Anansi is a West African God that often takes the shape of a spider. He is a trickster and a storyteller. Word is, he stole all the stories.
I started my trail ride today with the most beautiful light. I had wonderful feelings and wonderful thoughts. I felt sharp and I knew I needed to be because Anansi and all his friends usually occupy webs all across the trail lately. Big round webs right in the middle of where I need to ride. I’ve often gone early all through the summer and don’t remember the spiders being this bad. Usually it’s just a long string stretched across the trail from tree to tree.
Anansi is getting bold. He’s getting ballsy. He might be out for blood. But more than likely, he’s out for a good laugh.
My fear of spiders isn’t as bad as it used to be. It all changed one day when I was cleaning out the light fixtures in my living room. I saw something odd shaped in the corner of the square glass and used my point and shoot to take a picture of it before actually getting my face up in there.
It was the biggest, hairiest, dead spider I’ve ever seen in real life. Not a house spider. He had a beard. And 5 trillion eyes. I took a dozen photos of it next to pencils and whatever I could find to prove to the internets that this thing was not normal. But you know how dead spiders look; all crumply and small.
After that, those stupid brown spiders that like to hide in your shoes seemed like cake. I bravely squashed them, impressing my small humans. I was the mom who killed spiders and didn’t cry. Bring me all your spiders! I have magazines and shoes and I will squish them and laugh. And then we’ll all have actual cake.
So today on the trail, I did my normal dodging around the webs. The light was catching them just right and I felt like I had special powers that enabled me to see into other dimensions. Spider dimensions.
And then my thoughts drifted off into nonsense. Who knows what I was thinking about. Probably trying to figure out who stole my tweezers out of my bathroom and worrying about my chin hairs getting too long again. Chin hairs getting caught in my chain would be catastrophic.
Then, boom. Web in my face. RIGHT IN MY FACE. A BIG ROUND ONE. This is what happens to my dimensional seeing powers when I think about chin hairs. Now I had a face full of web and probably Anansi crawling on me. I remembered my friend had said she had a similar experience the other day riding on another trail and after almost stripping completely down right on the trail, found him on her helmet.
I didn’t go that far. But I did a cute dance, spit out some fancy, colorful language and tried to assess whether Anansi was on me somewhere. I had miles to ride, damn it. I ate an entire small pizza yesterday, gluten and dairy free, that was delicious, but still. The whole thing.
I got back on my bike, pedaled a few times, still entirely agitated from the encounter and BOOM. Another face full of web.
This time I threw down my bike, did a chaotic moonwalk-slash-hokey-pokey-jitterbug thing all over the trail, checked my watch to make sure my heart rate wasn’t too high and said,
“Fuck you Anansi. Get off my damn trail.” Along with a lot more fancy, colorful language.
This time, I threw my helmet down, felt my head, all while whimpering and trying not to cry.
When I gathered myself again, I rode very slowly, told myself to calm down several times, looking very carefully. The light wasn’t hitting all the webs anymore. Anansi was hiding, trying to trick me. I’m not sure why, since I don’t have any stories to steal.
Hello? Writer’s block?! Anansi either doesn’t read my blog or isn’t very smart.
But I did start feeling guilty for what I’d said about him. This was his trail, of course. And I never ride down any trail actively killing spiders. I try to avoid them and go on my way.
Eventually the trail cleared and I passed some other riders. I had my ear buds on and couldn’t hear as one of them shouted something at me, pointing to where they had just come from. What did he say? I imagined it had something to do with Anansi. It was a warning. A foreshadowing. I imagined the spider from Lord of the Rings sitting happily on the trail to eat me. But the other riders didn’t look scared. Perhaps he was saying something about a portal to another dimension had opened up around mile marker 363 and that’s why they had turned around. I obsessed over it for awhile.
Then a few more miles down, a perfect storm of ingredients came together.
Suddenly, one of my running mixes came on and I pulled my phone out to skip the track. At the same moment, the biggest glob of snot made it’s way to that spot in your throat that you have to make a choice: spit it out or swallow it. I made the decision to spit it out, while my phone was in my hand.
Then with my other hand, I hit my hand brake.
The next thing I know, I had flown sideways off my bike, into another web, and landed flat on the side of the trail. I couldn’t even catch myself. Just CLUNK, on my side, just like that. I have no idea why I would’ve hit the brake. I never hit the brake when I’m changing a song OR spitting out snot.
So I sat there for a few minutes stunned, finally got up, brushed myself off, put all my stuff back in my bike bag and turned around and rode home, trying desperately to figure out how or why I hit that brake.
One word: Anansi.
I don’t know how he did it, but it doesn’t matter now. He won that round. And now I’m afraid of spiders again.