It was more of a sensation than a sound that woke me up. A swelling of pressure, maybe mild pain. The feeling of what a bubble gum bubble popping might feel like. Not what it felt like to your mouth but what the bubble itself felt.
Whatever it was, it happened in my left ear, and scared the hell out of me in the middle of the night. The sensation/sound/pressure thing startled me awake and I yelled, apparently. My roommate was quite concerned and I flailed about trying to gather my thoughts and express what had happened.
“It was a pop like a ... pressure ... thing ... pop ... I think I have some water in my ear ... or a cricket.”
OK, so I know a lot of you are sitting there wondering why would she think it might be a cricket. So remember that day it snowed a few weeks ago? Of course you do. Well, a couple days after the snow we had the mother of all cricket explosions at the house.
I’m not talking like “Oh, wow, there’s like three or four crickets in the bathroom. That’s odd.” No, I’m talking full-blown invasion. Hundreds of them. Mostly outside thankfully, but still enough inside to mistake my bathroom for something out of a Stephen King novel most mornings.
The sheer amount of them was astounding. And as of this writing, they’re still hanging around. One sunny Sunday, I was sitting on the front porch and it looked for a moment like the surface of the entire yard was slowly creeping south by southeast.
No, it was a herd. Gaggle? Flock? Murder? What does one call a mass of crickets? Anyway, it was a whole, whole bunch of the little suckers slowly making their way away from the house.
I was thrilled and relieved. They were going to go off and do whatever cricket-y things they were destined to do, which was mostly not be at my house. Little did I know, that was a ruse of some sort.
They came back. Or there were more than estimated. Or they made more. Replicants. It’s now become some kind of sci-fi/horror mash up. They are camping out in the bathtub, curled up in the cabinet by my mascara, lurking under the shelves by the potatoes.
They’ve made their way into the bedroom, the closet and all points in between.
So, yes, “or a cricket.” Ha ha, very funny. I immediately fell back to sleep. I’ve no idea what time I woke up the first time, so I’m not sure how long after that things began to go really wrong.
There was a crackling, popping noise in my ear. I could feel liquid moving. I did the half asleep, tried-and-true remedy of jiggling a finger in my ear. It stopped. Then started again. I sat up. It stopped. I laid back down and it was fine. Then it started again. Pressure, kind of a whooshing noise. Crackling, crackling and sloshing? Yeah, sloshing.
I laid on my left side, thinking gravity would sort things out. But the noise was becoming worse and the pressure was becoming pain and then, well then the noise changed.
It wasn’t a crackling. It was ... scratching. Definitely scratching. Oh ... oh ... OK, don’t panic. I mean, if it was a cricket, which it definitely wasn’t, it will ... come out?! Right?! I mean, that’s how these things work, right?
Oh holy crap, now I feel something ... definitely felt legs. Little bristly cricket-y legs.
I managed to clamp down on my panic barely. Pushed away thoughts of finding something long enough to ... no, no, nothing bigger than your elbow, remember?
The noise and pain were better if I was sitting up, so I finally fell asleep in the living room chair in the wee hours of the morning. I woke up with sandy, gritty eyes and many kinks in my neck but thankfully, no noises from my ear.
Then began the debate of “what do I do now?” I mean, everything was fine in the light of day. My ear felt fine. Maybe a little clogged. Maybe. Could have been my imagination.
Do I seek medical care and confess, hey, I might have a cricket in my ear? That kind of stuff only happens to people on the internet.
By the end of the day, I conceded — I needed to know what was going on. Cricket? Ear infection? Massive figment of my imagination? Whatever it was, I had to know.
Even through layers of PPE, the guy at the urgent care managed to make me feel not crazy as I explained the possibility of having a cricket in my ear. He’d removed bugs from people’s ears before, no big deal.
After a few brief moments of peeking and prodding, it was official. No cricket. Based on my description of the symptoms, he diagnosed me with congestion and a blocked eustachian tube. The noise and pain was the ear trying to clear itself, he said. Apparently with some kind of teeny, tiny nuclear weapons.