I had been lost in the dream world of air conditioning and Chipotle when, suddenly, I was rudely awakened from my own arm and hand. It seemed like they had become allies throughout the night and were at war with my scalp.
My nails were digging into my scalp as if programmed to scratch it raw like a piece of uncooked meat.
“Ah, ah, why is my head so itchy,” I said as my other hand crept towards the back of my skull to help with the process.
I sat there for a few minutes and tried to convince myself that the itchiness was the result of sweating puddles during the night from my sauna of a bungalow.
Two hours later I was dousing my scalp in Head and Shoulders shampoo and all of the coconut oil I could find.
“That should do it,” I said, proud that I found a momentary solution.
Except I didn’t.
The itching continued for days.
I would zone out mid conversation, overwhelmed by the relief I would get every time I scratched my head. I felt like a scratching addict getting high from my own supply.
Then one day, I found out two of my friends had head lice.
I stood in front of the mirror that afternoon, scared I would find an entire community of lice in my lion’s mane of a head. The itching had been going on for so long that the lice had probably already built apartment buildings, a railroad, a burger joint, a park, and an airport.
I parted my hair and cringed.
I found a lice nit.
And another one.
And another one.
I ripped out more hair than nits. It suddenly felt like I could feel every single lice moving on my head as if they were practicing their synchronized dance at that exact moment.
Ta la la, left and right and left and right.
I ran to the pharmacy and spent ten minutes explaining there were living creatures taking advantage of free accommodation on top of my head. Once the pharmacist understood, I finally purchased a random form of Vietnamese lice shampoo. The directions were written in broken English.
It looked like it had been sitting on the shelf for decades.
“How much is it?” I asked the pharmacist, praying it would only be a few dollars.
“$1.50,” she said. I almost kissed her. I purchased a 50 cent comb and left, determined to beat this lice.
Halfway down the road, I noticed a date stamped on the back. 22/01/15.
Great, it’s expired isn’t it. My luck.
I ran back to the pharmacy and asked if it was expired.
“No, no, date it made, date it made,” the pharmacist said.
Well, I felt like an idiot.
I spent the next hour parting and combing my hair, hoping I would make some progress. I picked out a few live lice and flicked them off of my balcony and into the real jungle.
Good luck, fellas, hope the real world isn’t too tough on you.
I am now a proud owner of Listerine, Olive Oil, and vinegar, all of which have been in my hair as if it were a salad with good breath.
My friends and I also went to a hair salon in Sihanoukville and spent three hours getting nit picked by Khmer women. I felt like a gorilla.
Its been three weeks of this nonsense- I’m glad I’m stuck in one spot and not backpacking place to place. I went to the Khmer salon a total of four times. They charged me $12 the first time (they spent three hours on my hair) and $5 the next few times.
Lice, your free accommodation is up. Time to pay.
Good news is, I went back today and found out I’m lice free (since ’93!).