1. My partner likes to record himself talking in his sleep. I’ve listened to him order eggs, grow giddy over mushrooms, worry about spinach yields. In the morning, he’ll play back the recording and his eggs, mushrooms, spinach will be punctuated by my own sounds: whimpers, cries; last night a scream to Get off me!, a nightmare I don’t remember. It is disconcerting to hear these things, and it is disconcerting to not remember.

I make jokes about the nightmares to my therapist. I tell her they are my own eggs, mushrooms, spinach. Mundane. Ever-present. I am tired of writing about trauma; this is how trauma still inhabits me.

2. Snails are born with tiny shells that are sized for their tiny bodies. They’re like turtles in this regard, though unlike them in that snails can reproduce asexually. At least this is true for certain snails, who, if they don’t feel like mating, but decide I would like to have children now, thank you, can simply will them into existence.

I’m sure it’s more complicated than that—what about a child isn’t—but that’s how I understood it, at any rate.

Most snails are hermaphrodites. Hidden in a sac in their abdomen, snails have a needle-like appendage euphemistically called a “love dart.” During mating, snails stab this “dart” into their partner’s body, a gastropod version of IVF injections, or maybe prenatal vitamins. It makes it more likely for the sperm to survive.

In certain snails, only one gets to stab the other. The stabbed snail is considered the “female oriented partner.” In other species, like garden snails, they both stab each other.

This “dart,” were it human-sized, would be akin to a chef’s knife.

3. Animals, my father used to say, when my brother and I were fighting. The fights couldn’t even have been particularly bad those years, not if my father was still home. It was only when he’d finally moved out and my brother started lifting weights and downing protein shakes and saying he was the man of the house now, that you might have said there was something feral about it, the way we fought. He towered over me; left marks on my forearms. I scratched at him and laughed at him and said hateful things I didn’t mean. No one likes you. You’re just like him. I hope you die. Animals.

4. I meant to talk about courtship.

Snails spend hours smelling and tasting each other—snail foreplay, if you will—before deciding if this snail is indeed the snail partner for them. It makes sense. If you’re about to have your abdomen stabbed by a “love dart,” you’d better be sure the stabbing is worth it. Not that you ever know for sure. It’s all a risk. Or do I mean it’s always a risk. But most snails survive it, supposedly. The mating. The stabbing. Whatever comes next.

5. I briefly went to a cognitive behavioral therapist the winter of my sophomore year of college. I’d walk from campus to the train station, ride the train thirty minutes into the city, switch to the 6, walk east another fifteen minutes in what always felt like biting wind, all the way to New York Presbyterian’s massive campus along the river. Weave my way to the elevator banks, ride to a high floor, sit in a tiny room, wait. I remember there were a lot of worksheets involved, which I was bad at. I didn’t need a worksheet to explain what my brain was doing or why, and a worksheet wasn’t going to be enough to save me, either.

6. My partner says someday we’ll have an apple tree; fresh juice in the fall. Chickens and beds of tulips and mushrooms that he inoculated himself.

“Tell me what you love about mushrooms,” I asked, once. And he traced his fingers up and down my arms and told me that mushrooms are just the fruit, it’s the mycelium, the part you can’t see, that made him fall in love. Mycelium can share resources, marshal support. A scientist described them as “the living seam that holds the soil together”; said the more he learned, the more he lost his grip on his “certainties about how the world works.” If you laid all that mycelium end to end, it would stretch half the width of the galaxy.

I wonder how they’ve measured this, how they know for sure. The amount of mycelium. The width of the galaxy.


Michelle Koufopoulos‘s essays have appeared in Longreads, Guernica, and Neutral Spaces, and been cited by Politico and Bookforum. A graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and the Bennington Writing Seminars, she lives in Brooklyn.

Art by Sheila Squillante