I aimed my camera at the spider and she promptly scurried up her web, turning her back on me. “Don’t,” she said, “I look terrible today”. She was a beautiful spider almost the size of my palm, with spindly legs which had a healthy shine. Her web stretched across most of the suburban garden in which she lived, spanning the space between the two trees planted on either side.
“I’ve been so busy today”, she says, emerging from the bedroom into which she had retreated as soon as she had let me in. Now she set a teapot onto the heavy table, the polished, heavy, authoritative table. The room is impossibly neat and quietly judgemental. I feel smaller and somewhat dirtier here, as if I have gone back in time to some childhood afternoon spent listening to some great-aunt prattle while chewing slowly on a dry biscuit, conscious of the crumbs on leather.
Two years ago, I had helped her drag her suitcase with the broken wheels and two plastic boxes up the street and around the corner, from one overcrowded city apartment to yet another overpriced mouldy room in another. There we had extracted two dresses from the known total of her personal belongings, and gone out for the night in them without stopping to shower, her in scratched heels and me in the flats I had been wearing all day. One of those heels were broken by the end of the night, still attached to the shoe and dragging behind it like a dead mouse as she stumbled up the stairs. She had snapped it while hysterically confronting some guy she had broken up with the week before, who we had run into by accident. I had gazed calmly at her as she essentially threw a tantrum, so used to her that I just dismissed this all as “Myra”.
Myra, who approached life as if she was drowning, clung obsessively from one false hope to another, fought and clawed desperately, who was tired of treading water, who didn’t know which way to go. Myra was a mess.
Her very name seemed inadequate, clumsy, confused- I could hear the contempt in the voice of those who addressed her sometimes. It was tangible and I wanted to grab hold of it and dissect it and name it, so that I could separate myself from it forever. “You’re not really her friend”, I wanted to say more than once, and more often, to Myra, “she’s not really your friend.” But I didn’t say these things anymore, had stopped when I realised people no longer understood what I meant. Myra remained oblivious. She approached all relationships with the same softness as she did with men. That softness was not a tenderness or vulnerability, but rather a spongy wetness, soaked with need. It made people judge her for being weak.
Now I realised that the name “Myra” had suddenly changed, into a staid, traditional name from another generation, like Maude or Maureen. There was a blank, clear, thoughtless comfort in how she recited recent events to me, in how she scanned her home and belongings, in how her hand gently rested on the side of her cup.