Sun’s out. Leg’s on.

By Anna Mitchael

A few weeks ago my husband was bitten by a brown recluse spider.

There was swelling, and the dying tissue made his leg look like a horse stepped on it. For days we watched the hole where the spidey teeth went in slowly expand to the size of a nickel. A nickel may not seem big when it’s in your wallet, but trust me when I say that on a leg it’s a different story. The good news is that he’s going to be OK. But the internet and me, we might be done forever.

I made it a solid day after the bite without Googling to see what the world wide web thought about brown recluse spiders. My first reaction had been to reach for my phone, but then I remembered what the pediatrician had told me when our oldest child was an infant. I was wearing a cardigan that, on its best days, looked like it belonged to Mr. Rogers, and I hadn’t slept in weeks. I would have asked a traveling gypsy for advice at that point, but luckily the doctor was in front of me. He must have guessed that I could not handle more than a few syllables of wisdom, so he said simply, “If you’re worried about something, don’t look it up on the internet.”

I have to say, especially after recent weeks, he really earned my copay that day.

At 24 hours we got confirmation that it was a brown recluse bite. It was also the point at which a friend asked how my husband would properly execute my weekend to-do lists if he only had one leg. The friend was joking. But as with most jokes, there was an inkling of truth in there. And that inkling of truth weaseled out of the joke and beelined straight for my brain. Then it set up shop there, much like the poison in my husband’s leg, and it started to fester.

Before the internet, this is what would have happened next. I would have spent hours wondering if my husband could really lose his leg and if a lost leg would result in the loss of his hopes, dreams and my ability to occasionally leave him with the kids so I could sneak off to yoga. Then I would have picked up the phone, called my best friend, told her what was on my mind, and she would have said, “You are being ridiculous, quit thinking negative.”

But now we have the internet. So in my moment of weakness I went against doctor’s orders and Googled “brown recluse bite.” And the internet is not a best friend who cares about my state of mind, so in 0.2 seconds it pulled up thousands of pages. A few had useful information like “brown recluse spiders are one of two poisonous spiders in Texas.” The rest did nothing but confirm my worst suspicions — that the sun would not come out tomorrow.

Except the sun did come out. And in the light of day I saw my husband’s disfigured yet functioning leg. I also saw I had wasted hours of my life tapping my phone and spiraling downward. There are good, uplifting corners of the internet, I don’t want to take away from those. But other corners seem to exist only to confirm that things are as bad as the worst parts of ourselves suspect. And we need to reinforce those parts like we need horses stepping on our legs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go do my own to-do list. Stupid arachnid.

Join the Conversation