Mushroom Woman.

Christen Clifford

A zoom monologue

Jan 28, 2021

Note to actor: This woman is very angry.

White Woman, 40’s/50’s.

(coming into the zoom, her name in the box is “she/her”)

Hi, Hi, can you hear me? Am I muted? Good. How are YOU?!?!? 

It’s been SO LONG.

Are you okay? And your family? I’ve been meaning to reach out, but…it must have been so hard for you? This whole summer, after George Floyd in May? I’m fighting for you!

Okay, I know this might be weird, but…. have you ever done mushrooms? I know, nobody was into it in the 90’s. Deadhead and hippies, maybe? I’m obsessed.

Right now I have a monotub of B plus and one of Penis Envy and some Blue Oyster, and two sawdust bags of Reishi. I tell the kids they are all “medicinal.” 

The B plus and the Penis Envy are psilocybin, you know “magic mushrooms” but the others are healers, anti-inflammatory, so the cancers don’t come back.

Ovarian and uterine. I’m SO lucky.

Oh you’re one of the bread bakers? So many people baked bread! I just grew shrooms!

No, I don’t trip, just microdose. This guy Paul Stamets made up a word MYCOTOPIA- it means “An environment wherein ecological equilibrium is enhanced through the judicious use of fungi for the betterment of all life forms.” Sounds good, right? 

How are you getting food? I’m still only shopping once every two weeks. I go to the expensive health food store now because two workers at my regular grocery store died. I KNOW. I don’t even get delivery from them anymore. I did go to Trader Joe’s, I drove, I got a Covid car- we went into our savings! But it was worth it, a black Subaru with a brown leather interior, heated seats. Fuck it, right? The day I bought the car I painted my toenails pink! 

Sometimes pink oyster mushrooms get “biologically out of control.” 

I think my ovaries were biologically out of control. 

You know, I stopped breathing? After they injected the Taxol, one of the chemos, I could feel it stop my lungs and chest, and my friend Tom was there, and I motioned to him, like this (circles wrist) like “get out your phone” cuz if I was going to die, I wanted to do it on camera

This camera doesn’t make me look that good. Did you know Zoom has a face touch up function? I can’t find it. Anyways, they got a crash cart and injected me with something and here I am! The nurse looked at me funny afterwards, but I was like, What?!?!? I thought Taxol was from a yew tree- but of course in my mycelial reading I have learned that Taxol comes from an anti-cancer FUNGUS that lives ON the yew tree. Fungus.

Remember when we lived in Williamsburg?  And we went down to the waterfront to drink? Those old railroad ties? Big long squares of dark wood all splintery on our skinny young thighs. When I do inversions and look at my thighs upside down they look the same as when I was young.  Now there is a park there, you wouldn’t believe it, the glass condos. We call it Little Dubai. I met some mommy friends there this summer and it felt safe, I mean we were outside! but I was still scared. Maybe I felt guilty I was socializing? I’m not going to restaurants, even outdoor ones. 

It’s all landscaped with flowers and fancy grasses and we saw a rat and someone screamed and then I screamed.(laughing)

I remembered giving a blow job in that same spot like… 30 years ago. 

Remember Jonathan? The grass was high then but not fancy. So I’m blowing him and I hear something, and he’s like “It’s a rabbit” and I’m like, “Oh cute!” and I keep going and – I remember  it was the only time he asked me to put a finger in his ass- anyways after he was like, “That was TOTALLY a rat, but I didn’t want you to stop“  and I was like “That’s okay!” but later I was kindof mad but it was sunny and warm and I loved him and it was such a nice day. Remember when we watched the Twin Towers burning from there? like the next day, September 12th, and there were more people at the waterfront than ever, the white clouds of dust were blowing towards us and we were smoking, I think I was on American Spirit yellows then, or was I still on Camel Lights? Was that before American Spirits were a thing? It was so clear and that blue sky and the water glittered. Remember later, how I almost got in, like a real fight with a stranger at Teddy’s cuz they heard me say something about how I was happy cuz maybe real estate prices would go down?  I think that’s the only time I ever thought a stranger was going to hit me. Oh my god, we live in a terrorist state.

Before we were roommates, in my first apartment in Williamsburg, my fridge just had 40’s of Budwieser and spaghetti sauce. We had food though! You used to make burritos and I ate tuna sandwiches and turkey sandwiches- Ohmigod, turkey gave me such bad gas, like the smelliest farts, must have been the nitrates. Oh my god remember when the landlord called you a … in front of his kids? And you got your own place and I stayed…I wish I had left with you, or stood up in some way…I was working at that place at the Seaport – you were at the Center for Reproductive Rights? I never knew how cool that place was until like …now. I mean you were a secretary but at one of the coolest places to work!  I mean you were involved in suing the government to keep abortion legal! – and remember I used to steal a bottle of fancy wine on my way out almost every night on my way home? 

Well, they shouldn’t have had a display of fancy wine right by the door! My fridge is so packed now, I can barely find anything, this one’s lactose free, this one’s gluten free.  I fantasize about a refrigerator that has nothing but champagne, and olives. Just kidding, I’m sober.  Well, California sober. 

Oh, that looks like a good bottle.  Nice label! Remember when we bought our first case of wine, we thought we were so sophisticated. Rose from Astor Wines? I do medicinal Mary Jane and some pills, if I can get them. And you know I’ve been on Lexapro since…Plus…I’m bingeing. I eat the way I used to drink. Bags of marshmallows, sleeves of Oreos, pints of ice cream, bags of mini kit kats. When they go to sleep I stay up and eat. I just doomscroll and binge.

You’re working a lot, uh?  Stuck to the screen? You feel good when you’re productive, right? Fucking capitalism. My kids are so fucked up from Covid. I mean they are fine, we are FINE, we’re white, we can work from home, we still have jobs, the pay cuts haven’t been too bad. You know, I used to think I was the good kind of white feminist, but now I don’t think there are any good white people. I mean, WHITENESS, right? 

I am not putting my own oxygen mask on first. My therapist says, “You take care of them so invisibly that they don’t see it. If you love them, let them work.” I take their phones away. I had to take the kids’ phones with me to the oncologist.I’m just physically unable to not put the kids first when I am in the house with them. 

I remember you said that’s why you never wanted to have children, you knew you couldn’t take care of yourself and make work. 

Well, you were right because right now school is a shitshow. A SHIT SHOW. Maybe I should homeschool, or unschool, then at least it would be MY shitshow? They don’t do their work, 12 and 17 now, the older one just diagnosed with ADHD. (suddenly emotional, crying, this escalates) I am giving my daughter a pill and saying “Sit down and do your homework for three hours.” What is this productivity FOR? I wish I was saying take a walk for three hours.  And college applications? Ha. (deep breathing) I will find a tomorrow and a now. Softness. Softness. 

I fucking hate Zoom. But you look cute.

Omigod I didn’t change the cat litter right away so one of our cats peed in a plant and missed. I had to clean out this whole corner under my desk with boxes, and I found more notes from Mr. D, remember all those letters I showed you?  I threw away a whole bag of them, but I’m such a hoarder I keep finding notes from him tucked into books, or in my old jewelry box. Omigod. I spoke to a lawyer when the report came out, a fancy one, the woman who represents the women suing 45. But I don’t have anything but the letters, no one else wants to sue, or they can’t. One girl was 17, which was over the legal age, even though the teacher was so gross and old. I friended him on Facebook when the report came out, and we messaged and he said, “It’s not like she was Elizabeth Smart!” Seriously! Like just because he didn’t have her locked up it was ….okay? And….All those boys who suicided, and still no apology from the school? Still no victims fund? 


Sometimes I wonder who I would have been without him. 

(pause, upbeat)

Yep, it’s a shit show! I’m a drill sergeant, otherwise they are on Discord, or watching anime, I mean I am doing everything. School, managing the therapists, they each have two, and my own therapist plus couples therapy, parent /teacher conferences, three meals a day, cleaning, oh and my job? Ha. And we never get to leave the house?!?!? Plus, I mean, well, you know, (referencing partner) we are barely speaking. 

Good news is my B plus opened overnight. Usually I harvest before the veil ruptures, but this second flush grew really quickly. And the veils broke! The cats freaked out, I think they know the mushrooms are more animal than plant.

I fucking love mushrooms. We put food in our bodies, but fungus put their bodies in food! Plus, the SEX. I mean. The split gill fungus has over 23,000 “mating types.” I think a mating type is like a gender? Fungus is like ….expansive. 

This summer we went upstate and stayed in a friend’s place while they came back to Brooklyn, it was beautiful in the Catskills. We went on a hike and I found so many mushrooms. Purple ligaria, puffballs, volvariella, Lactarious, Wood Ears, Chicken of the Woods, Hen of the Woods.  They had an old white plastic bag with bones in it nailed to their barn door. Probably for their dog, but I thought, just like us, just a bag o’ bones, ha! Skin and bones, meat bags, meat bodies, food for the fungus someday. 

One of my sisters, Jen, remember? The one who is just a few years older? Well it turns out that a different teacher … she was “in love” with a French teacher. She told me one night when she called me like, blackout drunk, he used to come into her bedroom…while OUR PARENTS WERE HOME. She would sneak him in the back. While our parents were home. I just… I’m trying to get her to sue, but…I mean, if our mother had known… she would have gone ballistic. At the beginnings of the uprisings, Jen texted me that she thought what was going on in Portland was CRAZY and I texted back I KNOW- I agreed with her! Until she texted back “All those people burning things down!” and I realized she meant “burning things “and I meant “police violence against peaceful protesters.”  I mean people over profit! She has a GUN. Seriously! Last time I saw her, I asked her about the locked zipper on the side of her purse? She had a red leather handbag, like a real purse. She said it was a concealed carry purse. I was like, You know I am against guns, I think if people have them they are going to use them.

I mean look at the fucking cops. Breonna Taylor. 

You look fit! I exercised a lot at the beginning, I used that free yoga app, you know I love free shit, but then it got too hot. You know, this summer, I worried so much, like,  will I feel relieved  in November? Like, would there be any relief?

And I was! Weren’t you? It was an amazing day. And just like sighs upon sighs, they just kept coming, emmmphh emmmph emph all day long! What did you do that day? I drove into the city, the kids were meeting friends in Central Park, I went to Washington Square Park. Alone… (referencing partner) they were in Prospect Park… I thought that’s it, it’s over, if you can’t celebrate the end of 45 with me, what kind of a relationship do we have? I wanted to jump in the fountain but… I didn’t want to get cold. I used to be the type of person who would ALWAYS jump in a fountain. 

I keep thinking about 45 and Epstein and all those Silicon Valley bros, and Russian money, and just…all those young girls. Is that what they have on the Republicans? Those girls….I mean, I would have jumped at the chance to be one of those girls. Seriously. You want me to go hang out with a rich guy at his huge house? With a pool? I get to party with adults? I just have to stand there and be pretty, or I might have to give him a massage? I know, I know I can see your face! Then I would have had to do more than that…and I had already been…I’m just saying I understand those girls. Whatever. I mean, my mom said I should marry for money. 

God, I wish I had a bigger apartment. You’re so lucky. I want space to put all my stuff. My clothes. My shoes. My indoor mushroom factory. My notebooks and camera equipment and books and my dad’s old hockey trophies and rusty tools, all this shit you see behind me, and the boxes of pink quartz I mailed to myself from New Mexico. My parents saved everything, I mean, The Great Depression. After he died we found a whole drawer full of rubber bands! Hoarders are just people whose parents lived right after the depression and then had the sudden availability of mass cheap consumer goods. Right?

Breonna Taylor. 

(Taking off her socks) I have to put Vaseline on my feet. I pick at my feet too. Don’t mind me. 

(stand up, leaves the frame, 

sounds of peeing in a toilet

coming back, sitting down, putting Vaseline on her feet

They aren’t bloody today. One time upstate I was tripping and I’m, I’m, watching clouds while breast stroking through weeds, mountains like undulating bodies, curves and thick and hips. The trees were flirting with me. I swear. A white birch sparkled at me. Well, hel-lo to you too! Frogs’ back legs wiggle when they jump. Grey grasshoppers rub legs. Do they fuck? The trees were talking to me. The trees know we are there, they just don’t call us by our human names. They were all flirting with me! Mushrooms are amazing, they make new pathways in your brain. You feel like you’re really part of something. The universe, and you are small, and everything comes into perspective. 

DO you want to try? I can send you some!

Well, if you change your mind! They are good for intergenerational trauma.

I’m such a bad parent- they don’t do enough chores, I can’t get them to exercise, when we were upstate the kids didn’t even learn how to build a fire, they didn’t learn to cook, they didn’t learn anything because I didn’t teach them because I’m too …. 

I did go to lots of protests. Jen texted me, “I’m worried about you.” Oh please. One night we marched all around the city, me and the older one, and we were yelling, well I was yelling, and it was so good just to do something together. Walking and yelling and being a part of something. It was the night Breonna Taylor’s murderers got off scot free. Thousands of people in the streets, when the Brooklyn march met ours at 2nd Ave and 14th Street it was fucking MAGIC. Of course, there’s always some ass hole who kicks over garbage cans and starts a fire. Oh yeah, New York is an “anarchist state”! I wish!

Did you see that thing he said recently… I mean, my dad fought in WW II and he was NOT a loser. 

I watched YouTube video of a white woman yelling about how black women have the right to be angry and the white woman’s research was on forgiveness and I stopped in the middle and was like should I keep watching? And afterward I was like wow performative allyship much? Like me now, see? I’m bragging so much about how good I am, but I’m racist, I know I am. (She’s proud of herself for admitting it) I’m a racist. I mean Ibrahm X. Kehndi says that we should decode our actions: our actions are either racist or anti-racist. If I do that, almost every decision I’ve ever made was racist. Not on purpose! But I mean, my grandmother, my mom’s mom, she drank “tea” all day but it was whiskey. (In a “funny” old lady gruff voice) “Go get grandma some of her special tea from under the sink, there’s a good girl!” Anyways, she used the N word. I remember hey saying, “I love that Nat King Cole, what a voice, too bad he’s a …N word.”

I feel so Gen x lately- at every turn we are caught between boomers, with their success and competition; and millennials, with their expectations of something better. How come we never expected anything better? But I mean, Gen X, rocking the pandemic, right? (devil horns hands.) The original latchkey kids! What even IS laziness? Is it even a thing? Maybe people just need to rest. All of this productivity is making us feel so bad about ourselves? Not you, of course!

Why are they late to school? I get them up, it takes 3 tries for the younger one and 2 for the older one and they are still late behind that camera. How many times did I say “get that all set up before you go to bed”? They aren’t even using notebooks. Like one each. I have a whole box full of school supplies in the bedroom. 

(Hand in mouth)

Omigod I have cat fur in my teeth. 

I miss my doctor. As you get better you miss all the appointments, all the attention. Weird, I know. She shines a light on my cunt. It’s the only attention it gets. I always make sure I have nice clean cunt for her. Aaaaannnnnd…..then I get triggered. And….now the rapeyness comes in. Go away! No, look at it, say Hi. Hi! How are you rape feelings? Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.  Fuck, rapeyness is everywhere. “Me too”, huh? 

We don’t have to…

My oncologist thinks I have Lynch syndrome even though my blood test was negative for it. My uterine cancer was MSI high, it means my cancer cells have a high number of mutations within microsatellites.  Microsatellites are short sequenced strands of DNA. I don’t really know what that means, but I memorized it.

What are you reading? I can’t really read lately but I’m reading White Tears/Brown Scars and White Fragility.

Breonna Taylor.

My onc doc had a Black intern and it was the day that Ruth Bader Ginsberg died and I told them RBG had never had a Black clerk. “Oh I never knew that,” they said. Shit is fucked up. September was gynecological cancer month. 

(wagging finger at camera

Pay attention to your discharge! Pink is BAD.

My Reishi’s released spores. 

(singing and dancing in chair to the tune of Cardi B/Megan Thee Stallion’s WAP

“There’s some spores in this house, There’s some spores in this house, There’s some spores in this house.”

 They’ll spread. The resistance will spread too. The uprisings. The networks are already there, we ARE the underground mycelium, just waiting for a rain to be activated, to fruit. Things ARE changing. 

“Natural Selection” is just Capitalism in botany, right? 

Is competition better, or cooperation?

We think plants are a weird in between space between an object and an organism. And Mushrooms are a liminal space between organism and animal. 

All we need is communication, networks, other people, so it’s the same thing with the mushrooms, not just the magic ones, I mean all over the world, under all the dirt, the mycelium connects everything. 

Multicellular organisms, just like we are a biome, we are the host to a shitload of fungi and bacteria, even when we are healthy, and all those little bugs share our DNA! I mean yogurt up the cooch, huh? 

Everything is connected. Everything. It’s like a mind meld but real.I mean lichen can EAT ROCK.

They made rocks into fertile loam for plants. Plants are good with the sun, not much with the soil. Mushrooms are good with the soil, not so much with the sun. SO THEY JOINED FORCES.

Why can’t we join forces, huh? 

I mean if you don’t want to buy any, at least tell your fancy friends. Tell them my B+ is really good. Organic.

No, I’m not a drug dealer!  Okay, I’m lowkey totally a dealer.

Very lowkey. All on whatsapp, everything is encrypted.  Just tell your friends okay?

Sometimes I take just a little, like ¼ of a stem, and I go up on the roof to read, and after a while I’m not reading anymore, I’m just melting and the clouds tell me stories in shapes. It’s just deep relaxation, and I’m all alone and no one knows where I am. Just me and the sky. 

I bring a Mason jar up there to pee in.

Breonna Taylor.

(The following is manic, gets faster and faster)

Do you know about Mycofiltration? Mycoremidiation? Mycofabrication? Everything is a process, not a thing! I know I just said thing but it’s not a thing, nature never stops. Lichen are a collaboration between an algae and a fungi! You could say they are having sex. The mushroom mycelium is having sex with the tree roots! The mother tree. The forest is more than a collection of trees, it’s a vast intricate society. When I hear ‘nothing is natural anymore’ I think EVERYTHING is natural, I want to make land art. All this land is stolen. Turtle Island. Public land. Reparations and Land Back Now. I listened to a podcast about Black farmers in the South and the banks didn’t give them the loans in time to plant their crops in time, and they gave the white farmers the loans. They claimed this guy wasn’t a good farmer. But he was a GREAT farmer, his dad was a farmer, his grandfather was a farmer, his great grandfather was an enslaved farmer. But I still,  I WANT a little place of my own, MINE, I don’t care that lichens are systems, it’s not binary, nothing is binary, competition and cooperation equals collaboration- I’m a woman, I’m a mushroom woman, I’m a lichen woman, I’m a mother woman, I’m a forest woman, I’m a (starts slowing down, is whispering by the end) plant woman, I’m a gold woman, I’m an artist woman, I’m a painter woman, I’m a cat woman, I’m a man woman, I’m a child woman, I’m an old woman, I’m a connector woman, I’m a mushroom woman, I’m a mushroom woman, I’m a mushroom woman….

I’m fine. I’m fine!  I just added Wellbutrin to my Lexapro and Trazodone for sleep, they won’t give me Benzos anymore. Better living thru chemistry! I’m grateful, I have the kids, the cats, my partner, we don’t have Covid, we get to work from home. Anyways, I should let you go, great to chat, it’s been so long! (laughing) We’ll do YOU next time! 


Bye, bye!

(Waving and smiling and waving until end zoom/turn camera off)


Mushroom Woman was originally performed by Mel House on zoom at Plays for Us, presented by The Actors Center, Company CoLabs, New York, NY in December 2020

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