This here is the rough draft of a story that I was going to tell at the Speakeasy next week, but aborted it in favor of a story about my cat. I believe I made the correct decision, but here it is. UNCUT!
The Cicada Monologues 2
First of all, let me preface this by saying that I’m probably more proud of this than I should be.
The Spring of 2004 was a very Dustin life-altering couple of months. I had just broken up with the most serious girlfriend I ever had, who promptly moved back to Canada. I took that as I sign she wasn’t interested in getting back together. I was also 29 staring 30 in the face and desperately trying to find a life partner before my resale value got shot to shit. Everyone knows that once you turn 30, you turn invisible to college chicks. Amidst this time of panic and desperation came an event that only happens once every 17 years… the emergence of the cicadas, the most dedicated and least organized animals on the planet.
These cicadas come out of the ground every 17 years, fly around, have sex, lay eggs and die. These eggs then nurture in the ground for 17 years. No more, no less. And nobody knows why. OK, I don’t know why. But that’s dedication to incubation. And because they spend 17 years in an egg underground and only get a two week vacation to fly around and have carefree cicada sex before they die, they have no idea what they’re doing. I’d say they were out in swarms, but I don’t really think they could form a swarm. When I think of swarms, I think of organized schools of creatures moving together as one. These guys aren’t nearly as organized, which makes them more annoying, but less likely to be the leading role in a FOX made-for-TV horror movie. The way the news portrayed them leading up to their emergence, I thought they were supposed to blanket the sky and cars were going to skid on patches of cicadas on the road, but they are very harmless creatures. They don’t bite or sting. They really only just get in the way, look icky and occasionally dive bomb you in the head and fly away and then fly back and do the same thing more out of incompetence than disrespect. The only thing they could do together was their damn morocco rattlesnake song which was always disproportionally louder than it should be for their size. This was especially annoying for people who slept with their windows open.
But what was even more annoying was driving with your windows open. One day, I was coming to a stop sign at the bottom of a hill. At this point, my brakes were so shot, I could feel the drum solo from Bonzo’s Montreaux playing in the wheel well when I tried to stop, so I felt no need to put further wear and tear on my car just to dignify federal law. This stop sign also just happened to be right next to an extremely high cicada traffic area. As I was stopping that day, I noticed that the trajectory of one of those icky fuckers was aimed straight at my window. I thought about skidding to a stop or swerving, but then I thought that was a slight overreaction, so I just ignored the cicada flight path in hopes that it would bank left or something. I’m not going to let these ignorant fuckers dictate how I stop at a stop sign. So I stopped and sure enough the bastard took a B-line for my head and kamikaze dive-bombed into my car. I reacted like a little 3rd grade schoolgirl flailing my arms wildly in an epileptic fit of “get it off!” like it was an active firecracker. I managed to lose the cicada in the car and to this day, haven’t found any signs of it. So I likely still have a dead suffocated or heat-stroked cicada somewhere in my car. And maybe I’ll have about 500 more of them in my car in 2021. That would probably shoot the resale value to shit.
Anyway, toward the end of the spring of the cicada, a few friends of mine threw a cicada party. I thought that it was just a regular party called “The Cicada Party” to kinda justify having a party for those people who need a better reason than getting drunk and passing out on a floor covered in potato chips and salsa. So I later heard through the grapevine that there would actually be a live cicada eating contest. The gag reflex you’re probably all feeling right now was my first reaction also. And if that sentence disgusted you, you may want to leave now. Because it was more than just a live cicada eating contest that made this a cicada party. I showed up and they had old bay cicadas, chocolate covered cicadas and cicadas in taco meat with taco shells and all the fixins. They had posterboard up for anybody who tried the different kinds to write their name down. And in this particular setting, people were impressed by these sort of accomplishments. I later realized that these accomplishments were not met with the same respect and reverence at work. One coworker gagged so much, he started to sweat.
So anyway, these posters were up there just begging for people with low self-esteem struggling to fit in to shove a dirty chocolate covered insect down their throat to earn a spot up on the wall of fame. And so I did. And then some hot chick convinced me to eat an old bay one. They really do taste like shrimp, by the way. But so does everything you douse in old bay. I had thought about signing the poster below it which would have entered me into the live cicada eating contest, but not after seeing the tupperware container full of them sitting outside. If you were even close to on the fence about eating a live cicada, seeing about 100 crawling around each other in a see-though plastic hell was enough to turn you vegan. It was something out of an Indiana Jones movie. And so I played flip cup. And then I played beer pong. And I don’t remember specifically, but I probably played asshole too. At some point, I was swayed by either peer pressure, large amounts of alcohol, or a curiosity of my own competitive limitations when it came to winning something, and I registered for the live cicada eating contest. I believe my decision was heavily swayed by the hot chick I was following around for the better part of two hours saying “why not?” She’s right. Why the hell not? After all, this is a Cicada Party. And what better way to impress this hot chick than to enter the premiere event at this party? And if she was to be my savior, I had but a precious few months before I turned invisible to her. And so I made my move.
This was actually an impressively structured contest, with several rounds which increased in both required dexterity and unyielding disgust as the contest progressed. Honestly, I knew that nobody would give me a shot as I can barely do a lemon drop without gagging, but I knew my mind over matter reflex would trump the gag reflex to at least earn me a ride to the second round. I suppose it’s also possible that I just don’t give enough of a shit about my body to care what I eat. At any rate, I got to the second round. I thankfully remembered a buddy of mine told me that if you pinched their wings together, it rendered them harmless. Leave it to a brown belt in aikido to teach a submission hold on a cicada. Before I had realized it, I was eating cicadas like they were jello. Crunchy, squirming jello that flaps its wings for a half second, but jello nonetheless. The field was narrowed from 24 down to 12 down to 4 and now down to 2 and I was still in the running for champion of an event which only one hour earlier almost made me need to shower for even thinking about it. I had made it to the final round, which combined agility with cicada eating. I was possessed at this point. I could have probably eaten a squirrel if somebody handed it to me. I glanced over at the hot chick who I had already started dating in my very unhealthy mind. She was no longer watching. She was on the phone with her boyfriend. How this hadn’t come up in over 3 hours of conversation is still a mystery to me. But I had come this far and developed such a large fan base, I didn’t need any additional motivation. After completing the two rounds of beer pong and flip cup and live cicada eating, I came out a second ahead some other dude. This marked several firsts in my life. It was the first eating contest I had ever won, it was the first cicada-related activity I had ever participated in, and it was the first time I ran sprinting to the bathroom to puke and had absolutely no desire to. That was weird. I expected to feel a whole lot worse after eating what turned out to be about 24 cicadas. Nothing. I decided not to look at my bowel movements for a week just in case, but other than that, I had no ill effects at all.
I obviously didn’t get the girl that night, but I did learn something about myself. I can do some fucked up shit if I tell myself I’m gonna do it. And I’ll bet you can too. It took the perfect storm of a hot chick, a panic attack and a live cicada eating contest for me to figure it out, but it didn’t have to. Challenge yourself. You may surprise yourself. After all, I am known in certain circles as the Lord of the Cicadas, at least until the summer of 2021.