When the paper towel I used as a smear base revealed a few nits and five or six recently-hatched, teensy lice, I had my fourth mini-breakdown. I handed Steve the comb and climbed the stairs for a silent cry in the bedroom.
I composed myself and googled the shit out of lice combs. I’d read there were two good ones. I couldn’t find them anywhere locally, so I got on amazon and prepared an order that, weirdly, consisted mostly of kitchen gadgets: one part battle cry, six parts therapy. Steve and Emma went to bed somewhere between silicone spatulas and corn on the cob holders. I didn’t know if I should change our sheets again, and I was too tired to care, so I resigned to sleep on the couch and said goodnight.
Instead of sleeping, I abandoned my amazon order and Lady Macbethed my hair until 2am.
This morning I found Lice911, a local site a friend recommended. I called to ask if the Licemeister comb was sold nearby. The lice lady, Barb, was so warm and helpful, I—SURPRISE—cried. I told her we’ve been combing for TWO DAYS and are still finding live bugs.
“Oh sweetie, no one gets rid of lice in two days. No one. And don’t comb every day. Give yourself and your kid a break. Comb every three days for three weeks. This gives whatever’s in there enough time to get bigger and easier to catch with the comb, but not big enough to reproduce.”
Hiccup. “So, I don’t have to do it every day?”
Sniffle. “And the comb really works?”
“It’s great. You’re still going to have to pick through with your nails, but the comb gets most of it.”
Snotty nose blow. “But I should wash our sheets every night?”
“Oh god no! Once you’ve done that first wash and vacuum and have eliminated the full-grown adult lice, focus on head maintenance. The eggs and nymphs stick to the head. It’s those adult lice who cause the most trouble.”
Sigh. “So we will eventually get rid of them? I don’t have to move to outer space?”
“You will get rid of them. Keep at it for the three weeks and do weekly spot checks until you’re confident they’re gone.”
Barb grounded me. She mentally prepared me to find crawlies for the next little while, because it’s normal and part of the process. Okay then. Awesome. Resume coping. Finding the live lice tasted like big, fat failure. I told myself I’d done it wrong. I became Elaine Benes on the subway, losing my shit where there wasn’t space for it.
We’re going to have lice forever. But people deal with this all the time. IT DOESN’T MATTER: WE NEVER HAVE. I NEED THIS TO END. WHAT THEN? WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME, LICE GODS? WHAT WILL MAKE YOU LEAVE US ALONE? What if we have these for months? There are bugs crawling on our heads. I have bugs on my head. When will they go? WHEN. WILL. THEY. GO? GO! GO! GO!
Barb loaded me up with direction and knowledge. I HAVE THE LICE MAP. The subway is moving again.
Barb found a pharmacy that carries the comb near my school, so I’ll buy it tomorrow on my way home and I’m going to use it at least once a month until Emma graduates. And occasionally when we visit her college dorm. This afternoon I bought her some sweet-smelling repellant shampoo from Raspberry Kids.
I’m head of the Prevention Brigade now. Eventually everything in our house will be switched out for the lice-repelling equivalent. “That there is lice-repelling toilet paper. State of the art! And we walk up the stairs backwards, because lice HATE that.” We’ll implement a lice-screening process for all overnight guest, complete with urine and blood analysis.
We are going to be FUN to visit.
Come: be our guest.
There’s always room at the Fisher house.