'Kids and their microscopic bugs are gross as shit.' - L.T.
Is there anything more stomach turning than the thought of a head full of almost invisible insects feasting on your blood à la Edward Cullen? I think not. Even just writing this now is causing me to fidget nervously and my skin to crawl. I barely allow there to be room for a headband on my head, never mind a whole colony of creepy crawlies. I'm afraid there's simply no room at the inn. Take your business elsewhere.
I think as an adult you can more or less avoid them completely (unless you're a parent or a teacher.) But a six-year-old boy? Not so much. Children like nothing better than being all up in each other's shit. And unfortunately, this more often than not involves rugby scrums, Chinese whispers, cuddles, and all manner of other activities where heads touching heads is essential. All it takes is for one tot to catch headlice from a cousin, then before you know it he's passed them on to half of his class, and within a week it's an epidemic.
I'd had two weeks off for half term, so I was excited to see E.V.P. after school on Monday. When he ran out to meet me he was unusually reserved and his face was covered in chocolate. I hugged him anyway. We went back to his house where I gave him a snack of yet more chocolate (don't tell!), and then we settled down to build a Lego empire. About half an hour later, Viola, the other nanny (don't ask why one child would ever need two nannies at a time...), came in. We exchanged pleasantries, and then she dropped the bombshell.
"Have you heard?"
"He had them."
She didn't answer straightaway. Instead, she scratched theatrically at her head, grimaced, and then dissolved into a fit of giggles. My heart began to pound, my blood ran cold, and I immediately stepped back two steps from him.
Not nits, please not nits...
But unfortunately for everyone involved, (excluding his father, who's bald) nits was exactly what Viola was hinting at.
Even though what had been insinuated was that he no longer had head lice, my first reaction was to reflect on the hour I'd spent with him and ensure that I couldn't recall having been too close to his little head at any point. That hug. I'd been standing up, he'd put his arms half-heartedly around my waist. Okay, I think we're safe there... The walk home. Short. Uneventful. No contact at all, apart from him holding my hand to cross the road. And they can't be passed on like that, surely?! Snack time. I'd handed him the chocolate from a height. His hair had been a good few feet below me. Right, good. Lego building. Now this was riskier territory. We'd both been kneeling next to each other on the floor up until a few moments prior. Dangerously close. Recklessly close, I now realise. How far can those little fuckers jump?! E.V.P. has long, flowing locks, so long, in fact, that taxi drivers that don't know any better call him 'miss' (much to E.V.P.'s horror.) And my fringe, swinging around everywhere, is just asking for trouble. As soon as the word 'nits' had entered my head I'd started scratching like a woman possessed, and it wasn't just limited to my scalp- my legs were itching, my shoulders were itching, my soul was essentially itching.
I wanted to believe that it was simply psychological, especially because he was meant to have been in recovery, but I'd got it into my head that I'd played with fire (or in this case, with lice) and I'd inevitably been burned (or in this case, become infested.) It didn't help that when I was a six-year-old monkey myself I'd had more than my fair share of traumatic experiences with head lice. They really seemed to like my hair, for one (I had them at least three times in my time.) But far more memorable than the smell of the industrial shampoo and the feel of the nit comb doing its thing, was the day I walked into my classroom, after a particularly trying evening of louse removal, to find that my Year 3 teacher had written on the blackboard in big chalk letters, 'Stay away from Silvia today. She has nits.' And that really happened. Exactly as I've described it. How do you ever get past something like that? You don't, that's the answer to that. And I haven't. Obviously nobody likes nits, but I am truly disgusted even by the thought of them. I don't want to be melodramatic (although I fear that I am being exactly that), but I just don't know what I'd do if I ever got them now, as an adult. Unthinkable.
And yet here I was, thinking about that very possibility. Unfortunately (if I'd miraculously managed to steer clear until this point) I still had a good few hours to get through. So I began my evening of avoidance. Not that E.V.P. makes it easy...
That night, of all nights, he seemed to want to have his head as close to mine as I'd let him (which was not very close at all.)
"Silvia! Give me a piggyback!" he shouted, excitedly.
"Oooh, not today, chou chou, I've got back ache," I improvised.
"Silvvv, can I snuggle with you?" he asked, pulling his cutest face. (This one was the hardest to refuse...)
"Nope! Let's have a race instead!" I desperately suggested, running frantically across the room.
"Silv, I've got a secret to tell you..."
"E! It's rude to whisper!"
"Pick me up?"
"You're not a baby anymore, E!"
"Silvy, want to try on my new hat?"
"No, sharing is bad!" (As you can see, as I grew more desperate, my excuses lost all truthfulness, and would probably take me weeks to undo, but I just didn't care about anything other than the barrenness of my scalp remaining that way.)
When the ordeal was over and his mother came home I ran out of there faster than you can say, 'itchy scalp.'
She text me later to say, 'Sorry I didn't mention the lice, but we got rid of them all.'
However. When I showed up to pick him up from school earlier today I noticed something which made me acutely nervous. E.V.P.'s tiny paw was rooting around in his hair... He was scratching. He was really scratching.
And is there anything quite as disconcerting as a child scratching their head? No. No, there's not.
So my plight continues, and there will be no hugging around here for the foreseeable future...