A young woman’s head itches.
She wakes up in the morning and scratches her head until it burns and flecks of blood dry on her fingertips. She spends an entire sleepless night rolling around in her own sweat, scratching until she goes mad with exhaustion.
Accustomed to working with children, her mind immediately jumps to the doomed conclusion. She spends another sleepless night scratching and scratching while she researches lice on her mobile phone until her eyes go dark.
She buys another bottle of prescription dandruff shampoo. Her denial is palpable. She just can’t bring herself to admit it and spend an entire day laundering her boyfriend’s apartment and scraping minuscule bugs off her scalp.
She just keeps itching.
Finally, she hits her breaking point. She calls her insurance teladoc repeatedly trying to get a prescription. Her insurance does not care. She walks eight blocks to her nearest Walgreens and tries to duck shamefully among the over-the-counter pesticides. She buys a lot because she has a lot of hair. Messy hairy. Knotted hair. Hair that sheds all over everything. Hair that will take days to comb with that tiny bug catcher.
She hides the box in the checkout line. It always takes 45 minutes to check out at this Walgreens. The man at the counter feels her shame and drops the box hastily into a bag as if her bugs are already crawling over it. She pays for $50 worth of extraction supplies. She’s back on her Ramen Noodle diet for another month, she thinks while scribbling her name on the checkout screen with her finger.
She showers in water so hot it makes her skin turn red and lumpy. Oh, god. How is she going to tell her boyfriend? Her friends? Everyone she’s had contact with in the past month?
It takes an entire bottle of the rancid cream to coat her hair. She has to fish her bras out of the sink and shoves every garment in her infected suitcase in the hall to await the wash. She mixes tea tree and olive oils into a spray bottle she’d fetched off the “Dog Training” aisle.
The ten minutes is up. She fishes up an expendable bowl… the kind she’ll never be able to eat out of again without flinching and fills it with scalding water in the bathroom sink. She rakes the comb through her hair for the first time. The second time. Then, frantically, a third, fourth, fifth, hundredth time.
She can hardly face the disastrous results. It’s worse than even she could have predicted. Impossible, even.
The comb is completely clean.
No bugs. No little terrors hanging on her scalp drinking from her blood like the parasitic vampires that they are. No South Park style saga to escape her violent pesticides.
With a violent wave of revulsion, she peers into the mirror. The realization is startling.
And still her head itches.