Around the start of April I had someone new move in.
It was early one morning and I stumbled half asleep into my bathroom to take a shower. As I stood there with the water hitting my face, muttering, “You can do this” and trying not to fall back asleep under the soothing warm flow, I turned around with shampoo in my hair to see a tiny spider building a web in my open bathroom window.
Now my normal reaction when seeing any spider is to let out a non-manly scream, run around for a bit with flapping hands, and then find the nearest rolled up magazine to twat the little bastard into oblivion, and this was the exact same reaction I had when I saw my new housemate for the first time. So as I stood there with a bottle of Lynx shower gel in my hand, ready to unleash furious, yet great smelling, vengeance on the home intruder, something magical happened that made me stop and actually watch him.
The effort that this tiny creature was making in creating a new home for himself was phenomenal. His little body was contorting left and right as he spun little threads from himself, hooking others with his legs and connecting them up, building something beautiful right in front of my eyes. I must have lost myself for at least five minutes in just watching this amazing feat of nature taking place before me, until the sudden realisation hit me that I was in fact standing soapy and stark bollock naked in from of my window for all my neighbours to see, and quickly ducked down out of sight before they called the police.
As I dried myself off, the spider was still building and I just simply didn’t have the heart to destroy it and the new home it was making. The almost superspider effort that it took to even get the basics of the web up and running was almost too pure and good for my stupid and ignorant hands to tear down. So after wishing it: good luck, I got ready for work and forgot all about it.
When I returned home, the web was complete and the small spider was sitting proudly in the centre, tiny legs splayed out around it to detect the stirring of anything stupid enough to fly into its strands. The web swayed gently in the Spring air, a monument to hard work, unwavering self belief, and the heart rending beauty of the natural world.
There was no way I was getting rid of it. What right did I have? When had I ever creating anything half as beautiful as this?
“I shall call you......... Stephen,” I said with awe in my voice, feeling as if we were going to live together, he might as well have a name.
So Stephen he was.
Stephen and I began cohabiting in an almost serene sense of bonhomie. Every morning I would jump into my shower after wishing Stephen a “Good morning” and upon seeing me he would bounce up and down in his web, shaking his miniature body into a blur of motion. Now those of you armed with “facts” will tell me that spiders do this in their natural habitat to warn off predators when they get too near their webs. This is false. Stephen did it because he was pleased to see me every morning. That’s what it was, yeah? Deal with it.
As I showered every morning, Stephen would dodge steam, flying droplets, and the sight of my naked body (easy ladies). He began to see me at all stages of my daily routine. When I was half asleep in the morning, just before I went to bed sleepily at night, getting ready to go out, coming in tired from work, coming home drunk, he saw it all. And he never judged, nor passed comment like others would. He either hung there, getting fat from all the insects that passed near the open window, or would retreat to the tiny crack between the window and wall, where he would sleep, the only evidence of him being tiny legs just sitting on the threads of his home.
He also became part of my home.
I had never formed a friendship with an insect before (there was one time when I got close to a woodlouse, but in many ways, neither of us really want to talk about that much anymore), but this arachnid became a regular staple of my daily life. He was something constant, always there in the background, and it surprised me how OK I was with this and how quickly I accepted it.
And then yesterday, something happened.
I got into my shower and did my morning ritual of turning to see how Stephen was.
He wasn’t good.
H e was moving sluggishly in the centre of his web, fumbling to latch onto the different strands with weak legs. It was obvious something was wrong, but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t help him; all I could do was watch.
After giving him one final glance, I left for work. When I returned home, the web was empty. I peered into his little home in the gap by the window, but could see any evidence of him.
Stephen was gone.
When I got into my shower this morning, Stephen was back. He hung silently in the centre of his web; body a tiny husk, devoid of any life. I stopped and blinked for a few moments. I actually felt a bit, sad? I’d seen this tiny creature grow and mature over the last few months and now I was privy to his death, it didn’t feel right. It felt stupid to be sad over an insect, but it was such a short life for any creature.
I opened the window wider, pulling apart his ever familiar web, and a gentle morning Autumn breeze caught his frail body and carried it away like a dead leaf as I watched it tumble away.
Having such a close proximity to something that would normally exist far outside my life has taught me two things.
1) That all life, no matter how small or insignificant, plays out in exactly the same way. You’re born, you struggle to make a home for yourself, and then you try and survive the best you can before you die. So it’s up to you to try and make the best of every single opportunity that takes place throughout that journey. No one else will do it for you; it won’t be handed on a plate. Stephen taught me that.
2) I really need to get out a bit more and talk to real people. I made friends with a spider.
Stephen, it was far too short, but it was an experience knowing you.