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The Science of Us

by Natalie Coufal

We tumble down the fallopian tubes. Our shared DNA binds us, a double-helix spiraling, each strand dependent upon the other. Unplanned, our existence jars order; we are destined for disorder. Already in place are the genes that pass on a lineage of instability. Nestled in the uterine lining, we implant, the cells divide, and about a week after conception, we split spontaneously for the first time, without trauma, in the womb. We reach for each other by week fourteen of gestation; by week eighteen, we stroke one another more than we stroke ourselves.


The second split occurs outside the womb, thirty-six years later. The networks of your brain awry, you seek a way out of our life. This is how your mother-in-law finds you: naked on your bed with a plastic bag over your head, empty pill bottles on the floor along with a suicide letter and a half-bottle of booze on the nightstand. It’s happening: I am severing us. I leave your texts and calls unanswered.


Neuroscientists attempt to explain xenomelia, a condition in which individuals wish to amputate their own healthy limbs. This extraordinarily rare disorder is poorly understood.


I understand that I am not half alive, but too alive, my exposed nerves perceiving everything. I find myself turning to the familiarity of bulimia, my old nemesis now a friend, and the charms of klonopin and alcohol, addiction a newfound ally.


 My belief in my own brilliant chemistry is waning though—three years in, I’ve nearly bled out.

About the Author

Natalie Coufal is a nonfiction and fiction writer from rural Central Texas. She is pursuing her M.F.A. in Creative Writing, Editing, and Publishing at Sam Houston State University where she has received a fellowship. Her work has appeared in Glassworks, 100 Word Story, Passengers Journal and Touchstone Literary Magazine.

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