“But the Master of the sea heard my despairing cry, From the waters lifted me, now safe am I…”
–From Love Lifted Me and James Rowe, 1912
I thought I would tell you about the crickets.
When we bought the house in the mid 1990s, it was with the understanding that the previous owner would pay for needed pier work.
We were so stupid. The house was built on a former swamp.
By the time we divorced at the end of the decade, the house was sinking.
I tried to keep it, but it proved to be too much for me. Eventually, the pocket doors wouldn’t shut, and one morning I walked into the kitchen to make coffee and found the backsplash completely busted apart.
Like continents, the laminate pieces formed a jigsaw puzzle on the wall. There had been no continental drift in the marriage or a million years spent floating apart. The divorce was a tsunami wave train I never saw coming.
So, if it wasn’t bad enough that I had lost my footing, the foundation of the house was literally crumbling beneath me. The sliding glass door would not shut because the structure sat catawampus on the earth. At night, my little girl and I went to bed in an unlocked house. I slept with a kitchen knife next to me for two years.
I didn’t sleep at all. Every noise was a potential intruder. I prayed to God to keep us safe, and I learned during this time just how much courage it takes to ask for help. It was this courage I never found. It is this courage that eludes me still.
The worst part for me was the crickets. They crawled through the cracks in the sliding glass door every night. Even though Juliette and I stuffed it with towels and kept the lights off, they’d still find their way inside. They’d fly into our hair and we’d scream. That first season of Survivor, we sat on the couch, each holding a tea towel, slapping the crickets off us while contestants ate brains and worms. I can handle these crickets alright, I thought.
Eventually, we just stopped watching TV. We’d go into my bedroom and read books until we fell asleep.
This all happened 13 years ago. But, the other day, I was sitting in my office in downtown Oklahoma City talking to a couple of brilliant creatives and one of their cell phones rang and the ringtone was the sound of crickets chirping. So, I told them the story about the crickets and Kathleen said it was like a scene from a movie.
Maybe a low-budget, indie film. Don’t say horror genre.
Three days before we moved out of that house a neighbor down the street showed up with a shovel and asked if I minded if he dug up the little blue spruce tree my ex-husband and I’d planted in 1996. I shut the door in his face.
There are a lot of doors I wish I’d shut like that.
The last time I stood inside that house was the day the movers came and hauled away the giant, 1990s TV cabinet. Underneath it were the carcasses of 100 crickets.
These days, when I see crickets in the basement, I cuss like a sailor. Robert calls from the top of the stairs, “What happened?!”
Two weeks ago, Juliette crawls out of her bed in the middle of the night. She finds me and she tells me there is a cricket in her room. She is distressed and can’t sleep for it’s chirping. And, she doesn’t have to tell me and I don’t have to explain why it is so important that I lift her out of this angry wave and save her.
I save her from an intruder and a sleepless night.