Andy considered his life to be quite exciting. He had crafted himself a modest home in the far left corner of a little cottage patio in Pemberton. Having surveyed his options carefully before he made his final selection of abode, he was presently reaping the rewards of that foresight. With relatively no competition for space, he had the upper rafters entirely to himself, along with the abundance of insects that filtered through the patio.
Andy was a common house-spider. He had a shiny black exoskeleton and particularly long legs for his size. He enjoyed his home immensely. But it was not the beautiful landscape or the free-flowing food that he most enjoyed – it was the entertainment. Andy had quickly cottoned on to the true potential of his positioning when the first guests had arrived – a couple from Perth who were looking for a ‘good time’. It was with upmost delight that Andy discovered not only that he could be privy to all outside dalliances, but that from the outer right rim of his web he also had access to a view of the interior.
In his life prior to the villa Andy had not encountered many humans. The first couple were only there for two nights, but they changed Andy’s view of people. He realised that these guests could provide him with countless hours of amusement, fascinating as their behaviour was. Andy loved the couple, and they were evidently quite taken with each other. They couldn’t keep their hands to themselves, and they laughed all the time. They played lots of games together, but their favourite one by far was what Andy coined the ‘naked rolling game’. They played that game a lot, in every room in the little house, and even once out in the patio.
Andy was sad when they left, for he feared the entertainment value of humanity had left with them. But, much to his supreme delight, this proved not to be the case when the Morgan family showed up the following weekend. The Morgan’s provided a different genre of entertainment. There was a ‘dad’ and a ‘mum’, two young boys and a small, noisy thing that slightly irritated Andy if he was honest. The mum and dad were a bit boring to be fair, but the two young boys were fascinating creatures to behold, with their boundless energy and enthusiasm. The only problem with the Morgans was that the bumbling dad made them go on ‘adventures’ that took them out of the cottage. The dad failed to note the fact that the rest of his family did not share his enthusiasm for these events, Andy included.
When the Morgans left Andy tried in vain to relinquish the expectation that more would follow. Two weekends in a row could just be a coincidence. There may not be a constant stream of visitors, and he should not pin his future happiness upon it.
But another couple did come shortly after, and then another family after that. It was more than Andy could ever have hoped for, as more people came, sated his ever increasing greed for human interaction, and left. Yes, Andy had hit the jackpot. He became more enamoured with human kind as he studied their behaviour. They all seemed so jolly and happy. Sure, there were little disagreements from time to time, but on the whole everyone seemed to have a pretty damn good time.
That was, until Laura and Syd came to stay. When he heard the car pull up Andy scurried eagerly to the outer rim of his web. With baited breath he watched the doors open and two people emerge.
‘Jackpot, another couple!’ he announced excitedly.
He thought his excitement confirmed when they threw themselves at each-other on the patio, right beneath his multiple feet! Andy scrambled for a better viewing position as the couple stumbled inside. They had barely made it to the couch before all their clothes were off.
‘Excellent!’ thought Andy. Andy had seen people play the naked rolling game on the couch a few times before, but never quite like this. His interest grew as the couple clawed manically at each-other. It was as though they could not get close enough to one another; as though they were consuming the other. As he watched, wide-eyed with his mouth aghast, Andy thought it was the greatest show he had ever seen. Although they hardly said anything, the two of them played the game several more times that night before retiring out of view. Andy slept well, certain of an equally riveting day tomorrow.
By dawn he had secured himself an excellent viewing position. Most people started their day in the kitchen or on the patio, and Andy could see both. But he was not expecting to see what he saw that morning. To his disappointment, the man came out alone. He slumped into the kitchen, made a ‘coffee’ (which did seem to be the most popular drink, but only in the morning – it was wine thereafter), and padded outside, throwing himself down in a chair.
‘Boring!’ Andy exclaimed, disgruntled. But then, as he studied the man’s face, his interest peaked. There was something amiss. The man’s face did not look happy. In fact, he had a sad, almost haunted, look about him. Andy shimmied to the outer rim of his web to look at the man more closely. There was something coming out of his eyes. It looked like tiny droplets of water. Curiously, they brimmed along his brilliant blue eyes and then fell onto his cheeks.
Andy jumped at the sound of the bedroom door opening. He turned around and peered in, watching intently as the woman fumbled around in the kitchen before walking outside. She had the same haunted look about her. Andy was confused, but utterly transfixed.
After a moment she turned to the man. ‘Do you regret it Syd?’
Andy craned his head closer, desperate to understand this strange exchange.
Syd leaned forward and held his face in his hands. ‘No. But I feel like I should Laura’.
Laura stood up and sighed. ‘I have thought this over so much. Run through it all in my head countless times. And every time I just keep coming back to the same thing. What are the chances? I mean, what are the chances, really? That you and me just happen to meet in Hawaii and then you happen to have to come to Perth to work?’
Her eyes began to release water. ‘Fate Syd. It just all seems like fate. And that pisses me off, it really does. But I don’t know how else to make sense of it. And I sure as hell don’t know what to do with it.’
She shook her head and turned her back to him. Andy’s every hair bristled with anticipation. Syd ran his hand over his mouth and down his neck, but said nothing.
Suddenly Laura spun back around, her face contorted with emotion. ‘Do you want to just end this right now? Seriously, you can, if that’s what you want. We can just put last night down to weakness and move on – I’ll go home to Perth and you go back to America … to your wife. You know that’s what you’re going to have to do anyway, in less than a month’s –‘
‘No, no,’ Syd said, shaking his head as he got up and went over to her, embracing her gently. They rocked together, entangled, before his lips sought out hers. The water flowed freely from both sets of eyes as they kissed.
Syd pulled his head back, cupping her face in his hands. ‘I know I have to go back. And I will. But … I don’t want to. I don’t want to Laura. I’m in love with you. I just can’t fight it anymore. These feelings are way too … real …. too intense. I’ve never felt like this before. And I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do Laura’.
Laura ran her fingers down his tormented face with a tenderness Andy had never witnessed before. She placed her lips upon his once more, filling him with a love that would burn his soul forever.
Long after they had retired to the bedroom, Andy stood, paralysed by what had transpired. He was still deeply confused, but a different emotion had just now become known to him – sadness. He felt so overwhelmingly sad, though he did not fully understand why. He had so many questions. Why could they not be together if they loved each other that much? Not one of the couples he had seen here had demonstrated this intensity of feeling before. It seemed that humans were not always happy at all. On the contrary, they were capable of a depth of emotion larger that Andy had ever imagined.
As more happy people came and went, Andy began to crave access to the deeper aspects of humankind. True, he still enjoyed watching their frivolities. He particularly enjoyed the unexpected emergence of a group of ‘teachers’ having some sort of work function. They were the largest and most raucous set of people Andy had ever watched. They were so loud, and as they consumed more bottles of wine, they became ever louder and more amusing. The highlight was definitely a spontaneous display of amateur ‘strip-teasing’ on the patio table by one of the only males in the group. At this enthusiastic demonstration of clothing removal the ladies cheered and clapped manically, one of them falling off a chair in a delighted stupor; ah, a fine weekend that had been, a rare spectacle indeed!
But still, Andy had begun to think that Laura and Syd were somehow different from the others. Maybe the others were not deep at all. Maybe the rest of humanity was happy after all. As Andy pensively considered this he felt a strange sense of disappointment.
He carried this conviction for some time, until a lone woman came to stay. Andy could only think of three other times when people had come on their own; there was the boring guy who just read and wrote a lot of stuff down, then the lady who sat quietly with her eyes closed most of the time, and there had been the mad artist who had talked to himself a lot. But when this woman showed up Andy knew instantly that she was different. She held the same haunted sadness that Laura and Syd had shown him. He watched her, fascinated, as she moved silently about the house. She said nothing, yet the pain emanating from her was palpable.
Andy was both intensely intrigued and frustrated. ‘Fantastic,’ he thought to himself, ‘she is so interesting and she had no one to talk to, so I’m never going to know what has made her so sad’.
The curiosity was unbearable. As night pulled its velvety curtain over the landscape, the woman came outside with a bottle of wine. She sat down and lit a long white thing, and then, to Andy’s surprise, she downed her glass of wine in one. Andy only ever saw people drink wine with that much gusto when they were laughing with other people. But, sadly, Andy’s interest slowly diminished with the bottle of wine.
Yawning quietly he was about to retreat to his sleeping quadrant when, all of a sudden, he was startled by a loud noise. Andy jumped and whipped his head back around in fright. The woman was still in the chair, but her body was shaking violently. She had her hands over her face as horrible, primal yelps vibrated out of her being. When she drew her hands away Andy saw that she had fountains of water streaming out of her shattered eyes.
‘I’m sorry,’ she whispered. ‘I’m so sorry … I couldn’t keep you’.
That was all she said, though the depth of her heartache lingered in the air long after she had left.
Andy never did find out what it was that she had not kept, or why she couldn’t keep it. But the memory of her pain stayed with him. It shifted something within him. He realised that Laura and Syd had not been isolated in the depth of their emotion, but rather, what seemed to happen was that people did not like showing their depth. They hid things.
Andy began to get better at detecting the hidden things within the people who came to stay. Sometimes they came as a pleasant surprise – the boring guy who made the tender call to his estranged son, the reconnection of sisters, the excitement of a new idea erupting from the architect.
But Andy did not always like what he began to see. There was the man who was horrible to his little wife. He said mean things to her. He threw his hands at her and pushed her around the space. But what was most abhorrent to Andy was the fact that he didn’t even seem to care when the water was pouring out of her eyes. And then came the Withers family, who had shattered Andy’s reality entirely. They had seemed incredibly normal at first. That was, until Des forgot to close the bedroom door when he took his nine year old ‘step’ daughter in there when the rest of the family were out swimming. He did not understand why, but the look on the little girl’s face had made Andy feel nauseous and angry. He did not like Des at all – he was a cruel man with an empty heart.
Andy felt betrayed. Humanity was not what it appeared to be at all! He had thought that people were essentially ‘good’ natured. He now began to doubt that. He had seen the true horrors that mankind was capable of. It sickened him. He became depressed and even considered moving; abandoning this voyeurism once and for all for a happier life – one spent alone.
In fact, if it hadn’t been for Bella and Steve he probably would have left the past behind. The two days that he spent watching the long married couple began to chip away at the canyon of despair that man had left within Andy. It was not so much the gentle and tender way that they loved each other that got to Andy. It was when they had danced. It was when Andy saw the love glowing within the man’s soul, as he said to his wife, ‘So much has changed in these twenty years, but my love for you remains as strong as it did when we were fifteen.’
Andy had been deeply moved by the man’s truth. So, some people did stay together. Yes, there were cruel people in the world. But there were people like Steve too.
Over the next few weeks the cottage remained empty, and Andy enjoyed a reflective solitude. He thought hard about all that he had witnessed. But then, in the height of this seclusion, he noticed something. Did his eyes deceive him? Could it be? As he squinted to focus his many eyes, he realised that, indeed, he was not alone; another of his own kind had taken up residence on the other side of the patio rafters. Even from this distance he could see that she was a magnificent specimen. Andy drank in her image as she tenaciously spun her home.
Andy considered his options. Should he join her and chance happiness in companionship? Or is it better to remain safely in isolation? Andy felt the weight of this decision heavily. He thought about all the people he had seen, and what their stories had taught him. He had seen true joy in union in riding the waves of life with another. But, on the other hand, he had witnessed the heartache that partnership could bring. So … what to do?
Andy thought on it for some time, as he continued to gaze at his potential mate. On the third day of observation he made a decision. Yes, she could be a Des – she could callously rebuff him, or even abuse him. But she could also be his Bella, or his Laura. Andy steadied himself, took a deep breath, and brazenly walked out of the safe confines of his web and into the unknown.