Natalie Vestin: For a While, For the Summer


Vestin ponders the want of small things @ Identity Theory.

It happens quickly, this fondness for a spider living in a corner of my bathroom. She’s been there for weeks, and one day, I look down and watch her. And we come to an understanding, or at least, I pretend to understand her, as if I’d just misunderstood a reflection of myself in a mirror and was shocked for a moment to discover a twin.

When I began grad school, I moved into a garden-level apartment within walking distance of campus. The apartment flooded occasionally and let all kinds of insects in its windows. Its neighbors made endless batches of curry, the smell of cumin and turmeric always in the hallway. I got a job at a café several blocks away and worked evenings, walking home after midnight with a large cup of leftover coffee I warmed on the stove and drank while I did my homework.

I’m sick much of that summer, with migraines, with stomachaches caused by statistics classes and eating only food from the café. At night, when I sit on the bathroom floor with my legs tucked under me, rubbing menthol on my throbbing temples or curling my chest over my sore middle, I am nearly eye to eye with the spider. What does she do all night? I am only learning to live alone, to trust the long moments of quiet, the afternoons reading with my legs on the top of the couch, the walk down the dark and narrow hallway at the end of the day, fumbling with my keys and pretending I am being chased as I did climbing the basement stairs as a child.
I’m fascinated by the spider’s choice of a solitary life, or whatever it is that choice is called when it’s governed by instinct in a species that must follow certain behavioral rules. Funny to think I would overcome arachnophobia with a healthy admiration for a spider’s lifestyle. I watch her like other girls listen to Bikini Kill or analyze feminism on Sex and the City. I want an example, a model for how to live independently, with the smallest bit of indifference and anonymity, without fear, for a while, for the summer.

Image: Andrzej Maciejewski @ F-Stop Magazine

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