Senior Emily Hamel sits at her table with her older sister, Claudia, in Hometown Buffet. Her right arm is cocked out at a 90 degree angle as she shovels cotton candy into her mouth and mumbles into the sleeve of her hoodie, “You want some cotton candy, darling? Oh, I’m sorry Marilyn, it’s not spider food.”
Hamel walks to the ice cream machine with her arm looking like she needs a square-dancing partner. She sets her bowl down under the machine, pulls down the lever and begins to giggle and tells Marilyn, her pet tarantula, to settle down.
Hamel has had Marilyn for two years and tarantulas of her species have the capability of living for well over twenty, so their friendship could last well into her thirties. Marilyn goes everywhere and does everything with Hamel. They go to Hometown Buffet, Quik Trip, Home Video, everywhere.
Hamel, an aspiring artist, even lets Marilyn crawl around her body when she paints. Marilyn climbs up Hamel’s neck onto the back of her head, but Hamel continues to paint, undisturbed. Having Marilyn crawling around her body and feeling her hair tickling her skin helps Hamel’s creativity. Ever since she bought Marilyn, they’ve been inseparable.
“I named her Marilyn Monroe, because she’s a rosehair [tarantula],” Hamel said, “Chilean Rose Hair, that’s the actual term for her species, so I call her Marilyn MonRoseHair.”
Hamel feels at ease whenever Marilyn is tucked inside her jacket. Hamel enjoys the constant company and the fuzzy nature of Marilyn throughout the day.
“I call her my brooch,” Hamel said. “I like to have her with me wherever I go. I just think better when she’s with me.”
Hamel even takes Marilyn with her to school sometimes, and since tarantulas are nocturnal Marilyn just sleeps in Hamel’s jacket. She often wears a baggy black hoodie to give Marilyn extra space to crawl around inside her jacket. During class amel reaches into her jacket and strokes Marilyn as she sleeps.
“I was pretty terrified,” her Economics teacher David Muhammad said. “I kinda stared at [Hamel] because I wasn’t surprised and was in awe and told her not to come near me. I don’t do spiders.”
Hamel more often than not receives stares when people notice her “brooch.” Employees at Home Video are always surprised if she doesn’t have Marilyn with her when she comes in to rent a movie.
“I remember when Emily first walked into here with Marilyn on her chest,” Chris, an employee at Home Video said as he sends a picture of Marilyn to all of his contacts, “I remember seeing it but not seeing it. I thought it was a design on her shirt at first, it was different, but I figured since I’ve seen stranger things–a woman with a parrot on her shoulder–that I’d let it fly, you know, whatever floats her boat.”
She has no problem with the extra care her cargo brings with it. Hamel and Marilyn have a deep connection, but it’s not like other pets. Marilyn doesn’t come when Hamel calls, and Marilyn can’t fetch, but Marilyn is Hamel’s friend.
“I just have to be a little more careful when I’m walking around so that I don’t smush her so in exchange for the company it’s worth it,” Hamel said.
Hamel knows Marilyn won’t live as long as her, so she came up with a solution: she’d get a tattoo.
“At first, I thought spider tattoos were just so exotic looking, but I want a tattoo of Marilyn, my first spider,” Hamel said, “I want her to always be with me.”
Hamel realizes that she may not always want a tattoo of Marilyn, so she’s decided to wait until she gets older to get the tattoo. Hamel plans to have a tarantula with her for the rest of her life, one way, or another.
“I love spiders and [raising tarantulas] is what I want to do for a living,” Hamel says, “I’m just a spider person.”