A large, grey-brown spider distracted me from reading yesterday afternoon after her downward movement appeared in my peripheral vision. I immediately wondered why a basement spider was building a web in the living room. In all the years spent in this house, I’d never witnessed any of the basement spiders wandering upstairs.
I have a love-hate relationship with some spider species. I’m fascinated by cute ones, like jumpers, but averse to certain large garden spiders and huge, homely basement spiders. My ambivalence towards most unattractive spiders manifests as peaceful coexistence with the creatures.
I leave the basement spiders alone to themselves in the basement because I understand their usefulness in keeping the house free of insects. When I’m in the basement to get something or put something in storage, I collide with webs. I don’t like having the sticky webs in my hair or clothing. At the same time, I know that webs are essential survival tools for my eight-legged allies. I just wish they wouldn’t spin webs across my usual walking path.
I observed the basement spider for several minutes to understand what her intentions in the living room might be. She had already spun enough webbing to curtain a small area of the room’s southwest upper corner. This is the time of year when many spiders lay eggs and cover them in webbing.
I decided to fetch my bug-catching plastic cup and a square of thin cardboard. I didn’t want a brood of basement spiders to colonize the living room or anywhere else upstairs. I trapped the big spider in the cup, slid the cardboard across the cup’s lip, then carried the creature outdoors. I released her onto a shrub behind the garage near the riverbank. I wondered if she’ll make her way into the garage or remain on the vegetation to lay her eggs.
As I watched the spider orient herself to her new surroundings, I pondered my ambivalent attitudes–not only about spiders, but a new next-door neighbor. To respect his privacy, I’ll call him Bill.
Bill and his toddler-age daughter moved into the four-plex next door this June. On moving-in day, he crossed the apartment building’s lawn to introduce himself. Bill had noticed me trimming the small shrub that grows on the property line near the street curb. Bill had just relocated from Sioux City, Iowa to work at the Wal-Mart here in Norfolk, Nebraska.
While we engaged in courteous small-talk, I noticed that Bill didn’t maintain good eye-contact with me. He continuously glanced at my yard, the house, the street, and towards the house across the street. At first, I attributed his shifting gaze to curiosity about his new neighborhood. Yet, it seemed odd that Bill didn’t maintain a normal amount of eye-contact while he talked to me. I speculated that he might be casing the neighborhood with nefarious intentions. This was simply my first impression, based on intuition.
Throughout the next months up to the present, Bill and I have remained only on nodding acquaintance status. If we notice one another we usually trade a quick wave but do not exchange words. Maybe Bill feels as ambivalent towards me in the way I feel about him. Even though he has not said nor done anything wrong or hurtful, I don’t feel any reason to befriend Bill. It’s just that his “vibe” doesn’t jibe with mine. There’s still some niggling suspicions about Bill lingering in my mind.
I’ve befriended or worked with many good people. I’m thankful to have known and socialized with them. I’m sure there will be many more kind-hearted, good people to meet in the future. At the same time, there have been a small number of people who presented themselves as adversaries. Some of them have been ambiguously negative, while others have been aggressively hostile. It has been the case that ambivalent relationships have very rarely developed into healthy friendships.
There have been a precious few relationships that began on ambivalent footing that eventually grew into very close friendships. Such was the case with a former co-worker. During the first few years that we worked the same shift, Terry and I were stand-offish towards one another. We didn’t hate each other, nor did we want to socialize after work. We simply coexisted in a neutral manner.
I’m not exactly certain when the transition began, but Terry and I eventually became less ambivalent about each other. We laughed at each other’s lame jokes more often and we started hanging out together after work. One night, we engaged in a heavy, philosophical conversation about our childhoods. That’s the evening we really “clicked”. From then on, we became inseparable pals. We enjoyed a very healthy friendship until the day he died. There is nothing ambivalent about my memories of Terry.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the late literary critic, Paul de Man. “The ambivalence of writing is such that it can be considered both an act and an interpretive process that follows after an act with which it cannot coincide. As such, it both affirms and denies its own nature.”