It only took two trips for Andres to finish dragging boxes into his new home, if one could even call it a home. It was actually a dark, dingy, and cobweb infested attic that was barely what he could afford near his expensive American school. But it was also a bed, a roof, and permission to use the nice kitchen downstairs. Who needs windows with natural light anyway? After getting rid of so much of what he owned, he was left with only the necessities, including a bow and a cello. Alas, Andres had chosen the musician’s life over the lawyer’s life, so now he needed to stick to his decision and prove his mother wrong. He made the best he could out of the situation. After all, he knew this would happen, and for that reason he had been secretly saving money and applying for scholarships, but it would not be enough to survive on for the next few years. Soon he needed to find ways to pay for himself while studying full-time. This is when Mrs. Harvey’s kitchen became crucial to his survival. By selling food, especially his popular empanadas, Andres could at least scrape by.
Practice was time consuming. Every day, it was the same routine: applying the rosin to his bow and fine-tuning the pegs. He would sit straight on the chair and place the cello’s endpin away from himself. He would lean the large instrument on his left side. Then Andres would begin to play. When he played his cello, the young man was intensely focused. It was this focus that kept him from meeting his shy fan for two whole months after moving into the attic, but he eventually did. After a mostly upsetting day, Andres decided to place the chair and music stand in front of a large poster of Peru’s National Symphony Orchestra on the other side of the room because he hoped to be inspired by staring at his dream while practicing. He was in the middle of practicing a challenging yet moving piece that brought out the feverish passion he had been longing for all day when something caught his eye. Set against the background of the Orchestra conductor’s face, there was a medium-sized brown spider quietly hanging on to a thread of web. Andres stopped playing to observe the small creature and debate whether he should kill it or not, but before he could decide, the spider started climbing up its thread back into the ceiling. Andres accepted that the decision had been made for him, picked up his bow, and started playing again. Then, the strangest thing happened. As he began playing the cello again, the spider climbed back down the thread to sit and listen. Andres smiled and continued practicing for he had met his first fan, but this confidence wouldn’t last very long. After another long day, he came home frustrated and doubting his ability. He questioned if the spider was actually his fan or if it just enjoyed any music. Andres tested this hypothesis by pressing the different music stations on his radio, but the spider never came down while the radio was on. Later, when Andres started practicing, he turned around and saw that the spider had climbed down again.
From that point on, Andres made the space in front of the Symphony Orchestra poster his usual practicing spot, and the spider routinely began coming down to hear him practice. Besides being a motivating force, the poster was a reminder of good memories, specifically his first time seeing an orchestra. Regardless of whether the spider would care to hear Andres’ origin story or not, he decided to narrate out loud anyway in hopes that the spider was listening to what he had to say. Andres spoke of when he saw the Orchestra play at the Grand National Theater with his mother for the first time when he was five. He remembered hiding behind his mother’s long, emerald green dress as his mother mingled with Lima’s socialites. He also remembered not knowing what to expect when the stage curtains opened and then becoming overwhelmed when the music he heard made him fall in love for the first time. Afterwards, the little boy begged and begged to be given music lessons until his mother relented on the condition that it never interfere with his “real” education.
Andres sighed while reminiscing the simpler times of his childhood and longing for the support he no longer had. He wondered if the spider had family and friends to give him company in the lonely attic. Andres hoped so because he had been more attentive to the appearance of his new home whilst simultaneously avoiding cleaning out the cobwebs and spider webs in fear that the spider would be affected. As he successfully played and worked his way through school, Andres felt less stress and pressure. He found that Ms. Harvey and her family loved listening to him play which led him to start selling his services as a musician for private events. Selling empanadas and other food still remained an important aspect to his finances, though. He continued his practice in front of the spider, who would now occasionally linger for a little while after he stopped playing. There was a respectful and secret friendship between the two, since Andres knew that no one else would understand this unique relationship.
At this point, Andres had lied to Ms. Harvey and told her that there were no pests in the attic nor was there any need to paint the walls. While these conversations had technically happened downstairs, Andres suspected that the spider knew that it had been saved and was thankful for it. Unfortunately, their arrangement as the young cellist and the listening spider would have to come to an end soon. Andres had been offered an opportunity he could not refuse. He had been invited to live with other music students at the house of a well-known professor with many contacts and connections. Once Andres began making plans to leave Mrs. Harvey’s attic and had told the spider, it started coming out less and less often.
At first, the spider stopped lingering after the music stopped, but soon it stopped coming out altogether. This made Andres extremely sad because he had hoped to enjoy his last weeks with his friend, but he had to leave eventually. Right before Andres started the process of packing, he had an idea that made him very happy, but he decided to be discreet about it so it would be a surprise. Andres slowly started moving things into his second new home and cleaning out his now old home in the attic. What had started out as a bare inventory of necessities had slowly turned into a bit of a cluttered mess. This worked to his advantage because Andres hoped to stall his move for a little while as he waited for his friend to come out again so they could enjoy each other’s company one last time. Andres had moved everything but his poster into Professor Baranski’s place. He came back to the attic for the last time to retrieve his poster and pitch his idea to the spider, if it would only come out of its hiding spot. Andres walked into the room and found exactly what he had been waiting for. The spider was hanging in front of the Orchestra conductor’s face one last time. Andres then walked up to the spider and presented his long-awaited surprise: an offer that the spider could not refuse. Andres had gone to a pet store and bought a container for spiders. He told his friend that this would allow them to be together longer and that without Andres there, Mrs. Harvey would possibly directly or indirectly kill the spider. The spider continued hanging on to its thread while Andres held up the container to the spider so that it could go inside, but the spider flinched when the entrance inside the box was too close and then started climbing back up.
Andres was embarrassed that his plan hadn’t worked and frustrated that the spider was going back up once again until he realized that the spider had climbed to the last spot Andres could possibly see it and stopped. To convince it to come back down, he put the container down, which quickly worked. He and the spider stood there for a little while and silently said their goodbyes. Then, Andres carefully removed the poster from the wall without disturbing the spider. The spider was now blended into the color of the wooden walls, but he still felt the presence of the listening spider. Andres began walking towards the door and looked back one last time inside the attic before closing the door behind him.
Camila Rueda Torres is a Colombian-American high school senior who is currently working on a capstone project in which she is creating a collection of short literature. She enjoys spending her time reading books, appreciating art, and discussing politics.