Essay

THE CRICKETS

Whenever I’m going down into my basement, I hover on the bottom step. Perched like a bird, I scan the rough, cementy-gray floor and patches of maroon rugs.

I’ve got crickets in my basement. And I know that sounds like “Bats in the attic,” which is usually a thinly veiled metaphor (metaphor? Analogy?) for “being crazy” but I swear, “crickets in my basement” isn’t a way of saying that I’ve got gonorrhea. Or herpes. Long story short, I don’t have any venereal diseases. Wow, that got vene-real, vene-really quickly.

But I do have crickets in my basement. Long-legged, muddled-brown, freakishly arrogant crickets that hop around in our basement.

I can’t remember when they first appeared, just that all of a sudden, when I would put my feet onto the basement floor at the bottom of the stairs, something would hop away from the vicinity of my toes.

The worst thing about the crickets is the sound they make when they land. I don’t know how it’s possible, but these crickets make a dull, audible thwack when they hit the ground. Maybe they’re from planet Krypton and their exoskeletons are made from titanium (I accidentally thought it was spelt “tytanium,” and my Microsoft Word was like, “Um, nah brah.”).

But their solidness makes them particularly horrific, because they have this presence, menacing and malignant, that invaded our basement.

And their smallness was particularly perverted, because to them, I’m like Godzilla and they’re still like fucking crickets. But these things have no fear. Even when you impose over them, they squat there like insect-y toads.

So I declared war on the crickets.

I made it my mission to annihilate them.

One day, I came downstairs with my hamper to do laundry. One was standing on the rug in front of the washer. Emptying all the clothes out of my hamper, I squared my legs and began to swing the hamper like a pendulum. Judging distance, testing for any wind hindrance, I was the Olympic gold-medalist of heaving my hamper.

Three, two, one.

The hamper went airborne and, owing to the bottom-heaviness, landed on the cricket.

YES.

But somehow, no matter how many crickets I killed, they kept coming back. And I don’t know what it is, but I refused to be beaten by these crickets. As the saga continued, I became more crazy about fucking destroying those crickets.

Okay, is this a judgment free zone? No? Heavily-judged? Awesome.

I’m about to really be open.

I would take a pair of scissors and creep up behind the crickets and try to cut off their legs. They would almost always hop away after that fateful snip but they were weaker and more vulnerable. For the next time we would meet.

Apparently animal cruelty is one of the tenements of all sociopaths, so I’m not going to delve too deeply and analyze this past behavior.

Except to say that they had it coming, and you can’t prove anything, police.

The crickets learned to evolve in the presence of an apex predator—I am the apex predator. Probably for the first and last time, unless I decide to go on a dating website—and are smarter now.

They hop under the table when the lights turn on. They go in between the washer and dryer. They also know that the floor is super fucking dirty and that I will refuse to touch it with anything other than slippers and a hazmat suit. I don’t know how, but forcefully simulating a high-intensity environment has forced the crickets to adapt to an almost human level of dickish-ness.

The crickets still live in my basement, and they force me to hover on the bottom step before I enter the basement.

God help us all the day those demons learn to climb stairs.

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Essay, Inspirational

THE KIND BAR

At the end of Thanksgiving, I grabbed a KIND bar from my pantry before heading on the train back to Boston. It was cranberry and almond.

It was meant to be a snack for the train, but I decided to save it for another time.

That Monday, I started a new job. It was hard, a lot harder than I thought it would’ve been. We were in the office from 5 pm until 10:30 pm, and I forgot to have dinner. So I remembered the KIND bar in my backpack. But some stubborn part of me refused to get it. I could wait. I could make it.

Each night was equally late, and still the KIND bar stayed in my backpack. When I was reaching my breaking point, I still refused to eat it.

The next few weeks were really tough, and I was fraught with anxiety. But the KIND bar has become this weird symbol of my strength. As long as I had the KIND bar, the back-up plan, but didn’t eat it, I was strong. I was strong enough to make it through these next few weeks and not completely fuck up.

I tried to explain the KIND bar to my friends, and they didn’t quite get it. And I get that; the idea is insane.

But I’m obsessed with symbolism and hidden meanings. You don’t reread Harry Potter seven-to-twenty times without becoming deeply in love with symbols.

The KIND bar was a symbol; it was a symbol that I had an escape plan, a fallback option, a way out. And the longer I went without pulling the cord on the parachute, the stronger I was.

I know that, realistically, the KIND bar had nothing to do with how I handled the next few weeks. But I can’t shake the feeling that that cranberry-and-almond bar helped me a little.

I think we need reminders that we can be strong. Sometimes, it’s easy to pull the parachute cord early and freak out. But I try to set little goals for myself to make it easier if I’m dealing with anxiety or something else majorly hard. Smile at a stranger, or Tell yourself three nice things about yourself, or Go through the day without overthinking about the next day. Small goals, little steps, that add up to a healthier mind.

After about two weeks of sitting in my bag, I finally ate the KIND bar. I wish I could say that I achieved some higher plane of existence after ingesting the metaphorical parachute cord, but I just got an almond jammed in my molar.

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Essay, Inspirational

THE SKINNY FAT

I go to the gym regularly during the semester, and by regularly, I mean “daily.” It doesn’t get much more regular than that (insert hilarious poop joke here). And when I tell people that I’m gymmin’ it on the daily, they assume that I am a health freak/health nut/fitness guru/shaman. They assume I’m up in the gym, just working on my fitness. He’s my witness. Oh, there’s no one? Awesome. Let’s continue.

I don’t have the heart to tell them that they’re wrong.

Yes, I go to the gym. And yes, I can bench a slightly-above-average amount—which I’m not going to say here because I don’t want to find out that it’s actually a below-average amount. That would crush me. Much like the barbell threatens to. No, I swear I’m strong. But the idea of me being a “gym rat” is so crazily untrue that I want to laugh.

I don’t, because laughing increases wrinkles and I’m shooting for that smooth “Angelina Jolie” flow.

In truth: I started going to the gym because I was feeling a little fat and wanted to impress a boy. Also, I tried on a pair of pants that I was able to fit into a year before and they fit snugly around my upper thighs and refused to budge another inch.

So I went to the gym with my friend and her workout regimen, which wasn’t all that hardcore, completely kicked my ass. And I was prepared to quit. But the only thing stronger than my love of laziness is my fiercely obsessive desire to never be beaten. In fact, that donkey-like fervor led me to doing twelve seasons of high school track, which went basically year-round, a sport which I actively hated, because I was both too lazy and too stubborn to quit.

I can’t emphasize this enough. I was so lazy that I endured running almost three thousand miles rather than walking up to my coach and having a five-minute conversation. Actually, it’s worse than that; I could’ve just not joined a new season. But I refused. So that stubbornness is a blessing and a curse. It’s led me to amazing things and aggressive outbursts during games of Scrabble. One more than the other…

So I kept to the first week, and loudly applauded myself to anyone who would listen that I persevered through seven days of exercise. I was unstoppable, I was incorrigible, I was…fuck this.

I was going to the gym for the wrong reasons.

I was going to the gym because I felt like my body wasn’t good enough for someone else because although I’m skinny, apparently I am dangerously close to the territory of “skinny fat.”

“Skinny fat” is when you look skinny with your clothes on, but when you take your clothes off, apparently it’s a lot like when you take the thin film casing off a sausage and everything ripples like a tidal wave. Skinny fat seems inherently unfair, like I’m being graded an A- for writing an A paper with 1.25 inch margins instead of 1 inch margins.

I couldn’t just be “not fat” or “skinny,” I would have to be completely ripped and shredded and mangled and torn (I’m aggressive about adjectives).

That boy thing didn’t really work out, and I started skipping out on cardio days, and switching around leg days and arm days, until I was looking at the exercise-version of a full-carb buffet.

It wasn’t until three months later, when I was well and thoroughly riding the “Single Shuttle” that I actually took my health into my own hands and committed. Like Kelsey Grammer to a twenty-something, I clung to my fitness plan with all the strength I had*.

*Not that strong

But I realized something about four months into working out. It is impossible to do something like this for so long and not begin to enjoy it. It is impossible to fart in the gym without anyone noticing. And it is impossible to continue to workout solely for the pleasure and approval of someone else.

Somehow, even though I started for narcissistic, insecure—I am possibly the only person who can be both overbearingly narcissistic and cripplingly insecure at the same time—reasons, this wasn’t Track 2.0. I began to enjoy working out, and I realized that labels like “skinny fat” are just falsities.

If you’re being healthy and active and loving your body, no number on the scale or waist size in the store is going to tell you what you should realize: that you are perfect the way you are.

I will never have washboard abs; I love eating midnight ice cream too much. I will never be lithe and supple and tanned; I am a pale, freckly ghost who you can only summon by turning around three times in front of a mirror and chanting “Ron Weasley.” Let’s stop with the “skinny fat” and “obese thin” and “Barbara Walters old” and the “Elle Fanning young.” Let’s stop with weird creepy labels that only depress us (me).

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