Whenever I tell someone I lived in Hawaii for several years, they invariably ask what I miss about it. They assume (rightfully so) that the never-ending sunshine, white sandy beaches, warm turquoise oceans, and breathtaking plumeria growing outside your bedroom window would be aptly named “Paradise,” and no one in their right mind wouldn’t want to live there.
What haoles don’t know about is the “wildlife.” No, I’m not talking about lions, tigers, and bears. I’m referring to the geckos (without the cute accent, the briefcase, and the TV contract), centipedes (nasty and fast, who lie in wait in warm, dark places, and whose sting feels like 100 pissed-off wasps. You quickly learn to check your shoes and your sheets before getting into either), and the spiders. OMG, the spiders.
Cane spiders are roughly the size of your hand. Lay your hand on a table, spread your fingers wide, and look down. If it was dark brown and hairy, it would be a cane spider. They love warm, damp places. As in your shower.
In the 50-year-old, plantation-style house we were renting, the bathroom was semi-attached to the back. We were told that this was a common custom, so the plantation workers could shower or go to the bathroom without having to enter the main part of the house. It wasn’t until later that we discovered that plantation workers and cane spiders used the same access door to the bathroom.
The first time I found a cane spider in my shower, I blinded half a dozen neighbors by accidentally dropping my towel and running, screaming and buck-naked, out the bathroom door to get back to the house. I didn’t shower for three days, waiting for him to leave, until my son finally asked if Mom was ever going to smell good again. Okay, Big Guy, I’m coming in.
After several morning showers together, Big Guy and I became fast friends. He would hang upside down on the side of the wall like a squirrel up a tree, close to my head, and peer at me through ridiculously long eyelashes while I told him about my plans for the day. He’d hang perfectly still until I was done, except for the occasional blink. I’d talk, he’d blink. This went on for several months. During that time, I learned that cane spiders are actually quite timid and won’t bite unless provoked or scared. As I grew more fond of him, I had to resist all urges to reach out and pet him, and he seemed quite content with our morning routine.
One day, I pulled the shower curtain back and Big Guy was gone. My morning confidante had simply vanished. I never saw him again, and will always wonder what happened to him or if he remembers me. (I know, it’s a spider. Their brains appear to be quite small. But we don’t know for sure, do we?) When he left, he took my fear of spiders with him. This came in handy years later, when Hubs and I got married.
Hubs is deathly afraid of all things arachno. My big, athletic, motorcycle-riding contractor jumps up on a chair and screams like a little girl if he sees the tiniest spider, even if it’s running in the opposite direction. He’ll go after snakes, skunks, and even the 350-pound neighbor if he’s getting too flirty with his wife, but spider patrol is emphatically and permanently my marital responsibility.
Early one morning, I was in the bedroom getting dressed, when I felt a little tickling sensation running up my calf. Thinking it had to be a spider or a bug of some sort, and wanting to stop it before it reached my girl stuff, I started vigorously shaking my leg like a dog after a tree pee, simultaneously hopping on one foot while trying to peel my jeans off. Hubs came around the counter, took one look, and burst into apparently uncontrollable laughter. “If you’re working on your shimmy dance,” he managed to choke out, “sorry babe, but that move is more spastic than sexy. Maybe there are easier moves, you know, for older women.”
For older women??
I pointed to the large spider that fell out of my pant leg and hit the hardwood floor with a thud. Hubs immediately tore down the hall, screaming like a hyena for me to “KILLLLL IT!!” while I ran to get a paper towel before it disappeared from sight.
As I was scooping up our hairy intruder, I held it up to Hubs and replied, “Spastic this, buddy. And when you come down off that chair, we can critique that move.”
We’re planning our second honeymoon. I’m thinking Hawaii is not gonna happen.