The sound of crickets chirping in the night has always provoked starry-eyed sentiments of romantic evenings snuggled up in a sleeping bag with the one I loved. Or at least the one I loved at the moment. I don’t know why that is. Not the part about finding the sound of crickets chirping romantic. That is pretty cliché. But why did it remind me of romantic nights by the campfire? I’ve never been camping, nor do I ever intend to be. The closest I have been to sleeping in the great outdoors was falling asleep on the couch with the Discovery Channel on. That fact alone should have been my first indication that something was awry when I heard the sweet echo of a chirping cricket in my ear.
Instead of rolling over, letting out a sigh and blotting the smile on my face with the pillow, I should’ve been wondering why the hell I was hearing a cricket. I was tucked away under layers of blankets, the clamor of the world barred from my bedroom, hushed by ice-covered windows frozen shut. It took me a while to realize the cricket chirping was coming from behind my dresser.
I don’t know if you’ve ever really looked at a cricket, but it is one of the scarier insects. It looks like something that should be crawling around on the ocean floor,a lobster gone Goth. It has six legs, hinged in several places, too tiny to crack open with a pair of pliers and dip into butter, but big enough to scare the living crap out of me.
In my younger years --back in my twenties--when life was simpler, the fate of an insect dwelling in my apartment was dependent on its level of “cuteness.” The fuzzy, yellow caterpillar lived to tell the tale of his survival. I imagined him wriggling back to his worried parents and giving them an account of how he found himself in a strange land of Formica and giant creatures. How one of the giants (a very intelligent one), scooped him into a paper cup and released him back into the jungle. I further imagined my photo plastered across the caterpillars’ evening paper with the headline “Not All Giants are
Killers.” Centipede newspapers, however, could never make such a claim. A centipede was the first to perish in my apartment. As soon as I saw the flash of its scorpion-like tail whip up and its body scurries across my tile floor, I ran for a shoe to smash it. I couldn’t rest until the job was done.
However, the years of murdering innocent creepy-crawly things are over, especially based on something as superficial as their appearance. Since then, I have come to realize that the life of a giant is as fragile as any bug’s. I have discovered that life can change in a moment. On any given day, every single moment must go well or some random instant could turn the lives of the people closest to us upside down. If every single moment doesn’t go according to plan, we might just find ourselves plastered against the heel of somebody’s shoe, or smeared against somebody’s windshield.
It was this thinking that motivated me to move out from beneath the warmth of my blankets into the “I can’t afford the gas bill” air to catch me a cricket and set it free.
First I armed myself with cricket rescue tools: a pair of rubber gloves, a broom, and a paper cup. After fifteen minutes of searching, coaxing, and scooping, I managed to catch the cricket and send him on his merry little way.
The next morning, feeling good about having made the front page of the Cricket News, I pranced down the steps to head out to work. At the bottom of the landing, I found a head of cauliflower that I had dropped the night before while unloading groceries...I had forgotten all about it tumbling out of the bag. I didn’t have enough time to take it to the kitchen, so I left it next to my front door next to the box of linguine I had dropped the month before.
Anyone who knows me well would not be shocked to find a piece of produce displayed in my living room instead of a family photo. Family photos require forethought and follow-through, both of which I lack on most days. So I was pleased with myself that I
had the forethought and follow through to grab the cauliflower when I got home that night. I decided to have it for dinner before it decided to try to escape again.
So I peeled off its cellophane wrapping, plopped it into the colander, and left it under some running water while I went and changed out of my work clothes. But the water had failed to remove a big clump of something wedged between the white buds. The clump felt all soft and smooshy between my fingers. I know smooshy isn’t a word but that is how it felt, smooshy. When the clump started moving I realized what it was.
It was a cricket, a cricket that was now touching my virgin hands, hands that had not touched an insect since I was nine. Realizing that I was holding one of God’s scarier looking creatures between my fingers I forgot all about life’s lessons. The frailty of life was overshadowed by my fear of scary looking insects.
There was no time to think, only to react. Instead of setting the creature free, I let out a scream and threw it onto the hard, cold tile. Then I uncontrollably ambushed him with my shoe, smashing him into a million little pieces. I looked at him laying there, his little legs smeared across the kitchen tile, never able to make beautiful music together again, and I began to cry.
I like to think I was crying because of the injustice of life. I like to think the tears stinging my eyes and staining my face were because of the illustration of one random moment and its deadly consequences. I would like to think I was crying for all the terrible moments and for the lives of people changed forever. I looked out the window at the world left behind, wondering about it all and caught the reflection of one of the cricket’s lifeless, bulbous eyes staring back at me from the floor. Then I thought how its smooshy, yucky body touched my fingers and I began to sob.