My name is Alyssa and I currently have head lice.
I’ve been fighting the squirming things for months. I acquired the dreadful creatures late this past spring, and through concerted effort from Sidhestrix (who is amazing in a crisis, oh my goodness) and myself, reached the point where I no longer found lice during self-examinations. I faced another infestation a few months later, which I likewise fought to a standstill, and then a few weeks later I confirmed that they had returned. I have no way of knowing whether any of these three instances is properly separate from the others, or if I left traces behind that repopulated my scalp.
Each discovery came with a few minutes if visceral horror. I breathed heavily, I shook, I cursed under my breath, and I quietly enjoyed having the answer to why my scalp was itchy enough to have turned scabrous. Each time, I was embarrassed not to have found the culprits sooner; each time, I resolved to finish them for good.
But after that, there was something oddly pleasant about the whole process. Being physically tended by Sidhestrix was a beautifully intimate experience, vulnerability and safety mixed to warm perfection. We watched Supersizers Go, drank whiskey, and made a lovely night of it. The surreal, macabre, perverse annoyance of the whole misadventure made us cringe and made us laugh. Learning her delousing method was a welcome addition. Our relationship grew that week.
Delousing on my own was a different kind of satisfaction. We have phrases like “nit-picky” because removing head lice is a slow, patient process that rewards fastidious attention to detail, and it is even more so on long, curly hair like mine. Each day’s delousing takes at least an hour and often more than 90 minutes, spent at my homemade delousing station. I run a fine-toothed comb through my hair, section by section, from above and from below, and remove whatever I find from the comb with a pin. These finds go from there to a teacup full of water fresh from the kettle, regardless of what they appear to be. Nits (louse eggs) won’t visibly react to being so boiled, but louse adults and nymphs will attempt to flee the pin, hiding between the comb tines or running along combed-out hair. Once dropped or stirred into the water, they go very suddenly limp. As the water cools, this takes a bit longer, and they sometimes require a little shake. Picking through the detritus that accumulates at the bottom of the comb is important; although most of it is dandruff and lint, nits and the smallest nymphs can sometimes hide there. Once the day’s search is no longer fruitful, the dead insects in the cup provide a crude gauge of the infestation’s progress. Lately, I play music from my laptop behind me, typically starting with my current favorite song, Cori Yarckin’s “Together We Make a Promise.”
The delousing comb is an odd, beautiful sensation, part scratch and part scalp massage. It rapidly warms to room temperature with use, and the closely-spaced tines are comforting against the itch they are meant to purge. The entomological safari it enables is both grotesque and gratifying. Watching the infuriating creatures drown is a concrete indicator of progress, and each day of delousing brings my scalp closer to its itch-free norm. The combing removes, not just my six-legged interlopers, but loose and fragile hairs that otherwise loose themselves all over my home.
My infestation has been persistent enough to visit itself upon some of my partners, and for them, I pay Sidhestrix’s favor forward. This ritualistic service is just as meditative and just as satisfying when I provide it for others, though I wish my unwelcome lodgers had not so spread.
I look forward to the day that I find my last head louse and am thereafter free. Until then, my hairdresser will cringe at the damage I do to my hair in my ongoing quest to be rid of them, and I will enjoy the gigantic, medically mandated stim that this mess has become.