Monday, October 12, 2009

There Will Always Be Spiders, By Erica Orloff

Kill me.

I stared at him, thinking he had made a mistake. That I had made a mistake. I went back through the cards. No mistake.

Kill me.

I couldn’t face him, so I looked out the window at the sun until my eyes hurt. Then I stood up, my back to him. You know, it’s all a hypothetical until it happens to you.

I remember where we were. Exactly. Precisely. Sitting in a restaurant in L.A., and Christopher Reeve was two tables over in a giant wheelchair with all this apparatus, looking more like a Transformer than a person.

“If that ever happens to me,” Micah said. “Kill me.”

“Me, too,” I said, watching someone spoon-feed Superman. I lifted my glass of merlot. “Just put a pillow over my head.”

Later that night, after we made love in our hotel, he spooned around me and whispered in my ear. “I mean it.”

“Mean what?”

“If we couldn’t do this . . . if I ended up like that, kill me. Make me a promise.”

“I promise,” I whispered. Like promising you will love someone forever, you mean it at the time. I did.

He couldn’t hold me to it. Simple. He couldn’t hold me to a promise. I spun around. “No. I won’t. I can’t. I love you.”

I pulled the chair closer to his bed and sat down. “You’re still here. You can still communicate.”

His eyes drifted to the cards. His face twitched.

I leaned close to him and put my lips to his forehead, letting my tongue trace its way to his black curls. The curls I twined around my fingers. The curls that made me tremble the first time we did it, falling to the floor and tearing off each other’s clothes in a scene that now made me wake up sobbing with the memory.

He could feel my tongue on his forehead. I tried to pretend that was enough, licking the saltiness. Tasting him.

“Why now?” I wanted him to tell me.

He spelled it out.

“Look behind you.”

I turned around. What? What the hell was I looking for that would mean it was time to kill him? Time to die. A picture on the wall of us. The window. What?

And then I saw them.

Spiders. Spinning a web in the corner of the window.

Screaming, I tore at them, killed them one at a time, smashing their guts onto the window panes with my bare hands, shrieking at them. “Get away!”

I faced Micah, sobbing. “Did they . . . climb on you?”


“Well, that’s not good enough, Micah.” I stared down at my palms covered in insect guts and blood. “Not a good enough reason.”

I refused to hold up the cards. Sun set. The room grew dark. I could hear the oxygen filling his lungs, this dependency that would never, ever, ever get better.

Finally, I switched on the light. I stroked his forehead, his face. I placed my tongue next to his eyes and flicked sensuously, begging him. “Please . . . Micah.”

I knew better to argue with him when he was able-bodied. That he hadn’t been able to move anything but his eyelids for a year shouldn’t have mattered.

I held up the cards.

Please, Baby. There will always be spiders.


LurkerMonkey said...

Wow. I loved, loved, loved your use of the spiders here. It really told a whole story, and although I was grossed out by the licking, it made me understand this woman better.

Only one line hit me wrong: "Screaming, I tore at them, killed them one at a time, smashing their guts onto the window panes with my bare hands, shrieking at them." Maybe one tetch too far for me.

But really, great. I was excited to post it.

Erica Orloff said...

Wow, Lurker. Thanks! I knew it was not the direction most would go with it. But . . .

And I really re-worked the gut-smashing scene a couple of times. I thought if it was underdone, it wouldn't lead to her conclusion . . . but . . . I hear you.

And the licking . . . well, I was hoping to convey two people who were once very sexual together and trying to preserve something of that.

Thanks! I was nervous about this one.

Melanie Avila said...

I really enjoyed this, particularly because my cousin's companion is in a wheelchair very very similar to the one Christopher Reeves used and I often wonder about their intimacy. I think you've painted a touching image of their love.

As for the spiders, I'm glad they died.

Erica Orloff said...

I was actually in LA at a Book Expo at some "in" restaurant and he was at the very next table and it was a GINORMOUS chair with so much attached equipment. The van he arrived in, everything . . . pretty intense.

Natasha Fondren said...

Oh my god, just the thought of spiders crawling on you and being unable to do anything about it just fills me with horror. But I'm scared of spider guts even more than I'm scared of them crawling on me, so the whole scene where she smashed the spiders was even more terrifying, lol!

Chilling story, and really sad at the same time. I could never do that. Not strong enough, lol.

Erica Orloff said...

As a mother, I have smashed bugs about to bit my kids with my bare hands. You get over it. LOL! But the crawling thing . . . terrifies me. As does any kind of "locked-in" syndrome.


E. Flanigan said...

I'm with you, Erica .... locked-in syndromes are terrifying. In particular, I like how the depiction of Micah's paralysis works as a metaphor for being the insect in a spider's web, paralyzed and helpless. This guy is in a web of sorts, and unfortunate enough to know it. The image is there, even if it's on an unconscious level.

I also like the way you started the story with the communication board. It took a minute for it to sink in, what was going on. Can you imagine how pissed you'd be if the only way you could communicate was with your eyes, and then the person refused to hold up the cards? Talk about paralysis. Not being able to communicate would be like death.

Great job, a very creepy and gross story for grown-ups!

Erica Orloff said...

A a communicator (we all are . . . humans are, but as someone who makes her living in that fashion, in particular), I tried to imagine the pure frustration of communicating letter by letter.


Jude Hardin said...

I like that you explored the assited suicide issue from a different angle this time. Reminded me of Million Dollar Baby, and what a difficult thing that would be to deal with.

All of us old folks remember Christopher Reeve, that he was Superman in the movies and that he had a riding accident that left him a quad. But I wonder if people in, say, their twenties, even recognize the name. I was talking to a twenty-four-year-old guy a while back who didn't know who Paul Newman was. Argh! Anyway, it's always something of a risk mentioning real people as references in fiction.

There were a couple of verb tense issues that confused me a bit initially:

I remember where we were. I think it has to be remembered. Either that or change the whole flashback part to present tense and put it in italics or something.

I knew better to argue with him when he was able-bodied. That he hadn’t been able to move anything but his eyelids for a year shouldn’t have mattered.

I think this needs to go into past-perfect somehow.

Anyway, great story, and I loved the last line!

(I just asked my son if he knows who Christopher Reeve is, and he does--through an episode of South Park, LOL).