Wednesday, February 07, 2007

My Fear of Spiders

6th grade camp.
Camp Marston; Julian, California: 150 or so miles outside of San Diego.

... I was already not a fan of spiders.. I'd never been one of those kids who played with bugs and due to an incident I remember vividly, in Iran (I got food poisoning, was taken to a hospital, strapped into a bed while getting an IV and watched as a spider descended from the ceiling onto a bed strapped-me, age 6) .. let's just say spiders were not my friends.
... San Diego has it's fair share of spiders. In houses, backyards, schools, wherever. It's something most people there ignore but the arachnophobic are always checking for. The fear, for me at least, was never so much based on the actual spider as it was, say.. walking into a spider web and not knowing if you'd picked up an eight legged hitch hiker that'd hide out in your hair only to crawl out onto your neck and then, somehow, who knows.. maybe straight into your brain, making you part of his zombie spider army. Or worse, he could get inside your clothes to where you'd never know if you'd smooshed him into groddy flatness or if he was setting up shop for later panicky discovery. Either way, nothing ends well where spiders and humans are concerned.

Back to Camp Marston.
... One week at camp. A week away from home. We were directed to our cabins, where we all instantly noticed the large number of daddylong legs in every spider friendly corner and bunkbed and locker in the room. No. Ohhhh, Oh No, no no no. I will not be sleeping here like this. Broom in hand, I (and I think another non-friend-to-spiders cabin-mate) set about whacking the hell out of and sweeping out as many of the bastards as we could. Especially in the bunk area, because... I get the shivers even thinking about trying to sleep with spiders all around. It was mostly a lost cause - I slept, or tried to, the first night with my sleeping bag cinched tight over my head and had constant worry that they were getting in anyway. No. I really don't think I can do another six days of this.
... I labored through the next few days trying to have fun and not think about spiders, and mostly I did.. have fun, that is. It was typical 6th grade camp stuff complete with earth ball, field games (soccer, football and such), archery, making boondoggles, field trip hikes to a waterfall / rock jump into a pool, mess hall, a dance (6th grade camp would not be complete without girls and 6th-grade-flirting), a rain drenched hike into Julian... all that part was great. Really great. The stuff that cement memories and shape personalities. And yet.. there were still spiders. Still. Spiders. Lots.
... To say that I was mostly ignoring the spiders would be outright, dangerously, irresponsibly incorrect. I was having a series of moments of intense enjoyment of 6th grade camp, where spiders were temporarily not a part of my universe, and then I was also having moments of WOAH-what-the-GET-it-AWAY-from-ME-Oh-My-GET-Me-OUT-of-AAAAH! There was no playing-it-cool. Nonchalance is STILL not at all a part of the game when it comes to spiders. I freak the fuck out, that's all there is to it. Nowadays, I can often kill them myself but back then? Forget about it. I either needed a smooshing device on the end of a large pole, or I needed someone to do it for me (and then I needed visible proof of said smooshed bastard).
... 6th grade camp. Camp Marston. Today is the day we do "art projects". Art projects, it turns out, consists of making plaster of paris molds and then painting them. All the good molds were taken so I got a horse's head. Great. 'Cause, you know.. I'm all into horses and all. I dont remember filling it with plaster of paris, I only remember sitting down to start painting it. We sat, perhaps 40 of us, at wooden picnic benches in an indoor/outdoor sort of arts & crafts room and painted away. I sat with four or five others at a table, me being closest to the wall. About halfway through painting, I felt a tickle on my knee. I was pretty focused on my plaster of paris horse head (painting a horse head solid brown requires a LOT of concentration) so when the tickle happened again, I didn't really think anything about it and just brushed at the itching again with my hand. It happened again and.. self consciousness began to retake hold of my .. spidey-senses. (sorry, I had to) I didn't want to look. And I had to look. Quickly.. but ... I really didn't want to know. I was sitting approximately two feet away from the wall and had about a foot clearance from the bottom of the picnic table to my knee. What I saw was .... a ball. a ball of heaping, interconnected, mass of spiders, all hanging on to eachother, all teeming and repositioning themselves, moving independently but moving as a collective, a hive mind that had decided... to... at that moment... connect itself to my knee.
... No.
... It happened in. a. flash. It happened.. as one fluid motion of sheer terror. My brain in fast motion, synapses firing overtime to coordinate every muscle in my body to get me the holy fuck out of there as soon as sooner than humanly possible. I got up. Screaming blood terror. And I ran. and Ran. sprinting. past counsellors, past campers, past trees and rocks and if there had been a bear in my path waiting to devour me, I would have ran past him too. It was the only time in my life where, about halfway through this sprint of holy dread, I thought to myself "I should probably stop running, I'm just going to have to walk back". But I couldn't. I kept running. I ran. kept running. And ran some more.
... When I finally made it back to camp, 45 minutes later, I was over it. 6th grade camp could go fuck itself. Seriously, I was o-ver it. Done. To the payphones. I called my parents and told them what happened. My mom put on her best aww-honey tone and did a truly great job of, I'm sure, stifling laughter but no, they were not going to drive 150 miles to come get me. I would have to stick it out for a few more days. I protested, she consoled and gave a rousing pep talk and that was that. The futility of trying to get out of there early was obvious so.. fine. I will stay. Which I did. But.. I was changed.
... To see me and my state of mind after this trauma was to witness a 12 year old Vietnam vet who'd just returned from three tours of duty and had developed a jolly good amphetamine and cough syrup habit. Paranoia was the name of the game those last few days. Violent fists of fury lashed out to destroy the bodies and souls of anything that even looked like a spider (sorry John, that punch that crushed your face really was meant for what I thought was a spider on you). It was all I could do to keep some semblance of normalcy as a front, lest I be sent to the nurse and severely medicated.
... Day 7. My parents brown station wagon never looked so good as it pulled into the parking lot. I threw my stuff in the back, hugged my parents and because I knew I'd be leaving soon, I could finally play it cool. Like it was no big deal. "Great" they said, "I understand we're doing an outdoor barbeque? for all the parents? right?" Oh. Uhm. Right. Yeah. Forgot about that. I have to ... sit outside.. on picnic benches and at picnic tables... and ... eat some damn barbeque before I leave. Why lord? you heartless bastard. you think this is funny, dont you?
... Thankfully, the day somehow, someway, finally ended and we piled in the car, heading for home. I literally had to try very hard to not answer every question of "so how was it?", "what did you do?" with something related to spiders. It was .. cool.. I said. I liked the waterfall (no spiders underwater!) We stopped at southern-California-famous Dudley's Bakery, got some delicious breads and such and continued on home, as I occasionally scanned the car with cracked-out intensity for some straggler, ninja-like, stealthy master-of-hiding. An eight legged terrorist.

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