Riley Harrison

i. The Funeral
I own a watch, and I’ve worn it almost every day for the past year. A little while ago, I noticed it stopped working. The tiny hands were stuck at 11:47 P.M. on October 29th, 2022. When I registered the stillness, hours later, I cried.

(You can laugh if you wish. It’s silly. I don’t cry often.)


ii. A History: Condensation and Hypocrisy
I forgot to take the watch off before swimming in Lake Michigan on May 13th, and water droplets got stuck inside beneath the glass face. Miraculous thing, it worked after that. More miraculous still, it continued to work after every other time I forgot to take it off before entering a body of water. The lake, a frequent culprit, and (I’m embarrassed to admit) the shower, too. The inside swelled with water but its heartbeat persisted.

The droplets didn’t evaporate until the end of August. 

Don’t tell, but I was sad when the water was gone. The nerve of my ache! I had complained about the droplets for months. They were an obvious reminder of my carelessness. But they puckered in the Colorado dry and left no ghost. And I had the nerve to be sad about the very thing I expected to celebrate! I discovered once the water left that I had quietly, secretly, thought it was special to wear Lake Michigan on my wrist. Even I hadn’t realized this uniquity until it was too late.


iii. The Spider, a Brief Explanation
I have a spider instead of a brain and it sits in my head and it weaves a big web. The spider wants to connect to everything it can, to find some sort of meaning, or purpose,
because the spider feels really small? The spider revels in a pretty sunset and it clings its silk to it, to store it, for later. The spider clings to many things, too many things. It clings to a $20 watch from Target. It then clings to the drops of Lake Michigan stuck inside of it.


iv. Indecision
I love and hate nothing so much as this spider. The spider thinks that everything is beautiful and holy. The spider gives meaning to a shadow on the sidewalk.

Me, I think it hurts to feel so connected to my surroundings, like when my watch stops ticking and I sit in the dark in a ball and I feel like I am dying too because the watch was my limb and it watched me grow and shrink it witnessed my best and my worst and it was there, always there, a constant weight on my wrist and the watch will never reach October 30th even though it was only thirteen minutes away from it and that is so final and tragic and then I’m crying in front of my friends at 1 A.M. and they realize they’ve never seen me cry and don’t know what to do and they tell me to get a new battery which is ignorantly sweet because they don’t understand that to get a new battery would be to disrespect the integrity of the entity and I beg for the spider to stop it, to stop weaving its stupid little web that I hate so much. 

The next day, it’s sunny and a ladybug clings to my sweater which elicits a brief smile as I reflect on such a mundane blessing and I feel quietly but eternally thankful for the spider. 

The spider never acknowledges my love or my hate. It just keeps weaving.


v. Acceptance
I noticed the watch started working a week after its death. For a moment, I thought I imagined the whole ordeal, had forged unnecessary tears, except the hands read 1:07 and my phone told me it was nearly four o’clock. The watch had sprung to life with the same silent modesty that the water droplets faded with. Beyond my immediate notice.

I still don’t understand how or why the watch started ticking again, or for how long it will tick, but I do know that it won’t tick forever. One day it will stop. And I will have to accept it. 

In the meantime, I’m going to let the spider keep spinning its web to collect the mass of small, ordinary things I encounter. Because it hurts to have a spider instead of a brain, but I think it might hurt more to not fall in love with each fizzle of a snowflake as it melts on my tongue. To not celebrate each hard press of a pebble against my heel when I wade across the shoreline. To not ease at each steady tick of a cheap watch. 


vi. The Lesson
To summarize the spider is concise and simply put. It hurts to give little meanings to life. It hurts more not to.

Riley Harrison is a member of the Northwestern University class of 2025.