by Johanna Bernhard
I was 11 and had just completed my final entrance exams for secondary school. My friends celebrated by stealing alcohol from the cupboard above the counter in their parent’s kitchen and throwing small parties. My celebratory five days were spent hiking between two hostels in the middle of the Peak District in the north of England. Don’t get me wrong, I love the outdoors, but this occasion was different.
On the third day of the trip we arrived at the second hostel. I was assigned to a 10 bed dorm with some of my classmates. It was disgusting. We soon began killing the copious amounts of spiders that surfaced from under our bunks, and tattooed one another with marker pens. The hostel was large with a communal living room and dining area. The peeling wallpaper and stale food were only made worse by the terrible weather that was descending upon us.
As I sat on a fluorescent sofa in the living room watching a game of Jenga, I noticed a scab on my right thigh. It moved. The scab had legs. I ran screaming through the hostel, up the stairs to my dorm. I made my friend remove the tick with her tweezers as I tried to calm myself down.
Years later, after hiking in the countryside with my father, I found two ticks perfectly aligned in my groin. There was no option to run to him and ask him to remove them, so I did the deed myself.
They say once bitten, twice shy.
I had been living on Martha’s Vineyard for two days. On Thursday as I removed my clothes in a bid to take a quick shower, a new zit on my right arm caught my eye. As I scratched at it, legs appeared. The tick was large and determined to stay burrowed in my skin. My housemate attempted to kill it with a warm lighter – which made it burrow further into my skin – before taking to the tweezers and plucking it out. It is now lying somewhere on our living room floor.
Later that day after hiking in the Menemsha Hills in Chilmark, I found another smaller tick on my right thigh. I plucked it out with my fingers and flushed it down the toilet.
Ticks, ye have been warned.