Monday, May 17, 2004

A Plague on Both Your Houses

Used to be, the worst thing that ever happened to me was the flaming bowl of tropical-themed firewater that I imbibed one night at Oceans 11 in Austin. Now we have a new champion, and it goes by the insufficiently descriptive name "Brood X." Brood X. Come on, this is not a nineties pop-punk band. This is a nightmare.

Conversation about the cicada influx has roughly followed the bell curve that supposedly tracks the infestation itself. Just a trickle at first ("Have you heard...?"); and now it has completely supplanted weather, sports, weekend plans, "It's a Monday" groans, and "it's Friday" cheers as topics of small-talk in elevators.

I had been cavalier in my preparations. Rather than steeling my mind and hardening my soul; rather than working to spontaneously generate an outer shell of body armor, I scoffed. "It's another Hurricane Isabel," I pshawed. "All hype." This from the girl who once threatened to burn her flesh off after accidentally brushing a cockroach. The girl who locked herself in her bedroom for two hours after spotting a flying roach in the living room - cornered like a criminal, on the phone with Mom, wailing.

It's been spotty so far, and in the heart of the city, the little bastards are mercifully non-existent. Spotty at best. But although I'm in DC city limits, I more-or-less live in Suburbia-lite. That means lots of trees, and that means those aberrations of nature congregate in my peaceful little neighborhood and turn it into a scene from the apocalypse.

You probably think I'm exaggerating, right?

Let me tell you about the Worst Night of My Life, aka, last night.

It was late, and Kriston and I were driving back to my apartment post-Six Feet Under-Sopranos-Deadwood gluttony. We parked on my poorly lit street, and I stepped out of the car, unprepared for the sight that would greet my unbelieving eyes. The street was almost entirely dark, except for weak spheres of light here and there. In the dim glow,
I could tell that Something was Moving. Peering harder, I saw that the ground was covered in writhing cicada bodies. I let my gaze track back to my feet. Flip flops. Bare, pink, vulnerable flesh.

I don't remember what noises I made, but my survival instincts made sure that these noises conveyed my mortal peril. Because Kriston, earning like infinity points, came running over so I could jump on his back. I held on to his neck whimpering as he bravely trudged through the swamp of gooey nasty unfathomable creatures.

But I had let my guard down too soon, forgetting that there are those more advanced in their life cycles, with wings. And they use them. To fly. In the air. Which is where I was, having been hoisted on my trusty boyfriend's back. Now I may be wrong; I may be dead wrong, but vigilance is key, and I could swear that there was something in my hair. So naturally, what does one do? It's midnight, you're still half the distance to the door, and the enemy is everywhere. I of course decided to shriek like a banshee and thrash around like a fish out of water, slapping at my head the whole time. Kriston, (infinity and one points), managed to hold on to me, although my cell phone went flying out to the middle of the street.

As far as I was concerned, that phone was a goner, and there was nothing to do but carry on. Every man for himself, natural selection, sorry Panasonic, but the Law of the Jungle is a cruel but necessary guide. But Kriston has a totally Saving Private Ryan code of ethics, and you Leave No Man Behind. He had to go back. Plus the phone is like in the middle of the street.

I let him set me down so he could go back for the phone, and I made sure to stand in one of the pools of light so I could keep guard over my feet until his return. In the 2 seconds I was left alone, I began to feel ashamed about my behavior. I'm a big girl. This is ridiculous. "I can make it," I said. "I'll walk to the door."

What I didn't realize, was that I was standing in the Very Last Pool of Light between myself and the doorway. A long, dark walkway stood between the two. Kriston trudged ahead of me. I took two steps into the darkness and my vision clouded with imagined images of millions of little bodies ready to squoosh beneath my flip-flops, and I took one olympic flying leap and latched desperately onto Kriston's back again, spurring him forward with another shriek. He barrelled up the walkway, landing me safely at the doorstep of my apartment.

This can't go on. I have packed my bag with several days worth of clothing. I hope to avoid my apartment until July.


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