Cole is my ten year-old son -- only Cole is not actually his name. Dear Reader: I hope you will understand my decision to change his name for this story. It is a true story; obviously I want to spare him embarrassment, and possibly shield him from future discrimination. Someday, some potential friend or girlfriend or employer might Google him and then nix him on account of what would turn out to be a phenomenal case of lice infestation. I've replaced his real name with a series of names: the other names his father and I considered naming him. (Back in the day, when his father and I spoke to one another.) We liked these other names very much, yet we could chose only one for our son.
Boys names :)
Cole has long hair. I walked into the office and saw Cole. His hair was in a rubber band. Cole despises this. It is a violation of his rights. It felt as if I had found him in the school office in handcuffs. His glare signified his distress. Liberty had done this to him. My blood got hot. I wanted to grab Cole, stop at Starbuck's and get him home. Only Liberty detained us; Liberty, Inspector General of Lice, had knowledge to impart -- resources, strategies and phone numbers, websites and word of mouth stories.
"Do you know what a louse looks like?" Liberty asked.
Of course. I am divorced. A year before, I was dating the scion of a bottling magnate. We dated for four months. He had some ejaculation issues. I was sympathetic. Then he dumped me saying he could not do intimacy. He had the urge to set sail on the open sea and seek a port where no one knew his name and the burden of it.
This was my inner dialogue as I watched Liberty release Cole's hair and then finger it, like a professional hairdresser in an infomercial. Cole submitted silently. As if he was somewhere else in his mind. As if he wasn't Cole at all, but a doll. His silence was unnatural, ominous.
Liberty caught some hair in a comb and the two of us leaned in, peering into the numberless strands. Our faces were side by side, within kissing distance. I had not been this close to another grown up for a whole year. It was intimate and weird.
"A nit is about the size of a dandruff flake," Liberty said in a whisper, studying the strands. "Only it clings to the hair."
I looked. I saw nothing but dead follicles.
"There," she said. "There's one."
She held the comb out; attached to a strand was a speck.
Oh for God's sake, I thought.
It was smaller than a grain of sand, less than a fleck of ash.
"This is what you're looking for."
You've got to be joking. You want me to go through his gazillion strands of hair and seek out that? This bit was so small; it made a needle in a haystack seem about as big as a brick. I hid my rage, my incredulity, my Oh, Just Go To Hell. I badly wanted a latte.
I will never ever spend my day on a nit hunt.
I was wrong. Very wrong.