“How do you think I got lice?”
My client turns her head to an angle, eagerly awaiting a response
I can’t help but think, “How the hell would I know? I’m just here to get rid of it.”
I clip a section of her hair up
Revealing a louse scurrying through the trenches of dense hair,
What anxiety he must’ve felt,
As he quietly buried himself.
I quickly swipe a comb through
Frustrated yet admiring
I wonder who is home that he dies to see
To recount his near-death experience.
Reconsidering the mother’s question, maybe I had a guess.

“Well, I’d imagine it starts with your daughter’s head
two lice found each other, and called it love
A love that got them 4 kids
A modest number for lice
As numbers grew, opportunity turned scarce
The father louse, drunk on self-pity
Home tensions turning fierce,

But, you suspected something crawling on your kid’s head,
So you douse the land on your daughter’s scalp with pesticides,
Poisoning a family’s already precarious situation.
Foreseeing a cruel future,
Mother and daughter lice seek refuge in a new destination
From an uninhabitable home.

At dark times of the night,
Carefully picking the longest, gold strand of hair,
Mother n’ daughter trek a difficult path
Pinchers grappling on to a dream they share,
Uncertain if the child will shake
Petrified they’ll be separated if she awakes

Hopping from one strand to yours
Only one departs
Alone daughter, hopeful starts, no direction

It was you.
It was you that caused this 14 inches of migration
And it was you they found at the end
As you slept in your king bed with your daughter
Gold retriever at your feet
Your hair sprawled across the pillow
Lice never migrate to a stranger on the street
Their path has a familial follow
A historical follow
They cross a path you created
So why does your mouth drop to see the cities they’ve built?
Yet they exist to be hated
Do you really not feel a speck of guilt?

A daughter creates a family on your land
Lice crawl along your scalp
Wriggle through a thick hair strand
Create eggs of opportunity
On the little hairs behind your ears
Weaving complex networks in their community
Withstanding shower pressure of poverty
Living in constant fear of a random hair check
Gifting red bite marks on the back of your neck
Do you feel itchy yet?”

Son of an immigrant mother,
Stand with metal comb in hand,
Paid 15 per hour
To search
A daughter, mother, children
Paid 15 per hour
To meticulously comb out
From her golden, oily hair,
Allowing only one mother n’ daughter to reunite
Paid 15 per hour
To reassure myself,
“Well, it’s not my mother”
“We aren’t parasites; they are!”

The mother pulls her head away
Fully turned, she’s visibly annoyed
Her eyes tell me to respond.
With my blue plastic gloves,
I point to the daughter she loves
“My best guess? It’s probably from her.”

Writer | Tristan Moore ’24 |
Editor | Pauline Bissell ’25 |