Sunday, July 24, 2011

The tarantula that loved me.

Tarantulas and Love. While it's not peanut butter and jelly, they go together better than you think. 

Try and move past the fact that they are hairy monsters the size of a grown woman's palm and weigh as much as a damn hamburger patty. No, let's forget that for now. Let's think about love. 

See, tarantulas live most of their lives underground. Except once a year when something clicks deep inside the males' furry, creepy little hearts that says, "I gotta find THE ONE." It's like a Sex and the City episode without the bad puns. 

In fact, says some scientist on the Internet, 

"The males will continually search for mates until they run out of energy or until a female eats them."

Ain't that the truth, sister. Ain't that nothing but the dang truth.

So, yeah, these male tarantulas, they start out on a vision quest, searching for something to complete them, something hidden somewhere in the vast, arid desert mountains. Something that drives them to ramble on with no clear ending point and no guarantee of success-- they just know they have to go. It just feels right. 

Wait a second. That sounds a little like me. 

Oh shit.

So apparently me and the tarantula guys are simpatico; which is real sweet and all, but this does not make me feel any better reflecting upon the fact that I walked into my house at 1:30 a.m. last Saturday to be greeted by a crab-sized tarantula hanging out on my living room wall. 

Now let me tell you a little something about the movies:

In the movies Jason Bourne jumps from a bridge, sprains his leg, winces, gets up, and continues his chase. 

In real life, Paige walks in her Dallas condo's courtyard at 8 a.m., falls between two stupid, flat rocks, and sprains her ankle so bad that she can't hear or see straight for about 10 good seconds. Then her breathing goes shallow as her vision returns and, this is when she's like Jason Bourne, she hobbles up the stairs to elevate her leg and call her mother crying. 

What I'm trying to tell you is you may see something in the movies or maybe you imagined something in your confident, precious little head, but it doesn't mean that's the way it will go down in real life. (Tell this to your children, my pupils. Let the generations learn.)

For instance, just a few weeks ago, when I walked into my new home and realized I had not called to turn on the electricity or water and that the place was filthy dirty even though my landlord swore up and down he paid someone $100 to clean it, my mother began to worry. And at some point that weekend she asked me, "Aren't you nervous about finding a tarantula in your house?" 

This is almost an exact quote of what I answered back:

"A tarantula? No way. That won't bother me! They're harmless! They don't bite. No big deal."

Cut to a week later. I had just driven in from Marfa where I'd seen David Garza play (who kept coming up to me to talk. "I think he thinks you're someone else," said my friend Kirsten, especially after he says he's sorry he didn't bring any CDs he could give me. "I don't care. Shut up and go with it," I told her.) and afterward we headed to The Museum of Electronic Wonders and Late-Night Grilled Cheese place, where vintage TVs glow and gourmet grilled cheeses abound. There I met a lovely woman named Tigey, who is known for wearing silver horses' asses as earrings and never shies away from voicing her opinion. Basically, I was having a terrific night, and the drive back to Alpine was so pretty and clear and easy that I was feeling pretty great about life in general.

Then I walked in.

I immediately spotted Mr. Tarantula because he was like a new thing in my living room; a painting or a sculpture, and that was unexpected. I certainly didn't remember leaving a HUGE, BLACK ARACHNID when I left earlier that evening. This was a welcome-home surprise and he was taking up a shit-ton of wall space. It took me approximately .08 seconds to identify the humongous spider and assess the situation. So here's what I did: I screamed.

Petey, my dog, btw, was just chilling on the couch. I think he was happy to have a friend to potentially play with. For Christ's sake, the thing was just big enough to get away with playing tug-of-war with my dog & his toys and maybe even win. 

So I screamed, then I hyperventilated. Then I picked up the phone and woke up Genie in Dallas. Because that was a rational thing to do. Then her husband got on the phone and tried to talk me into getting it down with a broom, but I was scared it was going to scurry off under my couch and I wouldn't be able to live here anymore. I would have to abandon my furniture and my home and take my dog and leave West Texas forever, never to return. And during all this the tarantula and I were kinda staring each other down, and he was saying, "Your move, bitch." And I was like, "nuh-uh." So I hung up the phone and did the only thing I could've possibly done at the moment: I went next door and woke up my neighbor so he could catch it.

Please keep in mind this is Alpine. The restaurants close at 9. Really late-night gas stations close at 10. My neighbor was sound asleep and peaceful when I knocked on his door, close to tears. 

"What's going on?" he said, the door cracked.

"I'm so, so sorry, but there's a tarantula in my house and I'm terrified. Can you help me? Please?"

There was a pause. "Yeah, now's about the time they migrate," he said. "I'll be over in a minute."

Now, the rest is pretty simple and this post is much too long as it is, but suffice it to say that my neighbor Jeff is my hero. He caught the tarantula in a big, plastic cup and released it outside and didn't point and laugh at me (or even yell at me for being a sissy) once. He did say this, though, "You know, in all my 30 years out here, I've never once seen a tarantula in someone's house!"

That struck me as odd. Then, when I told my dad the next day about it, he said something similar. "In all my years in Laredo, I've never heard of one inside a house!" (This was after he laughed and told me he used to love to catch tarantulas as a kid. Weirdo.)

The next day my hero neighbor explained to me the details on the male tarantula's love migration. 

"So the females live their entire lives underground, but the males will come out and, about this time of year, they'll start walking. And it's like an internal compass is guiding them because they'll walk almost in a perfectly straight line looking for their mate. So what I'm guessing happened is that he was on his path in a straight line and it led right up to your door and he walked right in and was headed out the other side but he couldn't find the exit, so he crawled right up the wall," he said. 

"By the way, I'll be by to fix the weatherstripping on your door today." 

So I've been thinking about this, this strange phenomenon of a tarantula hiking its way in a straight line through the desert simply to land at my back door (and then under my door and up my wall). Listen guys, let's face it, I moved out here to change my life, and part of that change meant the hope for meeting new men, but this is NOT what I had in mind. I bet the tarantula and I are of similar minds on this one. That is, if they think, and god help me but I cannot deal with the idea of them thinking. My friend Janie said this of the tarantula, "He was looking for love in all the wrong places."

It's all so silly, but still, it's odd, no? So I'm taking it as a sign that I'm charmed. Or bewitched. Something like that. That little (HUGE) guy found me while on his life's quest. I wish he hadn't, sure, but he did. So let's reframe the horror and make it into some teen goth girl's Wiccan dream. Hooray! Love spiders! Maybe this is foreshadowing of a real love that is also headed for my door. Someone who also is looking for love, doesn't bite, and is sufficiently huge. Spider Man, where are you?!?

And as my neighbor Jeff left my house with a cup full of tarantula at 2 a.m. that Saturday morning, I asked him, with no uncertain sense of panic and urgency, "So what do I do in the meantime to keep other tarantulas out??" 

"Put a towel up against your door stop. It'll keep the bugs from getting in."

So, to the magical love of my life that will one day appear at my door: I hope you don't think it's too weird that I've got about eight towels shoved up against each door in my house at the moment, and probably always will. 

Just consider it West Texas weatherstripping to keep out crawly wayward souls and lovesick desert spiders. Consider it charming. And DON'T EVEN THINK ABOUT TOUCHING IT.

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