A very brief portion of 1999:
What was the significance of the massive black widow in the garden? I didn’t know, but I knew as soon as I killed her that I shouldn’t have. Such things should be left alone. I knew where the massive spider lived, strangely out in the open at the base of a maple. Her abdomen was the size of a dime, it was full like a drum and looking at it felt like a sound in my throat. She was three inches in diameter, with legs quick to scramble and so precisely pointed that I could feel them on my arms.
She was too close to the house, too big for the world. That’s what I thought, though I knew I was wrong. I did apologize, I said “I’m sorry.” As the Queen’s legs began close toward her shiny, black body, a small deep regret bloomed in me and all the wars of the worlds slowly began to wake up inside of me.
Why is it that a spider’s death in late-1999 is remotely important in the world? Well, as I said, this all started with a belief in magic.
I didn’t, at the time, credit the death of the spider with my own slow millenial unraveling and I’m not entirely sure I do now. However, that is the story that came to mind when I wrote the word “magic” and so that is the story I began to tell.
After the spider died a horrible chemical death, a death I watched and perpetrated, the world wasn’t quite the same. I thought I’d make the yard a nice place, with no spiders and flowers around the trees. The flowers wouldn’t grow and the ants swarmed my ankles every time I tried to make the yard a place to sit.
I began a slow grief, for nothing, for everything. My work at graduate school became clumsy, I couldn’t concentrate on papers, because they didn’t seem to matter. I told myself that this was because it was all reiteration, “an academic circle jerk” and an exercise in tedious formatting and the death of original ideas. I gave myself philosophical reasons for caring less and less and less.
The Fall after the Summer I killed the Queen was a disaster. I dropped out of school. I went to the coast with a boy who didn’t even like me. I was cold and callous to a friend who’d traveled across the country to see me. She got my name tattooed on her arm and, in a fit of defiant toughness, I got wings tattooed on my palms. They are still there.
I did not go to NY to see the New Year in. I stayed at home on the edge of Athens and wrote, “Fuck you, fuck New Years, and fuck these shoes.” on the door of my bedroom, in reference to people in general, the day, and the shoes that made me stand taller than taller and that I wore when I wanted to feel beautiful and imposing.
My life got smaller and smaller and I tried to figure out a way to buy a ramshackle house in N. Florida, a property I’d found on the still-young internet and that looked hot and lonesome and the perfect place to forget the world and to be forgotten.
At some point, after days of seering emotion and confusion, dull desperation, hopelessness, shame that felt like whips on my back and left me loathe to even look at myself, I decided to take every pill I had in the house. That was a lot of pills. I called my mother as my vision began to ping and my voice got thick. Some people came, put a tube down my throat.
When they let me go home, the releasing doctor said, “Cut the crap. Stop taking money from your parents. Get a job.”
I ended up going home to South Georgia, where I did get a job, at a dog kennel where I could sit and read all day. That summer, I did find a horse skull in the woods and that summer I did drink the salty sulfured water at the edge of the creek. I was looking for magic I’d never learned about in old bone and brackish water.
That Summer, I did leave home again. By the time, I was 23, I had been leaving home for almost 7 years. Now, it’s been several years since I’ve visited South Georgia, Shadowlawn. For a long time, I always went back. Home was, I thought, where the magic was.
Then I began to find magic everywhere and all places became Home, though I did feel that I had ceased to belong anywhere.