I have just learned that there is not one, but at least two gigantic spiders living in my bathroom (well, one of them is dead, but he is hanging there, nonetheless.) I came to this troubling conclusion while taking a shower this afternoon.
Upon arriving in Pai, I took the most adorable little cottage I could find. It is right on the river, and though it is small, it has its own deck, and a big, huge bed that I can spread out in at night. The bathroom charmed me even more than the bedroom or the deck. Most bathrooms in Thailand are a one-stop deal. The toilet and the shower and the sink (if there is one) all tend to be crammed into one small room. There is no such thing as a shower with walls. There is just a shower head attached to the wall, and generally you clean not only your body when you shower, but the entire room as well, the space being so small.
So when I found this cottage on the river, I was pleased, because although the bathroom is Thai in that particular respect- everything is in one room, with no partitioning- it was spacious and well-designed. The toilet was in the far corner, and they had even installed a toilet paper dispenser next to it (shocking in itself)! The sink was in the middle of the long, narrow space, with an oval mirror hanging over it, and a vase filled with fake (but lovely) purple orchids on the counter. The shower was at the far end, by the tall French doors, and it was perhaps this part of the bathroom that charmed me the most, for it was sunk about an inch lower than the rest of the bathroom, and they had put a flat, heavy stone on the floor under the shower head. I felt like I was stepping into a spa, standing on that stone, with the rustic bamboo walls and the purple orchids to my right.
I believe it was on my first night that I spotted the spider. I was washing my hair, furiously rubbing the suds in, when my eyes suddenly fell on the thatched-bamboo walls that met to form a corner not far from where I stood. My heart stopped and I gasped, heaving air for a moment before my heart picked up at an alarming rate. I stared. The spider hanging in the corner was huge. He was grayish-brown, with a black head and a yellow band around his face. He seemed to sway in time to the water that was beating out of the shower and against the wall. It took me a long time to realize he was dead. It was only because of the water that I figured it out. He swung back and forth, his legs tapping the wall, and he moved in perfect time to the erratic beating of the water. After a long time, I realized this, and endeavored to blow on him (from a safe, cautious distance). His body moved in response to my breath, but not with life- it was just the air from my lungs that moved him.
After I got over that long shock, I felt bold enough to hold up my hand near the dead body, just to see how his size compared to my hand. I kept my hand a good distance away, not wanting to get too close, despite his lifeless state. Then I spread my fingers wide. Taking into account the fact that he was dead, and that his legs were already a bit curled under, he still measured an impressive size. I imagined that if he had been alive and scuttling across the wall, he would easily have been the size of my hand. I pulled away instinctively, and began to rinse out my hair. That was days ago. However, every time I shower, I keep my eye on him. His body has gone nowhere, but it always sways a bit when I turn the shower on, as the errant droplets seem to reach the corner where he hangs, and disturbs the webs that he is caught in.
Today there was a brief but violent downpour of rain. I was at the little restaurant across the river, and despite the tin and bamboo roof over our heads, the restaurant has no walls, and so even lying on a mat in the middle of the restaurant, I was dusted with drops of water as I read. The air that blew in was cooler than the hot April air we have been experiencing, and the combination of this cool air and the droplets of rain mingled to give me the chills. I decided that as soon as the rain stopped, I would cross the river, take a hot shower, and slip into my sweats.
As soon as I got back to the cottage, I began to do just that. As I stepped under the hot water, I once again trained my eye on the spider. I have a sick fascination with him. Even though he’s been there for days, and I know he’s dead, he gives me a little start every time I see him. I feel my heartbeat pick up, and I can’t take my eyes off him at first. I imagine all the horrible things he could do- come to life, and jump at my face, latching on with his sticky footpads and biting my cheeks, or my mouth, or worst of all, my eyes. Then I make myself stop thinking about it, and turn my back to him to wash my face, or reach for the shampoo. However, I am always quick to turn back, and I usually keep my eye on him while I wash my hair or rinse off.
Today I was standing in the shower, but I had just turned my back to him. I was thinking to myself, How would I describe this spider to someone? I would tell them that he is the size of my hand, and that he has a yellow band over his eyes. I would tell him that he terrifies me, but at least he’s dead. Then I looked over my shoulder. The corner of the bathroom, where the thatched-bamboo walls meet, and where the notorious spider hangs, is bisected by a long bamboo pole. The pole runs from the floor to the ceiling, the ceiling being high, high above, and not really a ceiling, but just the inside of the cone-shaped roof. Up there in the rafters, there are spider webs everywhere- thick, sticky-looking ones, and wispier ones that float in the air and move on the breeze. I had been looking up at those webs, and now my eyes moved down the pole to where the spider hung. And at the side of the bamboo pole, merely an inch away from the corpse, I saw two legs move.
They were the exact size and shape of the corpse’s legs, but they were plumper, and more alive. They seemed to be disturbed by the water from the shower. I gasped and gaped. Then I waited. Had I really seen spider legs? Were those really spider legs? I continued to stare, my eyes darting back and forth between the withering corpse, and the two grayish-brown sticks that protruded from the shadows of the bamboo pole. They could have been toothpicks, set at a diagonal from each other, but I could have sworn I had just seen one of them move. And then I did. They folded themselves into the depths of shadow, escaping the water and leaving their dead friend to sway gently. I was appalled. I turned off the shower quickly and stepped out. I took one towel gingerly from the door where it hung, and shook it out quickly before inspecting both sides. No huge spider. I dried off my hair and wrapped the towel around my body. Then I stepped into the bedroom.
I am in the bedroom now, keeping an appraising eye on the bathroom as I write. The big French doors are closed, but there is a gap at the bottom, where the wood frame doesn’t quite meet the floor. I have been uncomfortably aware of this gap ever since I first spotted the dead spider days ago and realized how easily eight-legged creatures could make their way into my room. I make sure those doors are closed whenever I’m not in the bathroom, but it’s not a fool-proof method, and for that reason, I am uneasy. Every night I sleep with the pink mosquito net tucked in firmly around the edges of the bed, taking no chances. Tonight will be no different, although since spotting that second, very alive spider in the bathroom, I have considered leaving a day early. No joke. This fear is entirely unreasonable, and I keep hearing that one-size-fits-all adult phrase in my mind- Honey, don’t worry! He’s probably more afraid of you than you are of him! However! If you were to see either of these spiders, I think you might disagree.