It started with a casual itch.
I denied anything was out of the ordinary.
I mentally rejected the possibility that I had them.
I had heard tales of sweet, innocent children secretly carrying these repugnant critters in their braids and under their prayer caps.
But then I started feeling them.
On my head.
I lay awake at night, paralyzed in fear, because I could literally feel them moving around under my hair. I am so disgusted by lice that it is difficult for me to even type those 4 letters.
But I choose to be courageous. I decided, as shameful and gross and vomit-inducing as this was, I needed to tell someone. I texted a nurse here I knew and she told me what medicine to buy. Then she jerked all my pride issues to the surface and said I needed to get someone else to check my hair to comb them out.
What? Someone else has to know? Uh-Uh. Nope. Not happening.
Oh the shame. I wallowed. I squirmed. I succumbed to the humiliation.
I bought the stuff. I bought the special comb. I felt nauseous. I pretended they were for someone else. I waited.
After another restless night, with things creeping around my head, I decided I had to stop by my friend’s house on the way back from work. I called her name and she came out, all smiles. I sat her down. I need to ask you something, I told her, but you can say no. My tone said that this was serious and essentially life-threatening and not a joke at all.
With all the bravery I could muster and in my best Urdu so I wouldn’t have to repeat myself, I said- You know those small bugs? Would you check my head for them?
She paused for half a second, laughed, and replied, Yes yes! Hold on.
I fumbled in surprise and tried to grasp what was happening- Well you don’t have to do it right now! Just whenever you might be free. I told her. Oh no, she said. Sit still, she said. Let me get a comb, she said.
I can run to my house and get the special comb, I told her. (The one I had condemned to this awful fate.)
Really- it’s fine, she said confidently. I’ll boil and clean this one after. And she bounced right into her house and brought out her own comb.
And right then and there, in the middle of everything else that afternoon, in the middle of chores and cooking and minding the kids, like it was of absolute no importance at all, she sat me down. For an hour, she looked through and picked out bugs from my hair with no gloves and her own comb while she made small talk about her studies.
This task I had loathed and shuddered at, the favor I had asked with so much shame and nausea- it was nothing less than exactly what was expected in her understanding of friendship.
And I understood- this is love. Getting down and dirty. Seeing each other at our worst. Choosing to show kindness right then and there. Using what we have to demonstrate the power of one four-letter word over another four-letter one. This is what love looks like.