- Olivia Luchini
The Summer the Crickets Sang in Fresno
When I graduated from the very university that everyone wanted me to go to and completed everything that anyone could want me to complete after taking every opportunity that accidentally dropped at my feet while being pulled between every person I should want to be friends with and perfecting every line on the front and back of a sheet of paper that would determine my worth to strangers on a blue website of humble brags and unpaid internships, I was quite tired. Frankly, this tiredness was very much expected from those that I interacted with on the day-to-day. I’ve been running on empty since before I was able to legally stay home alone, but such is the way of anyone growing up in this millennium. It’s a constant challenge to stay ahead of the mass of other hard workers sprinting up behind you, living in fear of unemployment or irrelevancy. Thus, I was tired. Dead tired, even.
You cannot go on social media when you are overworked and dead tired with no plans of R-and-R. This is like injecting your own bloodstream with a syringe full of air. Pictures will fly up your nose and into your brain, beginning the annual summer trip down “WhyNotMe” lane. You are, however, usually able to convince yourself you have something that needs doing when a fresh year of coursework awaits you in mere weeks. Start an independent study, get to work on responsibilities you have in your leadership roles, fill out applications for promotions or positions, and work harder and harder until you finally feel that you’ve done it all.
This summer, on the other hand, has nothing lying ahead. There is no approaching quarter with approaching opportunity or approaching deadlines or approaching jobs. Now, the true future bellows its hot breath into young faces, curling lashes with its potency and closeness.
I would be remised if I claimed I had no regrets about the four years I spent in that college town, but I would also be remised to claim that I did not feel like I did my very best. Yet, as I watch every other person in my graduating class see the sights of this country and countless others, I am riddled with envy. I swallow the pictures on every platform like ibuprofen’s antithesis, wanting to feel the soreness and the pain because I am so very angry as I sit in Fresno and hear the crickets sing.
Yes, crickets. I know, Fresno has never had crickets in its soundtrack. This summer, however, they are playing encores on loop. It’s mind-numbing, honestly — a cruel reminder of how isolated I feel. In the night, I hear them wailing through closed windows. I hear them belting from a floor above them. I hear them riffing into the early hours of the morning. They make Fresno feel quieter than it felt when there was no sound in the night at all.
Yesterday, I went into a Rite-Aid to buy a cone of ice cream with an old friend. We wanted the kind that is shaped like a soda can on top of a cake cone. As we ate and perused the drug store skincare lines, I heard the crickets. It wasn’t night. It was mid-afternoon. The fluorescent lights of the recently robbed Rite-Aid (we saw a thoroughly tattooed man with a Hello Kitty back full of allergy pills get chased down the sizzling asphalt) glowed brightly over the sound of a local radio station, and the crickets chose to harmonize from the vents. They whispered down to me from the ceiling, “Even when you are doing your best to get your mind off of us, we are here to remind you how very, very lonely you are. We are here to remind you how much you hate everything about this time.”
I chatted with them (the crickets) one night about how people always terrify you about what happens after graduation. They say that no opportunities fall on the laps of those foolish enough to not major in the collection of S.T.E.M. majors available at their chosen university. This, honestly, was not the problem I had been facing. I had done job interviews, editing tests, and so forth in the last month. Really, what else was there to do? Relaxing at home isn’t relaxing at all. You have your own mind and your parents’ mouths running on about the opportunities of former family friends’ children so soon after their own graduations. An unintentional, probably accidental, fire is torched under your ass. It has you scouring LinkedIn for opportunities near somewhere loud — somewhere where you cannot hear the crickets’ songs.
I do the interviews even though I promised myself I’d wait till August to start my job search. I swore I needed a break as the thread connecting my sanity and my tired cranium swung like a thinning pendulum and stretched itself beyond its known stretchability. It feels like the only way to fight the noise of former classmates’ trips to Europe, Asia, NYC, Africa, Hawaii, and the mouse castle. If I can claim I was busy during this time applying to jobs opposed to what I was really doing (looking at their posts utterly jealous for a feeling of escape or reward for finishing some sort of intellectual marathon), then I can convince them and myself that I am doing everything right. Such is the life of anyone growing up in this millennium. Every second must be used wisely, getting your future organized for the inevitable post on social media to position yourself with the successful, to coerce the world into believing that you have your shit together even though you don’t believe that you do.
This is why I wanted to be in a place where I could not understand the words of others or where my phone would hardly work or where I could learn something new or where I could just be without work or reminders for a week or two. The cricket sings a little louder, reminding me that I have distracted myself from writing a cover letter as I spoke to him about all of this. I let him in the window and he presses “Submit” on the seventh application of the night. In the brief moment between the confirmation page and the next application, he sings his song and I feel my brain melt down its stem, forming a shaking junebug in the cave between my throat and my mouth. I don’t know why I want to cry. I convince myself it’s my medication and then pull up a new document.
I yearn for the day the cold comes into town and drives the crickets out of my neighborhood, but Fresno has never been known to develop a quick chill. Perhaps these insects will move onto to a new window where a new woman sits on the cozier side feeling as though her life is flying far faster than her consented pace, and they will tell her to waste no time. The successful do not wait for those who dwell on their dreams. These are the lyrics of the rhythmic chirping. The quiet means nothing, but it means everything. The singing is near silent, but it is deafening. Everything is a cruel reminder of minutes burning without progress being made. Every cricket’s word is a clock tick in an otherwise peaceful July night in which heat rolls through screen windows and calms the worriers to sleep.