I have never had my own bathroom. Growing up, I was the middle child of seven kids, and we all had to share one bathroom. We technically had two bathrooms, but the second one was smaller, more cramped, with less counter space, a smaller mirror, fewer outlets, a broken shower, and a never-fully-functioning toilet. Someone-it was usually blamed on the family ghost because no one would own up to it-would clog up that toilet on a regular basis, so it would stink up that entire bathroom for long periods of time because there was little or no ventilation. So, in our small family of nine people, we had to cram into the main bathroom by coordinating shower schedules, keeping our things in our designated spots, respecting one another’s privacy, being patient, and never, under any circumstances, break anything. If you did, then the entire family would shun you because they all had to suffer until it was fixed.
We lived in that one house my entire life. We moved once when I was five, but that was back when there were only four kids, and I was the youngest. My parents tried to make the situation a little better by telling us that the bathroom in our previous house was even smaller than this one, but that would just make us roll our eyes as we brushed our teeth, our elbows knocking into each other.
For twenty years or so, I dreamed about what it would be like with my own bathroom. I would have my own space, my own mess, my own stuff. I could take as long as I wanted in the shower, read whatever I wanted when I was on the toilet, and sing to myself without hoards of people telling me to shut up.
That day finally came when I graduated college and I got my own apartment. It was glorious! I didn’t have to label my food in the fridge, I could watch whatever I wanted on the T.V., I didn’t have to clean up after tons of other people, I could play my music as loud as I wanted, and best of all, I had my own bathroom. I took exceptionally long showers, left my things on the counter, went to the bathroom whenever I wanted, and when I saw long strands of fallen hair on the floor, I knew they were from my head. It was a dream come true. No one gave me rules or limitations on what I could and could not do in the bathroom. I did my own thing. And I could never be happier.
One problem: I was considered a “grown up” now, and I could no longer rely on my parents to make small problems-or big problems, for that matter-go away, even though they only lived about fifteen minutes away. No big deal. I knew I was a grown up, and I worked hard at acting like it. I had a full-time job where I even had to bring my own lunch to work. I had my name on my bills. I had to call professionals to help fix things-which, unfortunately, happened all the time. But I knew I could get used to it, because that’s all part of growing up and becoming, what they call, an “adult.”
I thought I could conquer the world. Nothing could tear me down. I was unstoppable, unbeatable, and completely untouchable. And I like it that way.
One night, I was getting ready for bed later than usual. I watched my reflection in the mirror as I brushed my teeth, making funny faces to make myself look like a rabid animal with white foam coming out of my mouth (one of the many reasons why I was happy I was alone). At the corner of my eye, in the mirror on the floor, I saw something flash across the floor. Something dark, and small. But when I looked in that corner of the mirror it was gone. Turning around, I saw nothing. I rolled my eyes, shrugged, muttered something like, “Dumb contacts,” and went back to watching my odd faces again. I think I even laughed at myself once. Then I saw something again, coming from the same corner of the mirror. When I looked, nothing was there. This began to worry me, so I began to hum, even with toothpaste in my mouth, the muffled noise oddly making my silent house a little less silent.
I stopped when I felt an itch on my leg. One of those itches that ran up your leg slowly. But when I bent over to relieve the tingle, I stopped and saw the black spot on my leg. But it wasn’t a black spot. It was a spider. And it was on my leg. And it was crawling up me.
“AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” I screamed long and loud, shaking my leg profusely, and jumping up and down, toothpaste flying everywhere as I searched for something, anything, to come to my aid. I flicked it off with my own two fingers, making a shudder run down my spine, and I watched in horror as it landed on the linoleum, and scurried straight for me again. I screamed, the only thing I could think of to do, before I climbed on top of my toilet. So there I was on my toilet, surrounded by puddles of used toothpaste dotting the floor, my heart beating fast. And I’m pretty sure I was panting, panting like a dog. My wide eyes searched the small bathroom floor, looking frantically for the repulsive creature. But it was nowhere to be seen. But I found it, wedged in the tiny space between the drawers and the floor. It sat huddling there, and I knew, in all eeriness, that the spider, black and ugly and insidious as it was, was staring at me with its many revolting, unblinking eyes. Watching me to see what I would do, and daring me to do something bold.
I stayed on my toilet, but bent over, tilting my head to see it. I grabbed my toilet brush, the only weapon available to me at such a close distance. If he wanted a battle, this would mean war. Why did I want my own bathroom? If I was back home with my huge family, I wouldn’t have this issue. One of my brothers would have killed it long ago.
“Alright,” I said to the silence and I knew I was going crazy because I had to talk to myself to get this done. “Laurie, it’s okay if you hate spiders. It’s okay if you would rather have them all exterminated. It doesn’t matter. He’s just as afraid of you as you are of him. Just stab my with the end of the brush, and it will all be okay.”
My fingers twitched around the brush as I sat at the awkward angle I had willingly put myself into. I was going to do it. I had to. My phone was in the other room, and there was no way I could touch the bathroom floor with the spider on a daring chase to get me to suck my blood or something. Which, I was pretty sure they did, because I was a college graduate; I was unconquerable, and I presumably knew everything.
I stared at the spider, and I could feel him staring at me. I shivered. I stretched out the toilet brush toward him, but kept it there, telling myself that if he moved any closer, I would mercilessly strike. I had to. I was an adult now. This was my bathroom that I knew I had earned it through a lifetime of sharing. It was my fortress and I had to defend it.
Then, the spider sprung out from its hiding space, raced across the white floor, and headed straight for the toilet.
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!” I screamed again. I lost any strength that I had in me, and cowardly jumped off the toilet, turned off the bathroom light, and ran straight into my room, closing the door behind. I gathered whatever items I could find with my shaking hands-books, jackets, pillows-and stuffed them up against my door to fill in the crack at the bottom of it. I bombarded myself in my room, double checking, then triple checking, that there was absolutely no way that the spider could get into my room and somehow torment my sleeping body during the night. I called my mom and asked her if she would kill a spider for me. Ridiculous, she told me. She wasn’t about to drive fifteen minutes just to kill a spider for her grown daughter. And when I asked her if there were any professional spider killers who would just come and stomp on a spider for me, she laughed and hung up the phone. It took me a good two hours to get to sleep after telling myself over and over again that there was no way the spider could get to me in my sleep.
The next morning, I was wide awake when the alarm rang. I grabbed the biggest skillet I could find in my tiny kitchen, and headed for the bathroom. But the spider was gone. I checked behind everything, every corner, every crack, but it had gone somewhere else during the night. I looked around warily for it, but with no luck. That spider was a tricky one. It left me wondering where it had gone. And when it would rear its ugly face again. Next time, it could pop up anywhere. I’ve kept my skillet in the bathroom ever since.