Spider Gaze (Dream Journal 11/95)


I remain silent for several hours, trying to nap, my head resting against the cushions lining the window seat. Next to me, a forgotten sewing basket contained needles, embroidery thread, and a half finished table cover. The embroidery abandoned when I focused my full attention, not out of the window on the afternoon sun, but inside on a small brown spider spinning its web in the window's corner.
First, the spider spews a viscous fluid from its mouth which hardens quickly when it is exposed to the room's atmosphere. The fluid forms a line which drops to flutter slightly in the stillness. When the strand reaches a foot in length, the spider slides fearlessly to the thread's end, hovering for an eternity over the window sill. Swinging back and forth, it searches for the strategic spot to attach the first line. Then, gracefully, it weds the thread, first, to the window glass, and then, to the wooden sill. Weaving threadlike girders from the glass to the painted wood and back again to the glass, the spider works from the center outward.
The web doesn't glisten gold or silver in the afternoon sun as it might in a poem or story. Each line, dull and dim, blends into the shadows. In the window, the web signifies nothing; the spider signifies nothing. The spider, driven by its need for home and food works without stopping, driven to super-human effort by instinct. The spider works without thought. The spider's mouth gaps spewing out an endless amount of thread. It utters no words or sound to break the silence. As the web grows, it traps dust, not food, at its center but undaunted the spider works faster.
The size and shape of the spider expands as I move closer to it. When I am within an inch or two, it has grown to a monstrous size, all brown belly and head supported on eight crooked sharply-bent black legs. I move so close that the spider blots out the lace curtain, the window, the chipped paint from my sight. The spider, now one bulging eye unblinking, reflects me entrapped by its gaze.
I listen for the spider's breathing. I believe that I can hear it pant from the exertion of the work. The spider repairs one of the swaying threadlike girders before it retires to the web's center to wait for supper. Again, it remains motionless except for one long leg which it extends first to the left and then to the right.
Once again, lured closer, I, breathless from watching, sigh. The glass clouds from my warm moist breath. Shadows fill the room. Just before setting, the sun's rays break through the fog, and illuminate the clouded window. It laces through the web, projecting a fine criss-cross line which scars my face.

The face I remember at thirty-four.