Sitting atop her head was a spider…a living, breathing, eight-legged, spider…
Growing up in Smallville, USA had some incredible perks. We never had to bother with waiting for street lights to turn from red to green, because after all, we didn’t have any street lights. Everyone in town knew each other. If a parent wondered where their child was, it only took a few phone calls to locate them. Heck, our phone number was only four digits long, when calling within our small community!
I attended a high school of 500 students in four grades. My graduating class had a total of 103 students, not including the two babies attending the ceremonies via accidental pregnancies from a couple of the more adventurous girls/boys in our school. All of us students went to the same elementary school, the same middle school and the same high school, with very few kids moving in our out during our 12 years of local education. We all knew each other, and with the exception of a few, we all pretty much got along.
Yes, there were downsides to Smallville, but for the most part, we didn’t know any different, and life was fun and safe. We knew everyone and we all tried to look out for each other, especially when it came to including all students in events and activities.
Junior prom was a BIG deal. Especially for all the junior girls. It was almost like a right of passage; an opportunity to have the community recognize you and your classmates as moving from childhood to adulthood. Girls anxiously waited invitations extended by their dates, and boys anxiously tried to figure out where they would get the money for dinner, pictures, and an activity.
Like most high school dances, several weeks before the big night, there were always a small handful of girls that had yet to secure a date. But living in Smallville we had a wonderful tradition–all junior girls not asked to the prom were asked by senior boys to attend the festivities. It was never a charity ask, but rather, it was just a fun event the senior boys looked forward to as much as the junior girls.
I was your typical 18-year-old boy. I loved sports and lettered in basketball, track, and football. I was a clean-cut boy with little interest in academics, but did just enough to get by. All my buddies were similar–some smarter than the rest, some better at athletics than the others. But, we all had good hearts and a true desire to make good choices and to help others.
With prom approaching, my buddies and I got together to determine which girls we would ask to the dance and created a plan on how we would ask our dates out. As I looked at the list of junior girls, I felt a little funny as I saw her name listed. I knew who she was, and from top to bottom, she and I couldn’t be more different.
In the 90s, she was recognized as being a “Goth” with her dyed black hair and pale makeup applied to her face. She wore black almost exclusively. She liked listening to The Cure and The Cult, where I was more of a Bon Jovi and U2 fan. She spend much time in the parking lot with her friends when they should have attended classes. She clearly did not want to conform to Smallville life and likely dreamed of living in a more diverse and larger city.
My boys and I extended our invitations and were ready for an evening of fun and adventure. The plan was to all meet at my friends house where we would have pictures taken, exchange corsages and boutonnieres, and then head to the dance.
The night started off great. We were all having fun, joking around and kidding each other about how dorky we looked all dressed up. My date was definitely more quiet than the rest, making me wonder if she was having a good time or not.
As we all lined up for pictures, the boys stood behind their dates in a line, with the girls in front. From this angle, I had a perfect view of the top of my dates dark black hair.
We were all smiling for the camera as I glanced down and noticed what appeared to be movement. With my focus now shifted from the camera and squarely on my date, I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Sitting atop her head was a spider. Yep, a living, breathing, eight-legged, spider about the size of a quarter. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I stood there almost paralyzed.
My first thought was to say, “Hey, you have a spider in your hair!” But I didn’t want to embarrass her especially since she likely felt a bit out of place to begin with. I then thought, perhaps I could skillfully flick the spider from her hair, launching it off her head, but not touching her hair or head in the process. But what if I missed and just flicked her in the head. Or even worse, what if I flicked the spider onto another girl. There would be mass hysteria and embarrassment galore. And maybe, just maybe…my mind wondered…was the spider there purposefully? Did she bring it on purpose? I thought that perhaps it could even be her pet.
Standing there almost in a panic, I did the only thing a dumb, young, boy could do…NOTHING. That’s right, I did nothing. I just stood there for the pictures with a grief-stricken forced smile on my face as we continued with the pictures.
When you are an immature 18-year-old boy, you pretty much have a three-track mind. Food. Girls. And sports. Because of this limited intellect, it was only a matter of minutes after pictures were done, that I had forgotten about the spider. We were sipping punch, eating cookies, and having a good old time.
The night progressed and we went to the actual dance. We danced for an hour. Fast dances, slow dances, group dances…we were having a lot of fun. With the dance dearly over, the school stopped the dance to present the names of all the junior students. They called this the promenade. Junior boys would escort junior girls as their names were announced and the audience cheered.
Because we were seniors, my friends and I were relieved of any participation in the promenade, and we all made our way to the balcony to stuff ourselves with goodies (see the three-track mind of a boy two paragraphs above). As we chowed down on cookies, brownies, and soda, we all started discussing our night and I remembered my encounter with the arachnid hours before.
As I started rehearsing to my friends the story of the spider and the quandary I found myself in not knowing what to do, they laughed and laughed. As the laughter died down, my friend Danny’s eyes got wide as saucers as he stared at my chest.
“Steve!” he shouted as he pointed to my shirt.
As I looked down expecting to find a soda spill on my shirt, I witnessed the spider crawl from the front of my shirt, underneath the buttoned placket, and disappeared beneath my shirt.
My heart stopped! I screamed like a little girl! I threw my soda and a cookie and started ripping my jacket off. Bow tie and cummerbund were strewn about. Belt buckle went skidding across the floor. I tried to hurl my pants to the table but they got stuck on one of my laced-up shoes. And buttons popped off my shirt and went flying as I ripped it from my body.
Standing there almost naked, I looked all over. Where was the creature! It felt like I had spiders crawling all over my body and in my hair. I’m fairly sure I’ve never seen an actual one, but I’m pretty sure I had a conniption fit right then and there.
As I got hold of myself, my friends couldn’t stop the laughter. Tears of uncontrollable hilarity streamed down faces. One friend choked on his food and had soda squirting out his nostrils. Another had fallen out of the chair he sat on and remained lying on the ground in merriment. What a night!
I never did find the spider. The dark spider on the dark concrete floor on a poorly lit balcony eluded our watchful eyes. So, I slowly dressed, but not before vigorously shaking out every piece of clothing. I salvaged two buttons on my rented shirt, which made for an awkward conversation when I met up with my date at the conclusion of the promenade.
It was the first and the last time we went out on a date together. As I reminisce about that night, I wonder what happened to the spider. I wonder if my date ever knew it was in her hair. And a small part of me wonders if she got home that night, only to discover that the pet she brought that night had disappeared.
Yes, Smallville, USA was a great place to grow up. Spiders and all.