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Notes from Nicaragua: A Bigger Cup

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"OK. OK..." I hear my boyfriend in the bedroom. It's easy to hear him in this open-air home in the jungle of Nicaragua, just outside of San Juan del Sur. Only screens at the top of the cement walls separate us from the jungle. Last night the wind blew through and sang us to sleep.

I assume that somehow he's found cellphone service. I have sworn off my phone and any connection to the civilized world to fully embrace this jungle adventure. We've rented this home with a few friends -- my best friend and her girlfriend. It's a jungle house full of New York gays.

"I need your help." I realize suddenly he's talking to me. I excuse myself from the girls and slide back the heavy door panel leading to our bedroom. I see him standing in the open bathroom, staring into the shower. I showered earlier this morning as the jungle wind blew through and the howler monkeys whooped their eerie call.

"What?" I say, slightly annoyed. He has a flair for the dramatic. But something about his demeanor alarms me. He is standing unnaturally still.

"There's... something."

"OK..." I am suddenly tense, but having no idea why.

"In the shower." I put his two sentences together. There's something in the shower. Shit.

"What is it?" I call, unable to walk around the half-wall partition to see what he's gazing at. "Is it an animal?"

"No." (I am about to find out that I need to review with my boyfriend the definition of animal.)

I reluctantly pry my feet from the floor one at a time and make my way around the partition. I look down into the shower.

"Oh. My. God."

It's a spider. A huge, hairy spider. The biggest spider I've ever seen in real life. It stands in the residual water from my shower. I shudder at the thought that it was there the whole time, just out of sight as I hummed while washing, mostly to remind myself to keep my mouth closed so I didn't get typhoid.

"Don't move," I say both to him and to the spider.

I return to the lesbians in the kitchen who have made short work of the kitchen (I hate to play into stereotypes, but lesbians can be so efficient.)

"There is a very large spider in the shower," I say with the calmest urgency I can muster, hating to play so deeply into my own stereotype as a gay man.

"OK. OK," my best friend Jan replies. Apparently this is what we say when we encounter terrifying spiders in the jungle.

"Here," she says, casually handing me the short glass out of which I'd been chugging Fleur de Cana and pineapple juice the evening before.

"You're going to need a bigger cup," I reply without breaking eye contact. My comment suggests not only the size of the spider but also my absolute unwillingness to participate in its capture. Screw the stereotypes. I'm gay, and I'm not going near that thing. She's the lesbian, so get 'er done.

She takes a deep breath. "OK." She's actually the perfect candidate for the task: a sexy, compact woman who has more swagger and bravado than an entire football team. However, she sometimes has a girly streak, which I think I see flash for a moment before she bravely grabs the freshly cleaned plastic sandwich container. I nod and smile encouragingly, as if to say, "Yes, now you understand. And that's more like it."

"This is what we signed up for," she reminds me. And she's right. We all knew the implications of the phrase "Open-Air Jungle Home" when we planned our couples vacation. And we all knew the purpose of the mosquito nets we carefully tucked around our beds the previous night before slipping into our first blissful vacation sleep -- which also looks like it might be our last. Strangely, I haven't seen a single mosquito since landing in Managua. There must be a much more ominous and appropriate term for "mosquito net" here.

But, yes, this is what we signed up for. This is what I want. I want all the experiences that we planned, like coming to a foreign country and turning off our phones and roughing it and really trying not to use the wireless internet in the house. I want to do yoga in the jungle (well, at least on the front porch) and go out on a catamaran tour. I want to get drunk in a foreign country and really find out how my Rosetta Stone is working. And, yes, I am willing to experience those things we knew might happen, would even probably happen, like seeing a strange bug or two in the house or not being able to find any decent lobster tail.

And in perfectly stereotypical fashion, I stand right behind her taking pictures as she drops the sandwich container over the beast, and I utter "OK" more than twice as she slides a brochure for "Da Flying Frog Jungle Ziplining Tour" under the plastic container, under the creature. My boyfriend and her girlfriend sort of look on calmly, holding the middle of the stereotype spectrum. I briefly imagine him verging on darting out of the room and her hovering to provide some good backup, but neither of them moves.

In the end, I follow Jan outside and watch her gently toss the spider as far away from the porch as possible. Unfortunately, the nasty creature has some weight and lands with a barely audible thud a few feet away. We watch it for a moment; it's clearly regaining its composure, or perhaps contemplating retaliation. And as we stand there, staring down the beast, I realize in a deeply profound way, that if I'm going to make it through this stay here in the jungle, I'm going to have to open myself up to some other possibilities, some other things that might happen.

Yes. I am going to need a bigger cup.