Figueroa-Levin: Mating call of the cicadas is music to my fears

A cicada is shown in this undated file

A cicada is shown in this undated file photo. (Credit: Getty Images)

Last weekend, I went to my parents' house on Staten Island. When I got out of the car I heard a strange sound in the distance. The noise sounded like a building alarm. It was annoying, but I figured that someone would turn it off.

Two hours later that distant alarm noise was still going off.

Just when I was about to mention it to my father, a cicada jumped on my foot.

I have a bug phobia -- a flying bug phobia in particular -- and any time an insect flies near me or lands on me, I screech and run away while saying, "There aren't any bugs on me!" over and over to myself. So when that cicada jumped on me, I shook it off my foot and started my usual mantra. After a few seconds I looked down at the grass to see if there were any more, and I asked my dad if he'd had many cicadas show up.

"Don't you hear that noise?" he asked. "Those are all the cicadas in the Greenbelt."

That "building alarm" was a swarm of my biggest fear, emerging from the ground and fornicating in the woods a block from where we were.

I had flashbacks to the last time the cicadas came, 17 years ago, when I was a little kid standing in the same backyard a block away from the same woods and dodging these flying monsters everywhere.

They flew into cars, they left their exoskeletons all over the back porch. I even saw one emerge from its shell to die. The soft body inside is bright white, but the eyes are still red.

I was young, and it was traumatizing. Cicadas are probably the reason I have my flying bug phobia to begin with.

There's a lot of lovely parkland and forest on Staten Island. But even though my family is there, I have decided to avoid the borough entirely until the cicadas go away.

As I headed home to Manhattan, I felt relieved that despite all the social media posts from people seeing cicadas throughout the city, I hadn't actually seen any in my neighborhood. Even with Inwood Hill Park, I figured we were just too urban a landscape to have them.

But then . . . yesterday.

I was walking through Isham Park and one jumped out of a tree and landed on my head.

Thank goodness for takeout. I'm not leaving my apartment until January.

Rachel Figueroa-Levin tweets as @Jewyorican, @EveryGentrifier and @ElBloombito.


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