The worst day of your life only happens once.
“Are you okay?” she asks, handing me a coffee.
I smile, because you can do that even on the worst day of your life. You can drink coffee, too. Drive home without crashing, or hitting anyone. All these things are possible.
I sip the drink, when a guy calls me asking if I want my ducts cleaned. “What do you do to feel better after a day like this?” I ask him. “Cleaning your ducts can help. It makes the air cleaner,” he says. “No, no. Really. What do you do when it’s crashing down? Do you drink? Something else? What really helps you?” A pause. “You don’t want ducts cleaned?”
No, I don’t. I want to drink my coffee and feel like I’m still human. A part of the human collective, viable and important in some way. When the coffee’s gone, I wonder what’s next. What will bring back any feeling of hope. It’s not duct cleaning.
Wine helps. So would a bath. There is light coming through the window, into the bathroom. The tub is warm. But inside that tub is a spider.
I stare at it. This is the thing that’s between me and soaking in the water, that feeling of floating like you don’t exist and hyper-exist at the same time. The place where you can create, and dream, and it’s okay to fail because you know that sooner or later, you’ll find the courage again. You always have in the past. And sometimes, all you need is a bath to remind you of that.
But there’s a spider in the tub…
It would be easy to kill it. Grab some toilet paper, smush it, throw it in the garbage. But I go downstairs and grab a glass jar. Then I rip a piece of cardboard off a pizza box, enough to create a lid.
It’s easy to put the jar over the spider. It scuttles about, sensing that it’s trapped, that its world has suddenly changed. But that doesn’t mean it’ll climb the glass, so that I can slip the cardboard under it. No, it stays down there, scuttling around on a few square inches of bathtub, constrained in that space, boxed in, its entire life defined.
I tip the jar on its side, hoping the spider will climb into it, but it doesn’t. It’s moving everywhere but into the jar. How did you even get into my tub, I ask? Didn’t it occur to you that once you got in, you wouldn’t be able to get out? This tub is now the extent of your life, your whole existence. There’s nothing to eat here. Nowhere to spin your web and catch a meal. This was a bad decision, wasn’t it?
How long have you even been in here? How long have you been starving?
I use the cardboard to push the spider towards the jar. Over and over, I nudge it along, careful not to hurt the thing, because today is the worst day of my life, and I don’t have a reason more meaningful than that. Finally, I flick the cardboard just right, and the spider is in the jar. I put the cardboard on top, and walk downstairs.
It’s early evening of the worst day of my life, and I have a spider in a jar. It would be easy to drown it. Just turn on the tap in the kitchen. It’s incredibly easy to kill this thing, me with all my power, all this power even though this is the worst day of my life.
Instead, I go outside. My grass is filled with clover. A squirrel is watching me from the fence, wondering why I have a spider. I turn up the jar, but the spider doesn’t come out. It’s stuck on the glass, like it likes this world it’s in. There’s nothing to eat in there, I tell it. No companionship. No future. You can’t stay in there. I’m giving you the freedom of grass and clover. I didn’t have to, but this was the worst day of my life. It’ll never happen again, a day this bad. The least I can do is let you go. Give you a place to be, a world so big…
After a little prompting, he falls out of the jar and into the grass. He’s gone. Just vanished. He’s returned to the world, where he can find food. Find a mate. Make little spiders, in my backyard. It’s the type of thing that should make me feel good, on this the worst day of my life.
I go back up to the tub, and there near the drain, is another spider.
No. No. This isn’t right. I did my part. Feeling this bad, I did something good. I deserve gratitude. A moment of being allowed to be by myself in the water, floating in all the worlds, real or unreal. I clench my teeth, angry. I’m just angry. Unwanted. I’m irrelevant, on this day more than any other. I have the power to kill. To destroy. And I want to. I just want to. I want to hurt something the way I’m hurting, because that’s okay. That’s human.
All I want is a bath.
But I go and get the jar again. The cardboard. This spider is smaller than the last one. Faster. Come on, I tell it, as it avoids the jar again and again. The light in the bathroom dims, as the sun sets. I turn the light on and keep trying to catch the spider. It’s getting late. It’s getting very late for me, on this the worst day of my life.
But I catch it eventually. It’s in the bottom of the jar. When I get outside, it’s night. I can barely see the spider. It’s scuttling around, nowhere to go. A tiny world where it’s boxed in, unable to escape. This has been the worst day of your life, too, right? You can tell me. You can confess, it’s okay. Falling into that bathtub, and then I took away your only friend, so you were alone for a stretch. Totally alone in that strange world. And now you’re here, in this jar.
I stand there and talk to it for a while, and the spider tells me yes, it was. It still is a really bad day, maybe the worst a spider can ever have. I don’t know how it started, or why it ended up this way, me in that tub and now in this jar. Things kept happening to me, like I didn’t have any control. I had a friend with me, for a while, and then he just vanished. He always used to tell me that there is probably something in this world that has more power than we spiders, and that defines who we are, and what’s going to become of us. It looks like he might have been right. I don’t know if I’ll see him again. I don’t know where he is, or if he’s okay. Through the glass of this jar, I can see a much bigger world, the place I want to be, but right now I can’t touch it.
I know, I tell him. I see that world, too. Then I let him go.