Vassar Student Review

Vassar Student Review

To the Spider I Saw Crawling Across My Desk During the AP American History Test

By Madeline Seibel Dean

You know, when I first saw you, I was kind of envious. Your life is so simple, compared to mine. You just, for whatever reason, had to walk across my desk at that moment, and your whole goal is just to do that. No multiple-choice tests, no five-paragraph essays, no memorizing the differences between the Panic of 1857 and the Panic of 1893. Your life boils down to the simplest elements—finding food, shelter, and avoiding predators, like history test-takers.

Speaking of that, I’m so sorry that I flicked you off the desk. I’m sure it hurt, and it disrupted your goal, but you don’t understand—these tests are important, and you were distracting me. I had to focus. And, if it’s any consolation, I spent the next few minutes worrying about you crawling up my leg.

And, when I saw you again, trying to crawl across my desk for the second time, I have to admit—I was surprised. By your resolve or your stupidity—I’m not sure. But I was impressed. It’s the kind of thing us students hear over and over again—try and try until you reach your goal. 

That time, I marveled at you—and not just at your resolve. Your huge head, your tiny abdomen, your eight little legs, your little beady eyes and the structures below them, which I believe are called forceps. I should know. Biology’s my next test.

My heart rate rose every time you turned a little bit towards me—I thought you were going to bite me. I’m not sure that I would know what to do if that happened. Would I try to get the proctor’s attention? Just ignore it and keep writing? What impact would that have on my score?

But, no, you never bit me. It would have been counterproductive to your goal. You were always just readjusting your course, trying to stay on the table, like doing trigonometry. 

And, I’m so sorry I flicked you off the desk again. You just don’t understand—these things are timed, and I couldn’t waste time staring at you. Plus, you should learn to avoid humans. The next one who sees you crawling across their desk might kill you.

I have to admit—I did consider that once. Flicking you off the table and crushing you underneath my heel. But that would be silly. Why would I waste a life—a spider’s life, but still—on just getting a little more time on a test?

So, I made sure to flick you in the direction you were going. That way, we could help each other, sort of. It might save you some time, actually.

I felt so guilty, though, when I raised my pencil, and I saw your whole body tense up. You went from being the spider I’d seen crawling all the way across my desk to being something else entirely, pulling your legs close to your body until you were just a little circle. 

It confirmed what I’d already thought—you were watching me as much as I was watching you. Maybe I was as much of a distraction to you, on your little test of life, as you were to me. 

I flicked you off anyways. These tests are important, and I couldn’t waste any more time with you. 

I have to confess, though—I kept watching you, even after you were already on the floor. I saw you crawl up onto Luis’s chair while he was in the bathroom.

It made me wonder what he’d do if he saw you. He’d probably kill you, or else flick you off his desk, as I had done.  

That’s your whole life, isn’t it? Being flicked off one desk or the other, living in one dark place before moving to another. You can’t be out in the sunlight without people trying to kill you. You don’t have that choice. You are a spider, and people will always want to keep you in the dark. 

I guess my history test isn’t too bad, after all. 

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