Itsy Bitsy

Note: after publishing this post I read this news article about this year’s above average spider population in Chicago, experienced prominently at train stations.

This is the season for spider webs and spiders at train stations in the city. Strung up on lamp posts and in the corners of overhangs, the webs and their many occupants are beautiful and menacing. I’m drawn to look at them, though not up close and not for long; people on train platforms don’t look long at anything without a screen–it makes you look uncomfortable (taking a picture would be even worse).

I was terrified of spiders well into adulthood. The mere sight of one would have made my muscles shudder and my skin twitch. That’s not uncommon, I know. Maybe every arachnophobe has an origin story, and maybe some are plain born. Maybe innocuous experiences in childhood harden into rigid fear on their own. I must have been seven or eight when I went to see my aunt, who was in high school, in a production of “Once Upon A Clothesline,” a children’s play. I remember nothing of the performance. I have a vivid memory, though, of seeing the girl who played the spider character in her full-size costume backstage after the performance and shuddering with fear.

My dad really turned that childhood shudder into a scream. He used to lure me into the garage with the promise of observing a spider in some dark corner. I’d follow, and peering intently at the thing, would receive a sudden jolt and “Agh!” exclamation to startle the bejeesus out of me. Any childish curiosity about the eight legged things gave way shortly to jumpy terror at even their mention. Especially in that garage. Well into high school I would avoid even going in there. Whenever I absolutely had to I kept carefully close to the middle, away from those dark corners.

I’m 42 now, and I still don’t want spiders near me. But watching them overhead at L is becoming one of my favorite seasonal pasttimes.

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