Well the first days are the hardest days
don’t you worry anymore
When you’re sixteen and you pick up lice from camping out at a Dead show, you and your girlfriend walk by the People’s drug store on the way home from school. You set up chairs out on the porch in the afternoon sun, pop a bootleg in the boom box, and gossip as you comb nits from each other’s hair.
‘Cause when life looks like Easy Street
there is danger at your door
When you’re forty and you pick up lice from your son’s first grade classroom, you leave two dozen unchecked emails in your inbox, cut out of work early (again), speed over to the CVS, and race to catch the train then the bus. On the way, you send messages to your son’s dad about all the things he needs to do to treat his place. You ignore the afternoon sun and rush into your condo, making a mental note of all the places your boy had his head during the past five nights he spent with you.
You strip beds, pull coats from hooks, peel covers from the sofa, corral a menagerie of stuffed animals. You curse the dollhouse washer/dryer that reaches capacity at three pillowcases. You wheel the vacuum around the mountain of fabric and upholstery and giant fluffy penguins now climbing towards the ceiling.
You bag up all the pillows. You push two loads through. You boil water to sanitize the hairbrush.
Then you storm through the living room
Goddamn, well I declare,
have you seen the like?
by the sliding glass door.
The dog stirs and glances up. You look out for the first time at the fading light. It is daylight savings time. The day has hung on for you. Just barely, though. You have 30 minutes left to fling yourself out and grab her before her fingers slip free.
I can hear your voice
You lash your lice-infested tresses into a lice-infested elastic, put on the lice-infested hoodie you wore last night, and go run three hard miles with the setting sun at a heel on your left flank.
You come panting back inside. The dog pushes up against you as overjoyed as she has been every time you’ve walked in that door for the whole eight years of her existence. She doesn’t know you have lice and wouldn’t care even she did.
Now, you can see.
Like the morning sun you come
and like the wind you go
How your son is in the best hands now because his father is the same man who used to sit and brush your hair with such gentle strokes, you felt like you’d been carried off on a magic carpet ride. How your water pours hot from the new heater you just installed. How the juice surges from every outlet to lamp, dryer, vacuum, stove. How the bed is soft and the sleep is sound and the lock is solid and the mortgage is covered and the shelves in CVS and kitchen alike are stocked with everything you could ever need and more than you ever will.
How you and your son’s dad and called each other and spoke easily about how to tackle a shared concern.
How your Mister got on the horn and told you to tell your boy that Thomas Jefferson had lice.
Come on along or go alone
You notice how very rare and undeserved this abundance of resource for this small a problem.
He’s come to take his children home.
When you’re here today and you pick up lice from a spot on this teeming planet, you strip down to your skivvies, squirt eye-watering insecticide shampoo into your hair, crank up Daddy Yankee and boogie as you comb the nits from your hair.
Butchered lyrics are from the Grateful Dead’s “Uncle John’s Band.”