OMG I'm Totally Buggin

Part II of a diptych by Imani Etilé

Lifestyle & Identity

Good Morning Cicada

For the past forty five minutes, I’ve been splashing around in the Bellemare's backyard reveling in the superiority that saline pools hold over chlorine ones. I’m here alone, everyone is out at work or school so I’ve allowed myself maximum foolishness. I make sure to hit all the classics; underwater headstands, somersaults, mermaid stuff, and generally finding every way to launch myself into and out of the water. When my head is underwater, all the noises of the outside world drown away. All the noises except for one. In the high heat of summer months in Provence, the only sound that is inescapable, even under water, is the shrieking chorus of the cicadas. Each one of them expands and contracts their abdomen to release a mating call that isn’t unlike the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard. 

How irritating the sound is. Every day I find myself caught in the same thought loop that lasts about thirty seconds. My irritation never lasts long because, by the end of the thirty seconds, I once again change my mind to acknowledge that there is a level of romance in the song of the cicadas. This sound marks the beginning of summer here in the South of France. It’s a sound that promises eating long dinners outside and watching your arm hairs turn yellow under the Mediterranean sun. If the sound of cicadas carries to the beach, it is a good sign because this means there is enough breeze to fight off the languid heat. 

I’ve permanently changed my mind actually. The song of the cicadas is a comfortable sound, a happy sound. I tune my ears to focus on the call of just one. I try to find a pattern in the staccato that projects so loudly from its small body. But there is no rhythm or pattern to the call. I walk around the backyard trees, carefully searching for the evasive camouflaged insects, and listen to a few different ones. 

Although none of them have a consistent cadence, every few minutes they all synchronize to release one loud shriek in unison before returning to their separate parts in the chorus. Because there is no rhyme or reason, each one has their own beat, their own style. And somehow, when combined, they all seem to have their own small yet important part in the symphony. It is as if the moments of unison are checkpoints to ensure that each is in the right measure. 

When the sun starts to sink and the trees fall into the shadows, one by one each tree falls silent. There are several cicadas in each tree but it is as if there is a sudden collective decision to catch and hold their breath. Some trees remain silent for the rest of the evening and night while some briefly come back to life. It starts with just one. She chirps tentatively. She sounds timid and a little unsure of herself but she is brave enough to break the silence. It doesn’t take long for others to join her. It’s almost as if you can hear the confidence of the first growing stronger with each friend that sings out in support. Only one initiates, but they finish in unison, as if an invisible conductor’s baton swooshes in final punctuation ending with a closed fist.

Every morning, a courageous cicada sings at the first signs of warmth under the sun. By the end of the day, hundreds have joined her. Then the cool night air comes and with it a contemplative and restful silence until the moon says goodnight to the stars and the sun says good morning to the cicadas.