Of Lice and Men
Last fall, Mae started soccer. The six-year-old girls dubbed themselves “The Ice Cats,” an unyielding name, although they were not so tough on the field. After an entire season, not only had “The Ice Cats” lost every single game, they hadn’t scored one single goal. Goal or no goal, after their final match, I offered to take Mae and two of her friends out for ice cream.
Unfortunately the end of the season happened to coincide with a lice infestation on the team. I don’t know how to say this, except to simply point out that all the white girls got lice. Those buggers have never cared for Mae’s kinky hair. In preschool, after numerous lice invasions spread through her class, she came out untouched. Lice have a hard time latching onto curly hair, and they don’t seem to like the oils I brush into her scalp.
But according to the latest reports, the girls on her team were in the clear. So, out to ice cream we went, Mae’s two cute blonde friends sitting close to me, as we enjoyed the ice cream and each other. I’m a sucker for girls who love to cuddle, and feel especially partial to these two friends. But those creepy-crawlies were moving in just as, back home, our Israeli houseguest was moving out.
With our Israeli houseguest relocated across town, Yossi and I were finding our love-groove again, back to kissing in the kitchen. I wanted to skip and sing, “The Tower is mine, all mine,” but it was better to hum that tune to myself. Yossi was still annoyed at me for insisting that his friend not live with us for the next six months. I had unpacked our last box in The Tower. Sure, the photos have yet to be hung and the windows are curtain-less, but I was beginning to feel, as they say, settled.
The Tower. That’s what everyone calls Yossi’s renovated house, a tall narrow structure that shoots straight up to the sky — jeesh, that sounds phallic. Although he would never admit to choosing feminine paint colors, anyone who drives by can’t overlook the soft yellow exterior with green trim. My office is on the top floor, next to Mae’s room, and I sometimes imagine opening the window and swinging my long brown hair out the window like Rapunzel. Honey, I’m here, come and get me…
I’m ready to build a new life together.
Apparently, some other living beings are ready, too.
“Home sweet home,” they say. “How cozy. Thanks for having us.”
I wake up with my head itching.
Lice have been around since ancient times. When the pesticide DDT was in widespread use, and for a period of about 30 years in the U.S., lice outbreaks were uncommon. But they’re back now, stronger than ever, with a preference for long hair like mine. They are also partial to females. Ah, thanks.
Our former Israeli houseguest drops by — as is his weekend habit — and before I know it I’m sitting on the sofa as both he and Yossi pick through my scalp.
“Oh, there’s one!”
“Look at this.”
There’s nothing more humbling than having two 45-year-old Israeli men comb through your hair with their fingers.
“Bend your head down more,” Yossi orders me.
As I bow forward, I can’t help but remember my life just a couple of months ago, living alone with Mae, just the two of us. What would I have done if I’d had lice then? Who would I have asked to check my head? Certainly my first-grader would have creeped out at the idea. Of course, I could have called my girlfriends, but this would have meant risking infestation in their homes, too.
I want to yell at those little lice, “This is our Tower! You go back home!”
As uncomfortable as this whole episode is, I’m grateful to have a guy here to take care of me. Honey, I imagine saying, I’ll make you dinner if you’ll comb the nits out of my hair. While I’m washing my hair with medicinal shampoo that first night, Yossi offers to put Mae to bed. When I get out of the shower, I hear her demanding, “Sing me one more song in Hebrew!” With my hair wrapped in a towel, I get busy putting away his clean underwear and socks. It’s not that I enjoy these house-wifey duties, but I love the fact that I have a partner who’s willing to trade with me. I could get used to this.
After two days of shampoos and thorough combing, the creepers are gone. I hope. Soon thereafter, a book review comes out for Single Mom Seeking, and the writer ends his article with “By the close of her memoir, a serious relationship with an Israeli guy is threatening to end her days of flings and wingdings.”
How apropos. Indeed, my days of bed-hopping appear to be over. My susceptibility to wingdings, however, seems to be another thing all together.
Beware. As I’m writing this column, a note arrives in Mae’s backpack: “Parents: today five kids in first grade were found to have head lice. Please check your child several times before sending him/her to school on Monday…”
I’m done playing host to houseguests, thank you very much. But tonight before bed, Yossi tells me: “Honey, my friend Jonathon is coming through town next week and I’d like him to stay here. Is that okay?”
Of course it’s okay. This is another old Israeli friend and they want to catch up. Despite my own desire for solitude, I’ll try to be a gracious host.
But I can’t help but think of the Grimm Brothers’ Rapunzel, when the witch shut Rapunzel up in the tower, which had “neither stairs nor doors, only high up at the very top a small window.” Although I’m free to come and go, I dream of shutting ourselves up in the Tower. Just Mae, Yossi, and me, away from all houseguests — invited and uninvited — secluded in each other’s arms.