The first post of a new blog always feels a little awkward. It’s like the first time I meet a new friend, except I’m forced into a white boxy room with no snacks. The blog has a shiny new name tag, and we have to sit in those uncomfortable chairs that always show up at conferences, trying to make conversation about the ugly paisley carpet. We might become the best of friends eventually, but for now we can barely remember one another’s names.
I just returned from six months in South America, living in the extreme South of Chilean Patagonia and teaching English to elementary school students. Hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I washed my clothes by hand and dried them in my bedroom for six months. Enough said.
While living in Chile and traveling in Argentina and Peru, I was forced by circumstance to face fears and cope with situations I had never faced. To give up control (to the Chilean Education System, to the family I lived with, to the bus driver flying around a mountain pass’ curves at 100 KPH). To adapt and flex and grow. And I came back changed. I feel more grounded than I have in a very long time. But a lingering fear followed me as I wandered over 10,000 miles.
Brown. Recluse. Spiders.
The species lives in many parts of the Americas, hiding behind furniture and picture frames for the unsuspecting finger. They warned us time and time again in the orientations for the English Opens Doors Program, showing us horrific pictures of the gangrenous damage these little shits inflict on their victims with one bite. One woman had half her face melting off.
“They like to crawl into beds,” warned an organizer.
Say no more. Shaking out the sheets with a flashlight in hand every night of the three week trip from Puerto Natales to Lima. Every time hoping not to encounter a jumping spider in a place with few medical facilities. Secretly afraid that the spiders would manifest precisely because I was so afraid of them. But there were none that I ran into in South America.
Tonight is my third night home. I went to move some pillows on my bed. Movement caught my eye.
An enormous, male, brown recluse was caught in the curtains around my bed. His fangs were purple and I swear that they glinted in the light. He was within five inches of jumping into my bed. Face-melting venom, separated by a silk veil.
I vacillated between adrenal-pumping fear and the certainty that I must dispatch with the spider immediately. I grabbed my genetics textbook.
Dead spider putty, on my Italian curtains. Purple guts everywhere. I am too afraid to scrape it off for fear that I will contaminate my fingers. I’m considering leaving it as a head on a pike, a warning that no spider will be shown mercy in my realm.