Cover Photo: The Spirit Animal by Lauren Suval

The Spirit Animal

Its black legs tickle her forearm. 

Go back inside, baby, she coos. Some heads on the F train turn, but barely. New Yorkers don’t give a damn if you’re muttering to yourself, let alone an insect.

An elderly gentleman in a grey peacoat peers at her, rather amused.

Pet spider?

She lowers the volume on her earphones. The Weepies can wait. 

Oh… It’s not really a pet. But I’ve been carrying it with me for a week now. While I was writing at my desk, it appeared. Then went away. Then appeared again. I don’t know, it could be my spirit animal. 

After she says it, she wonders if he thinks she’s crazy.

Is that something you young folks are doing?

Hah. Probably not. 

She pauses. She starts twirling her curly, dark strands, thinking of how she needs to cut off the dead ends. She begins playing with the zipper on her denim jacket, quintessential for Indian summer in October. 

I don’t know. I guess I feel like we’re similar.

You mean you and the spider?

Yeah. Like we both can be stuck in our head, absorbed with thoughts, not necessarily attune to the big picture, the outside world, you know? This little one has its web to weave, and I guess I have my own.

She gazes at this elderly man. The man in a grey peacoat. His face is gentle. Understanding. 

But, I mean, we also have an air of independence, I guess. And tenacity. Tenacity to get out of those predicaments.

Well, let’s see it, shall we?

She smiles, touched at his interest, at the fact that this complete stranger on the subway is indulging in her story. 

She digs into her pocket, but comes up empty-handed.

Shit, shit, shit. Did it get out?

She tries again; this time, slightly panicked.

It’s okay, it’s okay. He looks at this young woman, at her distress over losing her ‘spirit animal.’ 

You don’t need it, he says. 

But…I mean…it was right here…

Oh, sweetie… 

Their eyes lock, and she knows exactly what he’s about to relay.

You really don’t need it.

Lauren Suval studied print journalism and psychology at Hofstra University, and she is a writer based in New York. Her work has been featured on Psych Central, Thought Catalog, Catapult Community, and other online publications. Lauren's e-book “Coping With Life’s Clutter” and her latest book, “The Art Of Nostalgia,” a collection of personal essays, can both be found on Amazon. She loves to be followed on Twitter @LaurenSuval and on Facebook @LaurenSuvalWriting.