On killing a spider

On driving with my dad

My dad is a politician. He’s four decades older than me and I’m 10. He hates the police. Maybe just the police in Colombia. Or all over the world. I don’t know. I’ve never been in a car with my father anywhere else.

When I’m in a car with my dad, he’s always giving me advice on life. He has four decades full of advice to give. Sometimes he talks to me about God. Sometimes about power. He likes those two words very much, especially God. These drives are boring as hell. That is, until a police officer stops us on the road.

My dad’s car is big with tinted windows. In Colombia, big cars with tinted windows belong to dangerous people, or politicians, who are dangerous people too. My dad never curses in front of me unless a police officer stops him on the road. Seeing him angry like that always makes me smile.

When we’re back on the road after the brief exchange of IDs and condescending smiles, the big rant begins: they kill, they rob, they don’t protect. Don’t let them fool you. They’re creatures of evil, sons of bitches with power, the worst institution in this country and this country is already one of the worst places on Earth.

After driving around with my dad, I never remember his words on God. I just remember to hate the police.

On waiting for the metro

I’m in Peel metro station. It’s late. Only 5 or 6 people are on the platform with me. The screen shows that the metro will arrive in less than 1 minute, so I’m in a good mood. The boredom is about to end. I have my headphones on and I’m listening to a salsa song that reminds me of my first boyfriend. The chorus, my favorite part, is seconds away.

I notice a man approaching. He’s drunk or very high. He looks dangerous. From his clothes, I assume he lives on the street and didn’t pay for his ticket. I’m mildly scared. He’s staggering, sometimes too close to the tracks. I’m hoping that he walks past me and becomes the next guy’s problem.

But no. He stops less than a meter away from me and stands at the very edge of the platform. The tips of his old shoes are in the air and he’s rocking back and forth. Almost like dancing to the rhythm of my salsa song. I could stand somewhere else. The platform is big enough for 7 people to be at a comfortable distance from each other. But I decide to stay put. Frankly, that man is not going to do anything to me.

The noise of the train entering the station blends with the drums in my ears. And the guy is still rocking back and forth. His head going in and out of the tracks. That drunk’s head is in peril. I know it, and yet, I can’t bring myself to tell him, to pull him back, to yell out something, or to give him a little push and spare me the bloody scene. And the train is, not seconds, but milliseconds from doing just that.

So many questions pour in my mind in this tiny instant. Are you going to let him die? How can you do nothing? Who are you? Where is your humanity? Is it because you’re too scared? Because he lives on the street? Because of all these questions you’re asking yourself right now? Why don’t you fucking move? Do something! The train will smash this man’s head any millisecond!

Just before this happens, though, two police officers swoop in, pull the guy away from the tracks and save his life. The train doors open, I walk in. The salsa song is about to end. I’m not thinking about my first boyfriend anymore. I don’t think I ever will. I’m thinking about my dad, about my indifference. I miss my stop.

On killing a spider

Friends are coming for dinner and I can’t bring myself to kill that spider lurking behind the window frame.

I remember my mom telling me about that Australian documentary she saw on spiders. Every spider is poisonous. Every. Single. One. Some more than others. A friend of mine told me in Chile they have to sleep with newspapers on top of the bed to wake up when a recluse spider falls off the ceiling. My first boyfriend told me about a spider who bit his uncle’s mother-in-law’s maid. The next day she started noticing a purple line on her arm. Her doctor told her it was the spider’s poison making its way from the bite to her heart.

Spiders are dangerous. Even that Canadian spider on my window. I have to kill her or she will kill my guests. But I can’t bring myself to do it. And that’s because I’m thinking about God. I never think about God, not since I was 10. That spider is God’s creature. And I’m a much bigger creature with the power to kill her, or save her. Then I remember the police and the one time they did the right thing and saved a life I was supposed to save.

And while I’m thinking these things, my food burns in the oven, the fire alarm goes off, my dinner guests arrive, there’s smoke all over the place, but I feel much better about myself because I didn’t kill the Canadian spider. It’s going to be a great dinner party.

Maria Camila Arias is a Colombian/Canadian screenwriter who wrote Birds of Passage, opening film at Cannes Director's Fortnight in 2018 and shortlisted at the 91st Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. She has written several other screenplays and fiction drama series, she teaches and also works as a story editor for film and TV.