What made me angry today? Nothing. Not even the bugs/nits/eggs whatever I found clinging to Piper’s hair this afternoon. I hardly mind the bugs at this point. The whole antiseptic, paranoid, load-after-load of laundry thing (see Lousy and Proud) just leads to an illusion of safety which, for us, last time, led to two months of sanity followed by another major infestation. We’re back to the frequent comb-outs and I’m rather enjoying all the primate-like picking. I don’t eat what I find but I can see why that would be the most efficient method of disposal for these little nuisances. Pulling out a microscopic dot and then hoping it made it into the plastic Fairway bag but guessing that it might have disappeared into a groove on the chenille of the couch, or that it might be lying in wait in the fuzz of the oriental rug, the one Etta practices her headstands on...just doesn’t feel that safe.
But what is safe anyway? Etta’s classroom is infested. I say hi to all the adorable kids when I walk into the class to pick her up but I don’t look at their faces, I scan their scalps for specks. New families become infested and they call me for the lice-lady’s number. I compare stories with them and shake my head at their predicament, but I can’t match their anxiety these days--the deep dark secret that I’m not even trying to keep is that I’m just not horrified by lice anymore.
I comb, they come back. I comb some more, they disappear, I comb again, there they are. No big deal.
Tonight I did the full-on conditioner treatment to Piper. She squirmed a lot and there’s no way I got them all. Like looking for shark’s teeth in Florida. What are the odds I found every tooth in my path? Is there a chance that my path twisted and turned towards every tooth out there? Did I sneeze and miss a doozie? So existential. If a nit hides in the hair and isn’t found--is it really there? We all know the answer, but you get my drift.
So all this combing makes me itchy which isn’t a bad thing when your’e allowed to scratch. Piper wants to put headphones on and listen to music on the computer. I take advantage of the fact that she doesn’t get the concept of headphones and blast music from the iTunes library into the whole room. Cat Stevens sings ‘Morning Has Broken’ on a CD playlist I made for my girlfriends at Christmas. Elated by the piano crescendo I dump a handful of Tresemme into my palm, rub my hands together, and smooth it--cold--onto my head. And I sing along. Like the first dewfall, on the first grass--carries me into the bathroom to see where the conditioner’s going.
More conditioner, more Cat Stevens, more piano, more singing out loud. Piper busies herself with the headphones and I note that they should be put away (proper procedure would be to bag them for two weeks or wipe them down with something strong), contaminated no doubt by the contact with the nits I didn’t find, but what self-respecting nit would choose slick plastic headphones over the lush forest of Piper’s head? Headphones--schmedphones, I’m not worried. Rita Coolidge is on now for the first swipe of the comb through my goopy hair. Once a story’s told it can’t help but grow old. Tears of joy spring to my eyes. Clearly the most beautiful music ever written, I think as I inspect the first glob of conditioner by smearing it acoss a kleenex. Maybe I should write to Rita Coolidge to thank her--or find out if someone else wrote it and thank him. The song goes on, I keep combing. Piper’s still happy with the headphones. My entire living room glows with warmth and happiness. I have a melancholy moment remembering how we used to sit and gush about music in college--sitting in sofas in circles and celebrating the genius of lyrics and of the choices we made in crafting our own mixed tapes. I crave that kind of contact now. I want credit for this Rita Coolidge song. I want to play it for all of my friends and I want everyone to agree that it’s beautiful.
I smear more conditioner across a kleenex and inspect it--nothing--and stuff it into a plastic bag with the others. Rita Coolidge turns into Fastball. Piper does a little jig at the change in tempo. It’s always summer they’ll never get cold... The music’s all so uplifting. My life feels perfect. I have no nits, and the metal comb feels great. What could be better? Piper’s abandoned the headphones and is lolling about on the chenille couch--her helmet of hardened conditioner hair sticks out comically--like Grandpa from the Munsters. I finish my combout just as Englebert Humperdinck finishes “After the Lovin’.’ And the love on your face is so real that it makes me want to cry. Swells of orchestral happiness surge through my chest. I close the plastic bag and stuff it into the trash. Thank you music, thank you bugs...
I’ve had a wonderful night.
7 years ago