I woke up this morning with a mushroom growing out of my head. Not a really big one, maybe just ¾ inch tall, but yes, a mushroom growing out of my head. I’m not kidding. Growing out of my head. My forehead. On the right side, around what used to be the hairline. Two, actually, but only one is really a mushroom already. The other one is just getting started, like a pimple or something.
Saw it when I looked in the bathroom mirror. A mushroom growing out of my head. Sort of a steely blue, oddly kind of attractive, actually. My wife came in to pee and said, “There’s a mushroom growing out of your head.” “Yeah, I know,” I said.
I started to wonder if other people would notice. I’m supposed to teach a class or have a meeting or something today – I don’t really remember what. Maybe the mushroom is affecting my memory. Or maybe it’s the mycelium beneath the mushroom growing out of my head. Don’t know where that is: On my skin? In my hair? I don’t see any white stuff spreading under the mushroom growing out of my head. Maybe it’s in my brain? In any case, I’m thinking maybe I should cancel the meeting or class, whatever it is. Or just not show up. Or wear a baseball cap or something. But I’m worried I might hurt the mushroom growing out of my head, damage it in some way. Funny, somehow I don’t want to do that.
I wonder if people will see the mushroom growing out of my head, or they’ll see it and pretend they don’t. But I’m sure they’ll be thinking, “There’s a mushroom growing out of his head.” It might distract them. They might even whisper to each other or snicker behind their hands. Or take pictures on their cellphones and put them up on Instagram or Snapchat or whatever. Or even want to take selfies with me. Smiling. Or sticking their tongues out.
For sure I don’t want the mushroom growing out of my head to distract people, but they might think it’s weird if I wear a baseball cap or a fedora or something to the meeting or class. And what if I’m wearing a Yanks hat and someone in the crowd is a Mets fan? Or worse yet, crazed about the Red Sox?
So then I’m thinking, “So what?” People are gonna think what they’re gonna think, no matter what. Maybe they’ll think it’s some kind of symbol – like a pussyhat or for veganism or a sign of the devil or something. Maybe they’ll even take a video and put it up on YouTube and it’ll go viral and I’ll be an internet sensation and make huge bucks from sponsorships. “The guy with the mushroom growing out of his head goes to Whole Foods.” “The guy with the mushroom growing out of his head swims in his Nike boardshorts.” Stuff like that.
But maybe if people see me, they’ll just flash a thumbs-up or a vee-sign or middle finger or throw an iced caramel macchiato at me. So if I do go outside, I better wear my orange-tinted shades and an N95 to protect me from shouts and spit and stuff like that. And keep my six feet of distance. But if I do that, somebody might really think I’m a Mets fan, orange and blue, even though the blue is really more like a steely color than royal blue like theirs.
That could be trouble. After all, not that many people have a mushroom growing out of their head these days.
James K. Zimmerman’s writing appears in American Life in Poetry, Chautauqua, Miramar, Nimrod, Pleiades, Rattle, Salamander, Vallum, and elsewhere. He is author of “Little Miracles” (Passager, 2015) and “Family Cookout” (Comstock, 2016), winner of the Jessie Bryce Niles Prize. He can be reached through his website, https://jameskzimmerman.net.