Head Lice and Exhaustion

Exhaustion permeates every fibre of my being, and that’s even with a cup of tea.

I woke up this morning to Alicia knocking once on my door, her peeking in my room to see that I was still face down in bed, and then promptly leaving again. I heard her talking, then (not to me) and she sounded frantic and upset, so I hauled my lazy ass out of bed. After all–if I was tired it was my own fault, for staying up until 3 am. No matter how good the conversation, it probably isn’t worth me sacrificing my sleep schedule.

I checked the clock–10 am–slipped on clothes–black cargo pants and the wii mote shirt–and joined the waking world to see what the fuss was about.

Alicia has head lice. (Or had. If there is a single louse remaining on her head, it is through no fault of our own). Turns out, she’s allergic to them, which is why her head has been itching like crazy the last two days. Contrary to popular belief, head lice do not always make your head itch. In most cases, the itching doesn’t start until you’ve had the head lice for three months–unless you’re allergic to the little bloodsuckers. She thinks she probably picked them up from the boy she’s dating, who lives and works in a hostel.

Alicia, predictably, (understandably!) was quite upset. I don’t blame her at all. I remember the first time (and I think the only time) that I had head lice. I was inconsolably hysterical. She told me she had gotten most of the crying and freaking out done earlier in the morning, so now it was just for us to get down to business. Would I please, she begged, comb lice out of her hair?

So comb we did. For the next 5 hours, we combed her luxurious, radiant, exceptionally long hair. It’s probably almost 30 inches in length. She was very patient and grateful as I scraped her scalp with the surprisingly sharp little comb. It was a very tedious thing, but I tried to make her feel better. It was obvious that she felt just horrible about it. Some icky blend of repulsed and mortified. So we massacred the little lice society. We burned their library at Alexandria. We pursued their children. We murdered their babies! I was relentless–they call me the executioner. It was a happy genocide. And today was only the foot soldiers–tomorrow we send in the chemical weapons.

The hardest part was not scratching my own head during this whole process. My entire face itched. My ears itched. My eyebrows itched. But we were terrified that if I touched my hair, some little licelette would transfer from my hands to my hair, and then I would be infected, too.

After we picked all of the creepy little fuckers out of her hair, we dashed up the street to the pharmacy in search of isopropyl alcohol to kill potential lice on things that couldn’t be bleached, bleach to kill lice on things that could be bleached, and another set of combs to use on me to make sure that I didn’t have lice as well. Climbing the hill (short thought it was) was even easier today! I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it soon. I found a less steep incline at Dudhope park–I may take to running up it to get in hill-climbing shape faster.

Alicia and I debated nit combs at the pharmacy. She was in favor of the cheaper plastic white ones (because the creepy little fuckers were more obvious on the white plastic)–I was in favor of the deeper metal comb (because I thought it would make the thing go faster). We settled on the white ones.

Funny thing about Scotland… apparently they don’t do the isopropyl alcohol thing. I knew it was done in the US for tax purposes… but what do you sterilize things in over here?

We decided to check another store across the street for rubbing alcohol, so we just bought a couple of sets of combs.

Across the street we found bleach…but no rubbing alcohol. I suggested vodka, but that offended Alicia’s sensibilities, so she bought me a bottle of sparkling water (for drinking, not disinfecting), and we headed back home.

But not before stopping at the second African food store. The one next to the Polish deli was closed for some reason (everything around here keeps completely incomprehensible business hours that do not appear to be marked anywhere), but this one was open. We walked in and were at first very confused. The small, cramped space in the front room was mostly take up with bags, probably of grain, and couches, all of which were filled by African-looking people. Suddenly we didn’t know if we were in a store or in someone’s living room. They assured us that it was, in fact, a store, and encouraged us to look around. So look around we did. In the second room, there were various freezers that we did not take the time to explore, and a wire rack of yams.

Real yams.

Real African yams.

Yams like this:

Theez Yamz. They are, how do you say, ze serious bizness.

We’re talking really enormous, somewhat intimidating and threatening bulbous tuber creatures. We’re talking yams with an attitude. (What we call yams in the states are actually sweet potatoes. Literally. They are a potato. A yam is another animal.)

It is in the third room that I find my quarry–dried beans. They were hard to spot in a room covered, floor to ceiling, in bags of difficult-to-identify grains. Finally I find the labels. Ground semolina, ground rice, big beans… Beans! Thank heaven, dried beans!

There are a hundred foodstuffs in there that I have no concept of. We didn’t have much time to look, so my description is somewhat thin (could also have to do with my exhaustion). The lovely African lady who had been sitting in the front room followed us back to the back and stood in front of a wall of weaves while offering to braid Alicia’s hair. Alicia mentioned the head lice when the woman pressed for the opportunity, but said we’d be back.

And we certainly will be! On the way out I spotted cans of tomatoes! Brightly colored clothespins, and dresses made out of the most sumptuous fabric… It will be a good place for exploring. Once I find something to use for a pantry.

Alicia had to work tonight from 5 to 12, so I was left with the task of ensuring that the house was totally deloused. Unfortunately, this involved bleaching the living daylights out of a number of things, including the bathroom floor. (We did the earlier hair delousing in the bathroom, and were concerned that some had escaped my wrath.) Normally, this isn’t a huge problem. However, I did not bring any clothes that i could wreck. Nothing with bleach spots, nothing with holes, nothing with paint already on it.

So I bleached the bathroom floor naked. Naturally, I expected to end up in the emergency room with bleach burns on some unmentionable part, but somehow I managed. I diluted the bleach this time (the first time I bleached a bathroom floor I did not do this, which was a tremendous mistake and probably took years off my life).

I was afraid to touch anything fabric in my room, in case I had picked up some unwelcome guests myself. So after cleaning the bathroom, I sat, cold and naked, on the floor of my bedroom, waiting for the last load of laundry to be done so I could shower and comb out my own hair to make sure I was louse-free. At some point during this, there was a knock on the door. I planned to ignore it, after hearing all of Alicia’s talk about wandering junkies. But then I remembered that my memory foam was coming! So I pulled on some clothes from a few days ago (they were already considered biohazard, since they were on the floor and may have at some point come in contact with the clothes I was wearing while delousing), and answered the door, where, to my delight, was a deliveryman carrying 8 delicious inches of springs not stabbing me in my sleep.

The evening has passed in a flurry of activity. I did several loads of laundry, and then hung them to dry. After it got too dark to see outside, I hung them inside. I did the dishes. I boiled Alicia’s hairbrush. And–most excitingly–I remade my bed with the delicious, delightful new mattress topper, which is like sinking into a puff of cheesecake.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad day; just not spent the way I had planned. It seems like every time I set aside time to write, a new crisis occurs. It feels like Alicia and I just can’t catch a break. On the other hand, though, I combed my hair very throughly with a “detection comb”, and I appear to be lice free. This is good–I was planning to deal with them by shaving myself bald, and I don’t really have any of the tools for that.

Tomorrow we will be going to St. Andrews with Kate. I hate St. Andrews on principle, because it is a city filled with Amanda. Amanda lived there, and Amanda loved it, and Amanda broke my heart and I hate St. Andrews for reminding me of her. I wish I could scrub her out of my memory. But maybe I can make enough new memories of my own that her presence will not rest like an oil slick over my time there.

Then, in the evening, we’re going to some legendary fish and chips stand with LeAnne.

After that, Alicia and I will unleash the chemical war on whatever lice remain after another combing tomorrow morning.

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Head Lice and Exhaustion

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