A huge spider crawled beside him. He kept looking at it as it moved. It began to ascend the pile of books resting beside one corner of the room. The tube-light hardly illuminated that corner of the room. It occurred to him that the movement of the spider was so much like those people who he saw bustling around here and there in his office- swift and purposeful- as he watched them from his cubicle in the corner. Adwait was only mildly stoned that night as compared to other nights. His friends had left and he was lying alone on his mattress watching the spider.
The spider intrigued him more that night because he had been reading a story about a commercial traveler who wakes up one day and finds that he has metamorphosed into a giant insect. He could not finish that story but it had stuck somewhere, claiming a part of his brain.
The pile of books lying in the corner were mostly books bought from the pavement of one of the old book markets of the city. He could afford brand new, original and latest editions of these books, but he chose not to. There was something about the grimy, dusty, torn pale pages of the books sold on the pavements which drew him. He did not understand very clearly, however, why he read these books. He knew very well that once he had finished reading them he would never go back to them. May be this was also the reason why he didn’t spend on first hand books. But, he always lined them in a way so that their names could be seen from a distance. He did so for the visitors, especially the women who visited his room and could not help being impressed. These women always thought that he had possessed these books for a long time and that is why they looked so old now.
After sometime he got bored of watching that spider’s movement. In any case, it wasn’t moving any more. He could not understand what was so great about a man being metamorphosed into a giant insect. If at all he was given a choice, he would like to be transformed into something more significant, pleasing and lovely. He did not mind being a dog, for instance. Women loved dogs, isn’t it? How much he would have enjoyed it when a woman would stop and tickle his neck lovingly. As a child, he used to do the same to his pets. But suddenly he felt stupid. How irritating it would be, after all, to be touched by anyone and everyone and not having a say, a choice, an agency to decide. It was then better to be an insect and to be left alone, to be away from everyone’s gaze. But then he dropped the idea again unable to find anything good in such an insignificant, powerless life. He wanted to finish the story he had started may be only out of curiosity but could not gather enough will to do so.
He lay there staring at the light from his bed-light falling on the wall beside his bed. Immediately he felt a strong need to nestle his face under someone’s warm body and escape away from the light. He began to think about his past, trying to gain some warmth from there. But the image that he had of his past seemed like numerous spider-webs tangled with one another.
His phone beeped. There was a text message.
Sender: I couldn’t help drooling over you all day in the office today. I had thought if you didn’t ask me out, I would invite you. All day I kept rehearsing how will I do that. There I understood, how difficult it would have been for you to ask me out. But fortunately for you, I never declined your offer like you did today. So may be next time I hope you won’t be so ruthless and consider the way I accepted all your offers of taking me out.
He considered replying to offer an explanation and apologize for his behavior. But he didn’t. He felt too lazy to do so. Initially he had pursued this woman rather diligently, but he had never planned to be serious. He was just enjoying his time and had no further plans. It was more or less for fun and he had made sure that the point was clear between them.
Was it really his fault that this woman was threateningly becoming serious about him? How does one delegate responsibility of choice and intention? It felt like too much mess and Adwait didn’t like it when things spilled over on their own beyond his power to control.
He thought it would have been better to be a giant insect like the one in that story. Imagine the ability to scare people merely out of one’s appearance. People around you live in the constant fear that you could hurt them any moment. Imagine living without the burden of being expected to be good. What freedom!
This feeling made him go back to the story and begin reading again. Though he felt the story was depressing, it had the potential of appearing grotesquely realistic atleast for some of its readers, he thought. By the time he kept the book, he didn’t feel quite alright. He was disgusted by the family of Gregor Samsa for treating his so badly just because he had turned into an insect. He shut the book and cursed the author and then stopped abruptly and got preoccupied by another train of thoughts.
His phone beeped again. It was a message from the same woman.
Woman: Hey, slept already?
Adwait: No, was reading.
Woman: This part of you impresses me the most, you know. I have always wanted a guy who reads a lot.
Adwait: Yeah, but then I wasn’t reading to impress you, miss.
Woman: And next is this arrogance of yours 😉
He had read somewhere that misplaced sentimentality was almost like our birth-right. The whole thing began to disgust him.
Adwait: Yeah, but I was trying to make the details factually correct.
Woman: Let’s meet sometime.
Adwait didn’t want to reply after this. Once again, he could see, things spilling out of his control. He didn’t mind meeting her but did not want to harbor any hopes. He thought if it would be good if really was an insect, a giant one preferably.
Adwait: Let’s not make our meeting a routine.
Woman: I want to meet you everyday. Be with you every moment. I really have started liking you.
Adwait: You’re freaking me out now, lady. Stop it please.
Woman: Alright. Take your time. You’ll understand how I feel sooner or later.
Adwait wanted to slam that spider hard enough to murder it. But then he stopped short and placed his phone away from himself. This was all going wrong. He wanted to get back to the books and feel safe there. It was better, he always thought, to keep oneself away from complications and enjoy it from a distance. That is why he liked the world of fiction. There was no pressure and no liability.
He kept staring at the wall trying to think of a way to dissuade this woman. For once, he tried to make himself believe that he was too stoned to think clearly. But, it didn’t help. He was too self-conscious to dress up badly and not look good. For once, it seemed to him that he was to be partly blamed. The feeling of guilt began to rise within him and he started feeling repelled by himself. Once again, he thought if it would be better if he woke up as an insect. But what he did not like in the story and would therefore not like if he was to be metamorphosed into a giant insect tomorrow morning would be that stupid human brain, that faculty to think analyse and reflect. Otherwise, life as an insect was such a tempting escape.
He tried to sleep feeling hopeful, almost sure that he will wake up as a giant insect. But, then soon enough he did not like the fact that he will have to live the life of an invalid, not being attended and loved by anyone.
His phone beeped again.
Woman: Did you think about it?
This time he didn’t care to reply and actually didn’t reply. He was bored by so much thinking that he had been doing till now. He switched off his light and went to sleep. Before he slept for the last time he wished to be a spider and have an Adwait to stare at him and also a writer to write a story about it.