Wednesday, October 6, 2010
In the absence of information, I fill in the blanks, usually without much awareness that I've woven a reality out of nothing more than some impulses in my brain. Because of that, I often reach conclusions about people and situations that are wrong, and I never fail to be surprised at how one small brushstroke can change an entire picture. As is often the case, something will trigger a wondering for me, then life provides an abundance of answering.
The webbing was strung from one bush to another across at least twelve feet of open space. Its weaver hung at eye level, the sun illuminating the silk and her body so I saw in time to avoid destroying her work. At first she was alone, but after fussing with my camera, determined to get a shot of this arachnid in the air, I looked up to discover two spiders, face to face with each other.
I stood watching them for the longest time, expecting the smaller to end up in a tightly cocooned bundle to be hauled away for the larger spider's dinner. I assumed the web was the work of the larger because I'd seen her there first. I assumed the smaller was at a disadvantage and could not figure out why she stayed, or why she wasn't consumed. I assumed they had to be enemies.
But aside from some leg waving, the two spiders did nothing to confirm my assumptions. Neither gave ground or seemed to try to push the other into retreat. I finally moved on, finished my usual circuit with Toby, and when we came back, the web was empty. I was left to write my own ending. Which I did, trying out multiple scenarios, but the not really knowing still haunts, just a little.
The spider encounter still fresh in my mind, I was at Costco checking out a few days later. The young man at the register was not one I'd seen before and he seemed much more interested in talking to the guy who was doing the boxing than he was in customer relations. He didn't look up once, or greet me in any way. I studied him, deciding he was probably a snotty narcissistic hotshot who was mean to his mother, and thinking Costco made a huge mistake allowing him on a register.
He scanned my items with skilled efficiency, all the while keeping up a running banter with his friend. He stopped with the latest issue of People Magazine in his hands, and inspected the cover as though it held the secrets of the universe. I amped up my stare, willing him to notice. He finally looked up, made eye contact for the first time, and said, "That obvious, huh?" The grin on his face made me laugh out loud.
We ended up talking about fame, laughing over a headline that declared an actress's big comeback as an appearance on Dancing With the Stars. From there he said something about how today's movies just didn't tell stories in the same way they used to. How nothing is like the old black and white films, like his favorite, Of Mice and Men. As I agreed that it was one of the greatest, he went on to say he not only watched it a couple of times a year, he also reread the book every year.
A Steinbeck fan. A literary man. With a wicked sense of humor. Maybe the other things I decided he was earlier weren't wrong - those could still be true. They just weren't all of him. And the new information turned him from potential enemy into a connection that has the power to make me smile even now.
I don't get to know the ending to the Costco guy's story any more than I'll ever know what really happened with the spiders. What I do know, if I can remember to remember, is that people, situations, and stories are always more complex and more interesting than anything the threads of my imagination can possibly weave.