The cricket out back in the gravel lot of weeds is singing extra innings. His relentless song beats with the life the wave breaking rain brought yesterday. His song must have been born in the wet drops. I can tell he’s lonely. I know this because we were camping in Southern Illinois this April and the nearest camper was a biology student from the University of Missouri in Columbia. Her accent was thick like the rainy cold night we’d later wade out, and she was studying the songs of crickets. It was dreary and she had no crickets to record. We asked for some good spots and she told us places but neither Dawn nor I could get over her accent or her being alone in the woods and us being together.
I don’t know much about crickets, aside from the old adage that the chirps per minute equal the temperature, they are brown to black in shade and are shaped like stubby grasshoppers. I also remember the theme of “a cricket in the house” leak into my collective memory through some old black and white sitcom on a sick day from school. I suppose the song of a cricket can range from soothing to annoying on some emotion scale. I just let it fade, then I’ll listen close to hear it.
The cricket stopped. Started again. False alarm.
Planes roar through the sky. Rumble over the lakes, spin to land into aircon airport carpet terminals where anybody is coming and going. Plastic job utopia and new characters bounce every minute. The cricket is as loud as these planes with the distortion of distance and the sheet of emotion that washes over me. Here have I been.
Been, since last September and before. A life less built and more piled. Gathering bits and pieces to create a structure of together. The roof leaks, big deal.
”Time to hang up the hangups”, I told myself. I just tossed them over the back of a chair or on the floor and didn’t mind the attention. It wasn’t easier but not as difficult.
Man, that cricket drives me wild. I even went looking for him tonight. Silence.
I used to have this old bench on Lake of the Isles, I’d go there every day and think about my life. The renovation project buried the bench last year. Yesterday, all the world folded me up and I went for a walk. I paced by the place where my old bench used to be and chugged past the bulldozer and it’s giant knobby wheels. I twist and turned past the expanse until I found a split path past the second bridge and before the third. I crept down and found a mowed area looking over the northern bow. Water was lapping at the edge. I ran there and saw a bass flip out of the reeds with fright. I began to cry.
”Same bench same as the old bench.” I said, sitting on it, wiping my tears. The middle two by four on the bottom side was broken and warped, but I didn’t care. This was my new bench. I’d been looking for it since last year when my friend and sixth grade teacher, Earl Eugene Bitoy died. The renovation of Isles had met my bench. I went there hoping that it was still there and the gracious God rewarded me with a front loader parked with teeth brushing the cement mix of the foundation. I said goodbye to the place and the man who taught me chess and bid farewell. Since then, I have been searching for an escape spot. A place outside my mind I could retreat to. I found it.
When I came home later and heard the cricket, Dawn was mad that I had disappeared. I told her I found a new bench and cried.
”Did you really cry?” She asked.
”Yeah, I cry all the time.” I said.
”I’ve only seen you cry once.” She seemed disappointed that my sorrow wasn’t open.
”I cry inside mostly”.
I told her that I prayed for her and that I swallowed the world’s sorrow when I was a little boy ‘cuz God tricked me into thinking it was a gum ball. She thought I was joking, now she know all my soft spots and turns away because they show my bruised rot.
Sounds bad huh? Not so bad deep down under the skin, just have to get used to it. Things change, gotta grow. She weeps because the cricket cries and I don’t. My song on the juke box played hours ago, but I want to tell her that it will play again.
The cricket remains update.