the lice factor

My first year college roommate was a bit of a freak show. She was a Deadhead hippy who claimed to love all things yet she was one of the most judgmental and non-loving people I knew. And I tried to love her, to befriend her, but when she came back to school after winter break with fresh dreadlocks and a mean case of head lice and replied to my worry by saying “well, at least I gave them a home for awhile,” I knew we were through. I never got lice from her even though we lived 2 feet away from each other. And I had never had lice before. It took one snotty nosed kid in a rural school in Virginia when I was 21 years old to give me head lice.

It was Saturday and I had a full day planned. I drove from Charlottesville to Richmond to baby-sit my sweet nephew. He was 2 years new and I was in love. We played inside, we played outside, we napped, and we watched TV. He was like the best Saturday date. Then I drove back to C-ville for a 21st birthday party of a friend. I wasn’t excited about going. 21st birthdays were old hat by then and another night on “The Corner” downing shots just wasn’t what I wanted that night. What I really wanted was a night in with friends.

In procrastination of showering and getting ready to go out I walked down to J.’s room on the West Range. D. was already there and they were talking. I told them about my day and about the party I was expected to attend. Really, I was hoping I wouldn’t be missed. Then, after a good scratching of my scalp I begged and pleaded J. and D. to look in my hair because I was sure I had lice. “No,” they said. I was being sill. I convinced them that my head had been itching for 2 weeks and that I had to know. I begged and finally they let me flip my head over under J.’s desk lamp. D. inspected while I assume J. was cowering in the corner. And that’s when D. said, “Anna, I don’t think that’s dandruff.” “Great! Awesome!” went through my head. So did “Shit!”

J. and D. then piled into my car and we drove to a drugstore for lice killing shampoo. This is what amazing friends they were; they got into the car of a person WHO HAD LICE! Did you get that? Write that down. Then, with shampoo in hand, D. and I headed for the showers. J. was freaked out and she went to her room to start cleaning. I washed my hair fully clothed leaning my head into the shower stall while D. stood behind me to help. She even read the directions and waited the allotted amount of time was the shampoo was wreaking havoc in the lice’s hometown. Then D. took the tiny-toothed lice comb and with my hair flipped over began combing through the immense population. She never complained, but I could tell it wasn’t pleasant and as she grew weary she finally said, “Anna, I don’t want to freak you out, but there are so many I don’t think I can get them all out. I think we have to go to the emergency room.” “Ok,” I said. I wrapped my head in a towel, went back to my room and frantically tried to call every single person in my family for advice. NO ONE was home. It was late Saturday night at this point and I had missed my party.

J. and D. then piled back into my car and we went to the emergency room. I think they went partly to comfort me and partly to get a check over as well. We sat in the waiting room forEVER and all the while we itched, out heads itched, our arms itched, and our you-know-whats itched. We were convinced that I had infected the entire world. Luckily I had not.

When the nurse on duty finally called us back, she was pissed. She was burly and gruff and not happy to see three college girls in her ER with head lice on a Saturday night. After awhile though, she became our friend. We had her laughing. We retold the story of the night and my tale of woe as a student teacher to hellish children (I was a bit dramatic here). She ended up loving us so much that she wrote me a prescription of mandatory vacation of a week off of teaching due to public safety. While I did have a BAD ASS case of lice, I don’t believe I was a health risk, but still I took my vacation from those hellish children and ran with it.

The next day my parents came to my rescue, we packed my room and sprayed lice killing spray everywhere. I put a trash bag over my car seat and drove home for a week, an unusually long Thanksgiving Break. My mother and her teacher friend would then spend every morning and evening “nit picking,” literally. It was not fun. I don’t wish it on my worst enemy. And yet it is a fond memory I have of one crazy night with two great friends who held my hand (and my hair) while lice teamed around them.

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