We are well into summer, so it must be time for a head lice outbreak. More and more people searching for “head lice” and “lice treatments” and “nitpicker” and so on have found their way to my blog recently because I have commented on this topic before. And WBUR recently did a story on the parasites.
While lice, at first, are appalling, they are not so disgusting after you get used to them. I describe my fascination with head lice, and the physical closeness they prompted between me and Eli, Lydia, and Grace, in my researched essay “Little Creatures,” which was originally published in P•M•S poemmemoirstory 9. Here’s a taste:
I dip the fine-toothed louse comb into a container of burning hot water and swirl. Captured ones float for a few moments before sinking. The lice are dark enough in the container of water that I can count them. Occasionally the count seems not to add up so I hold the comb up near my eyes to look for bodies trapped like seeds in human teeth and find them there, suspended sideways between the plastic teeth. Their lash-like legs, scurrying in air, seem always to move in this workmanlike way, regardless of footing, unable to take me in as a threat, not afraid of me as a predator in the way that mice are afraid. I make my thumb and forefinger into pliers and close over the head and tail of each and drag it down the space between tines. I feel the substance, like nut meat, and I imagine eating them. I do this enough times so I think always of eating them when they are pinched in my fingers like this. It would be so easy to eat them that I feel drawn to doing it in the way I feel drawn to letting my body go over the barrier at the edge of the falls or on the upper level of an open air parking garage. It’s that close.
I do not eat them. It’s not something that I would do.
Image credit: wikimedia commons.