Illustration by Josh Stover

Illustration by Josh Stover


Summer of 8th grade, we licked popsicles on the playground and laughed without quite knowing why. Giddy, untouchable, we slapped the mosquitoes that wanted a taste of our paradise and cursed ourselves for leaving the towels by the pool every time. And when the sun set and turned our still-damp skin orange, we crossed our hearts and hoped to die that we’d never split up. No, we were too good of friends, and the summer was too alive, and the fading light was shining through the lush grass too beautifully for that. Against the lazy whirs and murmurs of such a scene, you beckoned me to listen close with one dramatic sweep of the arm, and you declared it to be a cicada summer.

“These only come every 17 years, you know,” you hushed officiously. Looking back, you weren’t quite right about that. Cicadas have haunted the south every year since the Permian, and broken friendships boast an even more illustrious history.

But that didn’t matter. It was intoxicating to think that in our young lives, we might get the sort of magical golden summer that came once every 17 years, the type that graced the memories of writers and smiling seniors alike. Even if it came with the sawing noises of a chitinous Symphony of a Thousand, that was okay—we were happy to claim it as the soundtrack of our youth, regardless.  

Jessica Lao-crop.jpg

Jessica Lao (17) is a senior and Writing Fellow at the Westminster Schools of Atlanta. Her work has appeared in Rising Phoenix Review, Menacing Hedge, and After the Pause, and her art will be exhibited in Paris, Beijing, New York, Rio de Janeiro, and Nairobi in the coming year. Jessica has always loved the power of words to transform and to illuminate, and she hopes to pursue a future in literary criticism or nonprofit management.

Jessica Lao