“If I had another day here,” I sighed with a perfect facsimile of a disappointed but appreciative smile.
So many feelings could be conveyed with folds of muscle and skin, even from falsified layers. “I’d get
to know you better, and the whole city with you.”
“If it’s any consolation, I think you got the gist of both this place and me from our 3AM pancake run
last night. It was an amazing weekend.” He reached for his phone and keys. “I’ll walk you back to the
I exhaled a kiss into his neck before he could even get up. We hadn’t even showered yet. He still
smelled like warm maple syrup and the bay’s fog that billowed up our clothes before we could shimmy
indoors the night before.
Everything was so bright when it was time to leave. Light bounced from every angle outside and our
faces got caught with beautiful distortions in everything from the panels of people’s sunglasses filing
past us to escaped foil balloons and the tiny, wet mirrors of moisture slipping off peaches in unloaded
store crates. The fading outline of us as a pair floated through the streets like a private parade this way.
“You don’t have a suitcase or anything?” He looked concerned as we got closer to the station. “We can
go back and get it from wherever you were staying before we met.”
I could feel a tooth loosening against my tongue as soon as I started to speak and I knew my hair and
nails wouldn’t stay long after that started. He seemed nice. I thought it was likely he would have liked
me anyway, maybe even shaved his head in solidarity with me. I would gladly replace mine with
flower chains and pigeon feathers so pedestrians would just think we were art students walking home,
something lovely for a few hours more. As if on cue, a car splashed through the gutter beside us
blasting a tingly, jangly song about wearing flowers in your hair. “I like this song, I’ll remember this
one,” I blurted out.
“I feel like I hear it over the speakers every time I go to the grocery store, so you’re in luck if you ever
come back here. You’d hear it all the time.” He slipped his arm around my shoulder and I leaned into it,
aching strangely. “But what about your suitcase?”
“Oh, that. Well, I didn’t have one. Don’t worry.”
“You travel light I guess, I respect that. Where are you going again?”
“Just home for a family reunion, I have a huge family. They’re gonna ask me so many weird questions
when I get there.”
“It runs in the family I guess. We did meet from you walking up to me and asking me if I like
mushrooms after all. Well, if you mention me, I hope I get a good review.” He smiled and turned me
with his arm in the direction of the station. “I’m worried you’ll get cold on the way, do you want to
take my sweater?”
“You probably won’t get it back if I take it.”He glanced down at the ground for a moment before meeting my eyes again and I understood that he already knew this. “That’s okay, there’s a chance you’ll feel guilty enough to come give it back, right?”
“I’ll do what I can. Maybe in a month, you might see it again.”
“Maybe in a month then.” He seemed okay with this and pulled me into one last hug.
The sun yawned an entire afternoon across the sky outside the window as the train rolled beneath it for
hours until the city lights were turning off just as lazily, disappearing into the hills. I was the only one
to get off at my intended station, perfectly warm in the borrowed sweater despite the wind starting to
tease any crumpled papers left on the ground, and I headed into the looming redwoods.
From there I had little time left. No trails led back home, I just knew the way from the smell of the air.
It smelled more like me the closer I got there.
The ground got softer as I approached the right place. Even with darkness coming down so quickly I
could see the white bulges of individual mushrooms increasing in density towards the center of the
I knelt down in the bare dirt under the tree where the mycelium network had let me gently tear myself
out like every other version had before, freshly born, carrying every bit of body they could muster up
from moonlight and forest debris for the last month.
I pressed one finger against a protruding root and my vision immediately charred at the borders. I was
back inside and it didn’t hurt to dissolve this slowly. The edge of my nail wasn’t there anymore, only a
message I was sending. “I was someone, and I met someone. Maybe I would’ve had my heart broken if
I could live a bit longer but I don’t think I would’ve even minded. His name was Sam.”
An inaudible but loud sensation met me in there, an assembly of feelings and thoughts too primal to
correspond with words. Wistful wishes that I could stay out a little more, for the shared experience of
us all. Sighs of relief. Reminders that it wasn’t my turn anymore anyway, as if I would ever think to fall
to bits alone somewhere else. Disappointment that I’d turned down everyone’s suggestions for what to
gather and learn while outside, but that was fleeting. There was no time for that, it was time to come
apart and together again. In a month, a different shape would form and try again.
I dislodged what was left of my finger and brought the edges of Sam’s sweater up over my body,
enjoying what I imagined was his residual heat persisting in its threads. I stood up, a bit shaky, to slip it
over the nearest branch for the next figure that would rise here to use before easing myself back down
to my knees again.
Finally ready, I mashed an entire fist into the ground and watched it fizz into pearly, fibrous sludge
without pain. Little electric shocks rambled up all my limbs in cold pinches, and then we all knew
everything new, together.
Noll Griffin is a visual artist, musician, and occasional writer residing in Berlin, Germany. You can find more of his creative stuff on Instagram(@nollprints) and Tumblr (@nollthere).