Once upon a time, not so long ago, I lived with the artist Monica Millan in Buenos Aires. She is from the subtropical province of Missiones in Argentina and often works with communities in Paraguay. This is why, when I told her about a scary spider I saw in the bathroom one morning, and she asked me how big it was, after showing her with my two fingers making a small circle, she said, “Ah, no es nada!! En Missiones…” then she put her two hands together to make the largest circle she could, to show me the size of beasts they have up there.
She reassured me they were harmless and wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t bother them. The usual speech. Then I remembered some strange marks I had found on my arm, in a circular pattern, and I showed them to her. “Ah, si. De una araña…” she said with a shrug of her shoulders. So they do bite! And likely while you’re sleeping!
It was then that I noticed the spider tattoo on the back of Monica’s neck, and also the spider on the tank top she often wore around the house. Living with someone who revered what I feared, I had some work to do.
Some weeks later, when Bergitta moved out (a tango-dancing Swedish painter who had been living there) I changed bedrooms. I moved into the wood-paneled room with a window onto the garden. The one with the orange light, magenta mosquito net and the spider painting hanging on the wall.
One night there was a full moon. I went to sleep with its silver-blue light shining directly on my pillow. Sometime in the middle of the night, straight out of a deep sleep, I abruptly opened my eyes. And I opened them WIDE. What I saw, was a fat-bodied spider dangling right above my face, back-lit by the full moon. I heard my voice whisper, “ooohh…my god,” as I slid horizontally off of the bed, out from under gravity’s pull on that 8-legged body, and switched on the lights. I inspected the hell out of that wood-paneled room and found nothing but my own fear.
Standing in the middle of the room, now having put on my tennis shoes, I asked, what the hell just happened? Was that real? And even now, I’m convinced the sequence of events began with opening my eyes and that it wasn’t a dream. But like a big baby, from then on I slept with the lights on, so that during the night I could wake up and immediately scan the room for anything menacing. Though after that, I didn’t see another spider. The only pests remaining were the mosquitoes.