perception of it, then it grows and shrinks according to my awareness of it. I fear that the entire world could disappear if I didn’t keep my eye on it.
Sometimes I meet people who are so blank and empty that it scares me. How can they be alive and not even notice? Drained, yet intact, like flies in Victoria’s web. Miles understands this. He is painfully aware of being alive. I can never quite predict his actions or reactions, either, like he’ll make these strange sounds, sudden snorts and squeals which make sense in context, but appear freakish to strangers.
“I have a theory,” he once told me, “that people with Tourette Syndrome were put here on earth to wake us up to our own inhibitions, to somehow startle us into more awareness.”
His uncle has Tourette Syndrome, a rare and mysterious affliction, causing him to make uncontrollable noises constantly. “The odd thing is, he can be pretty quiet in a movie theater, as long as he’s concentrating on the show, but as soon as the lights come up, the twitching, the grimace and the shouts begin again.” On certain occasions, his parents had felt obliged to invite his Uncle Don, secretly hoping he’d decline their offer. “Don’s married now, though, and doesn’t give a damn what anyone thinks – unlike my parents, who care what everyone thinks even though they’re ‘normal.'” Miles is telling me this as we stand on a roof together. It’s our third roof of the evening. He called and said to dress up, and then when he came over we decided to see how many roofs we could find our way onto. So far, we’ve enjoyed the vistas from atop a hospital, a dormitory and now, a bank. We stand side by side, keeping a platonic distance with a bottle of strawberry-flavored champagne between us.
It’s a late sunset this time of year; must be close to ten o’clock. I nearly ask Miles the time, but decide to test how comfortable he is with this sudden silence, although I’d never admit to playing such games. I wish I knew what he was thinking. When I call him up to go out, he is never busy. Sometimes I want to ask, “Don’t you have other things to do?!” It both flatters me and scares me. What did he do before he met me? Then again, what did I do before I met him? Now, when I tell new male acquaintances I have a boyfriend, it is Miles I am alluding to.
The silence is charged, loaded with everything we’ve avoided saying. We’ve woven a world between us with all our words while carefully avoiding the hub of it all – the two of us. Like Victoria and her suitors, it’s been an ongoing dance of approach and retreat.
“How do you know Victoria’s a female?” he asks suddenly, breaking the spell.
“Only females make webs,” I respond, sensing his nervousness and realizing he needs some cue from me.
I came home – three roofs later – with Miles in tow. He said yes to some juice but was snoring on the couch by the time I returned. So I sat at my desk, looking out at the half moon and listening to the rhythm of his breathing behind me. As Victoria’s web glistened in the moonlight, I once again admired the silver threads she had spun from her very being, creating a whole world for herself out of nothingness.
When both glasses of juice were gone and the moon was lost behind an apartment, I turned my attention back to Miles. I didn’t want to wake him, because then we’d both get nervous, fill the room with words and he would probably go. So I just stared at his shadowy form, imagining how nice it would be to hold him in my arms and say nothing, meeting at last in that space between all the words we had ever said. I got up and pulled the comforter from my bed. The couch was big; there was room for us both.
©2000, gAel & jef, including images. Printed in the December 2000 – January 2001 Issue of the Conscious Creation Journal. http://www.consciouscreation.com (Feel free to duplicate this article for personal use – please include this copyright notice.)
gAel has been interested in consciousness, well, ever since she’s been conscious! She recently created a forum dedicated to the Study of Dreams and hereby invites all readers to swing by and join in. (You are welcome to post comments and dreams as a guest if you do not wish to sign in.) When not writing, gAel plays various woodwind instruments, composes quirky tunes and cultivates dandelions. If you enjoyed her writing, she would love to hear from you personally: [email protected] More of Jef’s wizardry may be explored at http://www.snarg.net/, stop by gAel’s site for more of her artistry: http://www.snarg.net/jng/writing.html