Attack zone

When the doctor told me no, I didn’t have it, I breathed a sigh of relief and said, oh, should I have thought? And four days later when I found the first scurrying around in his conquered territory, and I reached in with brutish giant fingers, fumbling around while he tried to beat a retreat and victorious, I pulled him from my head, crushing him between my fingers and I said What the fuck are you? And he, fat off my blood, said nothing, for he was dead. But his brothers and his sisters and his wives and his mothers and fathers and uncles and children and grandchildren, they said We are lice, and we are stronger than you. You think you can just reach in and kill us? You think it’s that easy? You think you can win? And they laughed, and they continued building their world around the roots of my hair, in the irritated skin of my scalp, and when I scratched my woebegone head to ease the pain and drew back nails encrusted in blood and dead skin and their guts they still laughed and said Is that all you’ve got?

But this was war, and no, that’s not all I got. But when I closed my eyes I could feel them crawling, laying their eggs, a new generation of warriors to defend their new homeland. And so bought the most powerful chemicals I could find, sowing the battlefield with the salt of over the counter medicated shampoo, and I followed the instructions, the second time, feeling the gel soak into my war torn skin. And I combed and combed and combed and they wiggled and squirmed within the teeth of the comb and were washed down the drain with half of my hair and they laughed and said But you can’t kill our children. So you can’t kill us. And I said Watch me try. And they did, for they were right.

Then there was my second weapon, for which I paid top dollar, the boiled torture of a hot water cycle performed on sheets and pillows and blankets and every piece of clothing I’d worn this year, a quick one-two of hot water, hot air, a dryer cycle meant to shrink anything it comes into contact with. Still they sneered Try doing that every day. So I did: enough laundry to drown an elephant in soapy suds. I ran on automaton, swipe card, enter number, load laundry, add soap, add vinegar (they say it kills them), hit White Cycle for the hottest wash, wait 26 minutes, swipe card, enter number, transfer sopping laundry, empty lint catcher, hit go. Sometimes I forgot the soap.

Then I washed my brushes in hot water, to spite them, but threw the brushes away anyway.  I bought a comb. Some detangler. 3 bottles of lice killing shampoo, one prescription, 30 minute showers spent combing and shampooing letting the chemical lotion sink in. From inside their egg shells, cemented to my hair where I could not pull them out, they shouted You’ll never succeed. From the sink and from the nooks and crannies of my comb they said Together we are too strong for you. We will get in your pillowcases, your towels, your scarves, the tangled split-ended parts of your hair you can never comb all the way out.

But I said I have the internet, and Googled. Aha. So you hate Tea Tree oil. So I overpaid for a small bottle, and doused my head. From inside their eggs they grew darker and said Once we are born we will hate that, but for now, try again. I choked on the pungent scent that wafted around my head like a noose and friends told me I smelled like their grandmother and my hair billowed out but I knew they were there yet. But the olive oil will suffocate you, I told them, and borrowed a shower cap. Again I doused my ravished scalp, running the oils through each strand, settling the blue plastic cap over my head, and when I awoke in the morning, my hair was soft and my pillow green and slimy, and they still said Try again.

And thus I knew I needed an army, and I picked up the phone. And then I trekked for an hour in the cold through train stations and busy intersections shoving aside hipsters on bikes and old ladies that walked to slow and when I arrived, stepping into the overly warm room filled with salon chairs I said Kill them. And the ladies wrapped in head scarves said We can kill them.

I nodded and said You’re hired.

Did you hear that? I asked in the general direction of my hair.

And I couldn’t hear clearly, but I’m pretty sure they said Shit.


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