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I'll never forget the day the grasshoppers came out of the sink. I had filled the day with average things. I had gotten out of bed within two minutes of my allotted time. I had an uneventful morning. I got to use the dentist-prescribed toothpaste that my parents use and I'm not allowed to because mine was out. Super.
The school day took after my morning. I did a bit of walking, a lot of sitting, and daydreamed about a plethora of situations that would save me from the listlessness I was feeling. I had an average lunch: taco salad made from the meat we had on burrito day the day before. I came to the realization that I wear the same green shoes every Tuesday. I received an average test score in Algebra 2 and walked an established path back to my common, familiar suburban home.
From the moment I walked in the door, average was replaced with bedlam. There was screaming, crashing of knick-knacks hitting the floor, and an infinitesimal army of writhing wings and antennae. Hordes of baby grasshoppers were conquering every inch of our kitchen, living room, entryway, and had begun an advance down the hall. Hopping archaic dances around my feet, staring down at me with pits for eyes from the light fixtures and hanging plants. And I looked at my mother, bombarded by itty-bitty bodies, and I said, “We had taco salad for lunch.”
She looked at me with big eyes for a short moment and told me this was not the time. She then quickly ordered me to take up a role in the biggest massacre the Western Hemisphere has known. As I made my way to her base in the kitchen, she began to explain the causes leading up to total warfare. Apparently, a grasshopper laden with eggs had chosen our basil plant as a dumping ground. My mother had brought that plant inside to use, and thrown a few bad leaves down the disposal. The eggs nestled in those leaves had developed in the quiet damp of our disposal until they hatched and were ready to greet the sunshine.
The disposal had harbored them. We would not. When it comes to methods of efficient, mass killing, the human imagination knows no bounds.
So it began. We used boxes to squash up to four feet of exoskeleton. We would stamp and squelch and singe for up to an hour, only to realize 20 minutes later that there were more. Had our plant been the dumping ground for multiple mamas?
For days this pattern continued. Our efforts were always thwarted as the next wave of hoppers crashed upon the porcelain interior of the sink. If we wanted to escape the bugs, we went outside.
Every time someone called on the phone for me, my little brother would say, “Crystal, phone.” And I would respond, “Can't. I've got my hands full of grasshopper guts.'”
It was unnerving to serve so much death. I began to dream about drowning in a wave of infant insect corpses. Sometimes I would look into their olive-pit eyes and hesitate before I squeezed their vitals onto the countertop.
It was bearable until one grasshopper made it impossible.
He wasn't like the others. He was milky and tinted with beige, like coffee foam. He had erected himself on the highest point of the basil plant, and he stood alone, his powerful legs coiled, his antennae quivering. And we understood each other. I didn't want to kill him, and he didn't want to die. None of them wanted to die, but so many had. My hands weren't helping hands, they were hellish hands.
I was killing. Strategically. I had a track record of three days. I ran to the bathroom sink and began to wash my hands. I washed them for five minutes and then filled them with sick. Then a grasshopper jumped out of that sick. I vowed never to eat basil again.
I've eaten basil once since that day. I've yet even to swat at a fly. It may seem fanatical to you, but I will never again stain my hands. Interesting, that the profound is often a product of common moments that are critically lived.