I opened the bathroom and there he was in the hallway waiting for me. I slammed the door shut to keep him out, but knew he could easily get in under the door. Or he’d wait me out. I’d think he’d given up and he’d be around the corner. My temperature rose and my heart panicked in its cage. Tears began. This is what it is like to be arachnophobic. Let’s get our words straight. Phobic, not afraid.
I was 16 years and it was close to midnight on a Friday and my dad would not be home until Sunday. If I wanted to get out of the bathroom, I’d have to rescue myself. The spider was almost 4 inches from the end of one leg to another and it was about in the middle of the wall.
I got up on the sink counter in case the spider crawled in from under the door. Without putting another foot back down, I rummaged through the bathroom cabinet and under the sink. I poured all the shampoo out of the squeeze bottle into a cup. Into the bottle went X-14, Old Spice, windex, rubbing alcohol, and mouth wash. Still on the counter I braced myself and slowly opened the door. The spider hadn’t moved.
I flipped opened the top of the cap, took aim, and squeezed. The blast knocked the spider to the floor. The mixture splattered in all directions. I stopped and looked down. A leg twitched. I blasted it again and it spun around on its back.
When my dad got home on Sunday, he saw the wall before he noticed the dead spider. The mixture had taken the paint off the wall.
Putting my work out in the world causes fear. Sometimes sharing my work even stirs that same panic inspired by spiders. I’ve been driving to work and I’ll think about my novel and I’ll remember that it is out in the world and that maybe, just maybe, someone is reading it. The desire to change into another person overwhelms me. I want to be anyone except the idiot who put words on a page. I’d like to blast my novel straight out of existence and memory.
But perhaps that is overreacting. So, what scares you?
11 thoughts on “Fear and Deadly Combinations”
My husband driving to work in the snow with the other crazy commuters who don’t know how to drive in the snow.
Writing one of those self-eviscerating posts I masochistically write periodically and then hitting “Publish Post”. Yikes.
Yeah. I totally understand what you’re saying. 😎
I had a similar incident with a crane fly when I was young.
I’m not open enough in my writing to face the other fear yet! I think you and Sophie are very brave.
I saw that spider! It was in my bathroom a few months ago. As big as my hand and hairy, although not a tarantula. But not being phobic, I just eeped and ran away, avoiding the bathroom until I thought it was gone. I even took a shower. When my Uncle got home, I told him about spider, and he said it was probably still there. He went in and killed it. It was IN THE SHOWER. It’s a good thing I closed my eyes when rinsing my hair and didn’t look up.
I was told later that it was a wolf spider, which is basically harmless and eats palmetto bugs… which I really am afraid of. Still not phobic, but they cause an uncontrollable shudder and more eeps as I run away. What is it with the bugs in Florida. Ugh.
What am I phobic or nearly phobic about? Heights. Zombies. Yes Zombies. I’ve figured out that it is my own fear of losing control of my faculties, basically going mad.
As for taking my work public? I don’t even know if I’m phobic because I have avoided it as much as I can. Except for my nice safe blog world. Actually, Burning Lines is the first time I’ve published my fiction, and that’s almost like a game.
But I am excited for YOUR work to be read. And if I had magic powers I would put a spell on the publishing industry to PAY ATTENTION because I want to read your book in a real book.
I’m not truly phobic about anything, as far as I know.
(OTOH I am neurotic as hell about most things to do with human relationships. When The Missus and I were talking to a mutual friend once, I started a sentence with the common phrase, “I’m just afraid—” The friend interrupted me: “You’re afraid of EVERYTHING, John.” With some justice.)
The Missus has what might be called phobias about a couple of things. Rowena mentioned palmetto bugs — those things can drive The Florida-Native Missus (go figure) into fits. Especially the flying kind.
But you know, Marta, this is a great story — your constructing the arachno-bomb with every single toxic substance at hand, and then melting the walls of a house with it.
The only thing missing would be the spider itself, walking away unharmed.
(Well, “missing” in a narrative sense I mean. I know you were delighted to be rid of it in fact!)
And yes, I’m scared about exposing my work publicly. Not phobic, though. This is more of a calculated-but-still-fearsome-risk sort of fear — studying the ins and outs and pros and cons and ifs and buts, and then leaping and just praying there’s a well-cushioned floor to the canyon somewhere down there.
Let’s back up a step. In what form is your novel in the world? Published? Being read by editors? On the internet? Your writing is captivating and so I want to know. As far as fear: well, my sixth blog name is as fake as the first five. I published a story under my real name and lots of book reviews and a personal essay, but all with tremendous self-censorship. But that was all a long time ago and as I’m readying to start sending things out again in a more authentic voice, I feel I have to choose a pseudonym and just today have spent a couple of hours creating one. I don’t like my name anyway. I have a professional life attached to it. I want a different name for my writing life. I want to recreate myself. Somehow it would feel safer behind that mask of control, but also like I was somehow cheating myself as well.And my professional self could write positive book reviews about my writer self. Interviews too.
I’m neurotic, too. I have a strange reaction to heights in that I get vertigo or pass out (not a very good response, I admit) but I’m not so much afraid as non-functional. However, in emergencies, I function fine until it’s all over, then I freak out.
When I get surprized by a hair wolf spider or a scorpion or something like that I generally don’t freak out. The time I woke up to find a lizard staring me in the face didn’t faze me either. I did freak otu the time I pulled a container of oatmeal I’d forgotten about out of the top cupboard and found it teeming with larvae, though. I screeched about that one, yes I did. Just like a totally girly-girl. 🙂
I always pass out before I find out.
Sophie, always glad to meet another spider-phobe.
fairyhedgehog, Sophie is brave for sure. Can’t say I see myself that way, but thank you.
rowena, if I found a spider in my shower while I was in it…well, I can’t even think of that without my heart threatening to escape.
JES, but is putting your work on your blog helping with the fear? It should. You’re doing a great job.
Squirrel, no publishers. Nothing like that. I’ve just given my writing to a few people to read, and this always causes panic no matter who it is or what they say or don’t say. As for your blogs, it seems that something of the real you is in each one no matter how fake they are.
wrttenwyrdd, if I have to, I can stay calm. Calm enough to make chemical spider guns anyway. But yeah, I can get all girly-girl. ugh.
Shelly, that’s hard to believe.
I used to be phobic about spiders. For the most part, if they are under a certain size (subjective to me) I can ignore them. But over the limit and they must go via Kleenex and the toilet. I encountered a wolf spider once. Scared the crap out of me. I took a photo of it after I caught in a jar. I know spiders are helpful and I try not to freak. I’d rather avoid passing this on to my daughter.
Other stuff that scares me? My thoughts can. That’s why I practice discipline, so I don’t go insane scaring myself about bad things that could happen to my child, me, husband, and other loves ones.
Not the gory ones — those just annoy me. But if Murry wants to watch something like “Night of the Living Dead” or “The Shining,” I will leave the house. Just typing a bit about them here makes me aware of a slight increase in my heart rate.
Maybe growing up next to a grave-yard had something to do with that.
However, I’m pretty much a Friend To Spiders, and once jumped into a construction hole to free a trapped snake before someone took a shovel to it. (Grabbed the poor snake by the tail and flicked it up and out of the hole where it dashed off, astonishing the guys who were debating how to kill it.)
Re: Shelly’s comment — *snork*
I have the same reaction to roaches.
This reminds me of when I was in Japan and someone I knew had a huge spider like than in her apartment, and I always thanked the heavens that I never saw one while I was there.