Meet Anansi. A trickster God from West African folklore, Anansi takes the shape of a spider and has made his way from oral tradition, to popular children’s literature in the Caribbean. As a teacher, I’ve been made familiar with him.
He’s about the size of your palm, and luckily, completely harmless. However, for someone with arachnophobia, this knowledge doesn’t help much. Besides, all logic flees when you’re preparing for bed and you catch a glimpse of him scurrying down your curtains toward your nightstand.
I felt my heart literally lodge itself in my throat. I felt the blood drain from my face and became momentarily paralyzed. It was 11:45pm and my host mother was asleep. What the hell was I going to do?
But in that instant, I knew two things; If I didn’t kill that spider, I wasn’t going to sleep that night. And if I couldn’t kill that spider, I wasn’t going to last two years in Jamaica.
I snatched my phone from my desk and called a PCV friend from Group 82. “I’m freaking out! There’s a giant spider in my room and I don’t know what to do!”
“Ohhh! An anancy. So you’ve finally seen one. Don’t worry – they’re harmless.”
“What’s your point?”
“My point is you can relax.”
I screamed again, a blood-curdling scream that probably forced my friend to pull the phone away from his ear. “He’s on my bed now! He has to die!”
“Then you’re going to have to kill him.”
“How do I do that? I’m scared out of my mind.”
“Well you’re going to have to get over that. Do you have a shoe handy?”
“I have a phobia! You just don’t get over that by beating it with a shoe!”
We went back and forth for a little while before I finally decided that a broom might work. I could chase him out the door perhaps… But that didn’t work out as well as I’d planned. Anancy scurried back and forth across the wall and went everywhere but back outside.
I could tell that he was tiring though, because the broom was coming closer and closer to him before he moved again. Finally I took a deep breath and stepped back. “Alright. I’m going to put the phone down, and I’m going to beat him with the broom. I think I’m ready. I can do this now.”
I swung like a madwoman and howled like a banshee. Just like my Ewarton host mother with the slipper and the cockroach, I came down on Anancy several times with the broom, then finally stepped back to admire my work.
Stuck to the wall was a squished Anancy, his legs folded up around him. With the broom, I brushed him off the wall, on to the floor, and swept him out the door. Then I reached for my phone and collapsed into my desk chair.
“I did it,” I whispered into the phone, still a little shaky. “I got the bastard.”
“There, see? That wasn’t so bad, was it?”
I erupted into a fit of laughter. I felt pretty accomplished, but I couldn’t possibly imagine what I must have looked like. A grown woman, cowering in fear of an insect, and then chasing it around the room with a broom. I’ll spare the details, but my war cry was more like a string of obscenities that flew freely from my lips. Most importantly, I’d overcome a fear, at least for the time being, and my laughter certainly helped ease the tension.
I can tell that Jamaica is going to change me. Scared though I was, and convinced that scared I will be again, should another Anancy decide to visit me, I found the courage to take care of the problem. My determination to tough it out won again.
Back in Ewarton, after an incredibly close call with a cockroach, I decided that now is the time to overcome my fear. After all, Jamaican women exterminate them without batting an eyelash, and my biological Mom comes to my rescue every single time. At some point, I’m going to have a family and I’ll need to be the hero brandishing a can of Raid. Since making that vow, I have not yet successfully killed a roach on my own, but I no longer feel that sense of panic when I see one. I will rise to the occasion soon enough.
And the next time I see an anancy, I’ll rise to that one again too.