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Blood on the Wall photo

When I moved into my first apartment, I thought it symbolized that I’d gotten my shit together, a sign that I was taking control of the chaos in my life.

A day after moving in, I spotted a spider under my clerestory windows. The only windows in the studio, perfectly adjacent to the one spot where I could place my couch – L-shaped with emerald, green cushions and golden legs. I contemplated what to do with the spider. Whether I should open a window and let it out, or better yet, buy a cage and adopt it as my first pet. I considered what keeping the spider alive would mean. I had allowed an intruder into my space. To send a message, I smashed the spider with one of the slippers.

After I killed the spider, I balled its body up in a napkin and flushed it down the toilet. The blood remained on the wall, a warning for other spiders to stay out. Say what you may, but they are territorial creatures, and I never saw another spider after that. But now there was a small, red stain on my wall.

A few weeks later, the stain caused me some confliction – I had a date! If I wiped away the blood, new spiders might show up. If I didn’t, my date might realize there had once been a spider in my apartment. I opted for the latter. I couldn’t risk more spiders crawling around. I needed the night to go well. This was my first date after a gut-wrenching breakup (that time in my life when things got chaotic).

Following the breakup, I spent most of my healing process transforming my apartment into a personal sanctuary. I secured a spot with laminated wood floors and a brick wall backdrop, gradually filling it with housewarming gifts that radiated love. Among these gifts were an accent chair from my mother, a mirror from my two sisters, and a hand-drawn portrait of myself from my 13-year-old art prodigy cousin. I couldn't help wondering what my ex would have thought of the decorative choices I was making; if she would have anticipated the white wood tables I bought for the living room would be a tough clean, or if she would have known where to hang the two framed pictures she got me on Kobe Bryant’s birthday – one depicting Kobe playing basketball against Michael Jordan and another in which Kobe is being guarded by LeBron James.

In the end, I decided to lay the pictures of Kobe on my TV mantal. While the portrait of myself, maybe subconsciously, hung near the stain, and almost like a dirty mirror, sparked moments of self-reflection whenever I gave it a glance. Those moments triggered more internal dialogue, ultimately urging me to let go of my ex and thoughts of my ex.

I mean, technically, I was a bachelor. Someone who ate TV dinners, did push-ups, and drank at bars during happy hour. Someone living the way life should be lived. La Vida Loca, as they say. However, the truth remained: I cared for a while, even when I didn’t want to. Despite my new place and my new date, lingering thoughts stained my brain like the blood on my wall.

The night my date came over, the gaps in my shopping list became glaringly apparent. I had a skillet with no spatula. Spoons but no forks. And most importantly, wine without wine glasses. Fortunately, my aunt had gifted me some plastic blue cups, and my date seemed unbothered by my lack of class. We got wine drunk and talked about many things, but never of the stain. Not saying she never noticed it. I’m just saying if she did, it wasn’t a deal-breaker. On the clock above my stove, we watched the time wind down. At midnight, she told me my apartment wasn’t small at all. I asked her, jokingly, if she said that to every man she visited. She responded by saying no. She’s only ever said that to me. We both laughed.

We dated for a few months, only for me to realize I wasn’t ready for another commitment. Some days, I believed ending things made me stronger. On other days, I imagined dying alone in my studio apartment with spider blood on the wall, some sort of arachnid omen.

Had I been too afraid to open up?

Too afraid to be let down?

I knew one thing: with the desire for new love seizing my brain, I could no longer share space with the blood of a murdered spider on my wall. One day after work, I got some cleaner and a sponge and started scrubbing. I scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed the wall. I took a break and scrubbed some more. Not because the stain was so dry that it was almost permanent but because the more I scrubbed, the more I felt like I was missing a spot.