My little friends

Posted on July 31, 2007


I think I have lice.

And click – browser windows closing. For the remaining three of you with the inclination to seek revulsion on the internet, I’ll eagerly recount the tale.

My head has been itching since Saturday, when I went swimming with some friends at the Gezira Club, and laying around what I fancied was the same pool where Waguih Ghali’s protagonists teased well-born Egyptian girls about still being virgins (a state which is nevertheless still in favour half a century later). Despite the profusion of the luxuriant white eyebrows and wrinkly male nipples which seem to inexorably accompany great wealth, readers will be happy to hear that the club – as has long been reputed – boasts a stunning selection of male beauties, causing Amnesiac and I to actually hiss in lust. In the year I have now lived in Egypt, hot fellas have only been glimpsable from a distance and never in more than a single dose. Perhaps this is because I don’t spend enough time at the North Coast, but the fact remains this was a particularly resplendent group, their firm buttocks highlighted by the Gezira Club towels slung casually around their waists. Amn and I each picked out an individual who conformed to our particular tastes (hers a bit more toned rather than buff and with a really Egyptian face, mine with brutish pecs, a large nose and premature greyness) and ogled them shamelessly, while confirming to each other that they were unquestionably intensely vain and thick as two planks. Nevertheless we were gratified (or at least I was – she’s above stuff like that) that they were checking us out, my gratified state being clearly witnessed by my long-suffering ex-boyfriend, M, who was on the next chaise longue. The day was otherwise undistinguished, except perhaps by the familiar spectacle of me arguing with waiters regarding the provision of good service and the ignominy of bringing a burger and French fries without ketchup. I’m a ketchup freak, if I haven’t mentioned already. Amn said that the reason for the various incidents of poor service lay not in the inherent laziness and deliberate stupidity of wait staff around Egypt, but in my daring to “order off-menu”. As my shameful lapse from the menu consisted merely of requesting that cheese be added to my burger, I could not accept that when I asked for the cheese to be melted, I was requesting services that were apparently more properly rendered by NASA. Naturally they toasted the entire sandwich, resulting in the bread being crunchy and the cheese being entirely untouched. It is incidents like these that make me actually yearn for the law school cafeteria in Canada that I wrote a scathing newspaper review about, causing my banishment from that eatery. Even those filth purveyors (my editor-in-chief was forced to remove the word swill) would have known to put just the patty in the toaster/grill.

And after that tangent of gothic proportions, returning to the original story. Chlorine usually makes my head itch, so I was not really alarmed until I noted that the itching persisted after I took a shower. No matter, I thought; I must have not shampooed vigorously enough. But when I sat down at my computer, I felt a tickling on my upper arm and looked down to find a tiny unfamiliar brown insect proceeding down it. Since I was indoors with all the windows shut there were few places from which this insect could have originated other than my head. I picked it up and set it on the table and fetched a magnifying glass, which of course are strewn about our house courtesy of the Forsoothdad; I then compared the squashed little creature with large pictures of lice culled from Google images (I aspire to the level of academic scholarship displayed by my boy Dreamy Brown Man, who when we were on vacation last weekend at the North Coast maintained an excel spreadsheet documenting our respective expenses, with formulas and shit, throughout. Quite an achievement under the influence, we thought). Anyway the comparison was inconclusive, as the magnifying glass didn’t magnify enough and I had kind of mangled the insect. I could not continue my scrutiny because I had to rush off and meet Little Bubbly, whose eyes swiveled about madly in alarm when I told her, as her acclimatization to Cairo hasn’t gotten quite as far as infested friends yet.

The next day, I nearly took my scalp off in the shower with vigorous scrubbing, but it still itched. Amn offered to check my head for me (which I found really touching) as my mommy isn’t around, and nor is the Tweet. But an opportunity for head checking did not arise, and instead, I called the pharmacy to order lice medicine. Obviously, as with anything in my native land, this operation was fraught with mortification. The person who answered the phone asked if I wanted a beauty or medicinal product. “I don’t know,” I said. “I want lice medicine.”

“That’s beauty,” he said confidently. He transferred me to Beauty.

“I want lice medicine,” I said to that dude. “That’s Medicine,” he said.

“They just transferred me from there!” The man went off to audibly consult with others, and then came back and asked me again what I wanted, exactly as if I hadn’t just told him. I pretended it was for my fictional kids but he saw right through that and gave me a long list of instructions.

So my head is still itching, despite several washings. I’m told, by the way, that lice prefer clean hair to dirty hair, so you can stop judging me. I often think I have lice, causing untold numbers of roommates to get much more intimate with me than they really wanted to and examine my head for eggs. It’s never come to anything, but I’m going to give the lice shampoo a try. I mean, the Google images were really horrific (I saw lice on someone’s penis! And even though I don’t have one, ick) and better safe than sorry.

Well, I’m off to use my “shampooing anti-lice”. I have recently acquired, by the way, what seems like a great deal of knowledge regarding the licensing of pharmaceuticals and every contract I have read states that labeling has to be approved by the foreign company. Ah well. Masr ya 3am.