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September 15, 2010 - 5:45am


While hurrying to class this morning among throngs of students on the quad, I heard the sickening thud of a body hitting the sidewalk and the scattering of papers. When the crowd parted I saw that an old man who looked like emeritus faculty had fallen. It took me a few seconds to get to him, in part because everyone in the area continued walking around him. He was breathing hard and was scared. I thought he might be having a heart attack or stroke, but he said he was alright, and when I asked if he could stand, he said yes. I got him on his feet, alone. Somebody else did hand him his papers. When it seemed he could continue, I left.

I got to class and the gregarious undergrad who chooses to sit next to me at the conference table gave me her usual friendly and somewhat comical greeting. She said that during our last class, while I was talking, she saw a spider walk across the table toward me. It reached me and climbed onto the bare flesh of my arm, but I didn’t notice. She watched it climb up my arm and disappear for a moment. When it reemerged it descended on a thread of silk from my elbow, where it hung and swayed when I moved.

Why in the world didn’t you say something? I said.

I’m terrified of spiders, she said. And you were giving a great lecture.


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