I am convinced that if there is anything like happiness, it is found in belly button lint.
Take a look, and you’ll see clothes contained in a little hole that opens its hungry mouth at every moment. Press up against it. Have a person grab you close. Walk slowly, hesitantly through the falling leaves in the wind, letting them swirl around your feet, and in every small movement, even in the smallest thing, you remain connected to it by the loose string hanging from your belly, an umbilical cord to the universe.
I think I was five when I first noticed my belly button. It looked like a jack in the box that melted on a summer’s day. An outie.
The other kids stuck their thumbs in theirs, laughed, and said that they were balloon animals that just wouldn’t blow up no matter how hard they pressed.
I had. I had come out and exploded. My belly button was my proof.
“It was your fault, really.”
My dad shrugged. His muscle shirt stank of yesterday’s dinner. A stain of ketchup lingered on his pants.
“You came out too quick.”
A few sores of flesh – red and stretched in their skin – tried to bubble out of the shirt. In a moment, the shirt would break. There was no other alternative.
Where would the ketchup go? Where would the smell?
“Kicking and screaming like you always do.”
He scratched his belly. The shirt tore slightly, but it keeps together, if only for a little while.
My stomach has an eye. It protrudes through my shirts like a baby just beginning. Just a little lump and all the appetite needed for two. If bits of food drop on it, that’s okay. Leftovers for later.
“An outie, nice.”
He was sixteen, a good kisser, and had me undressed in an hour. It was the kind of love only young people know, where clothes are a distraction for the Morse code of two bodies slapping around. I’m sure that from afar, it would sound like hands clapping together.
What a show.
“You have an inie.”
“Ya.” He smiles. “We fit together.”
It happened. It always would but I just thought there would be more. You know. More of me. More of him. More of each other before things went, well, here.
I have tried to find a different way to say it. I don’t have one. Either does my baby. Both of us probably let out the same gurgle when we found out.
I guess what I’m saying is that all I have is the lost love letters of my flesh, the bits of lint from a day when I found out and didn’t know what to do and so did nothing but knew that now I was connected to just more than the Universe. I was connected to someone else. My child.
Tired. That’s it. That’s me now. Maybe forever. Tired.
There were other alternatives but I didn’t opt for them. You can’t sever the Universe. It’ll still be there even if you aren’t. It’ll be stretching and groaning and kicking you in the belly as a reminder that here I am and you better be here for me too or I’ll whoop your butt.
He’s a rip-roaring piece of me. But only a piece. He has an inie. That’s nice. It’ll mean he will have more stories to tell in the silent code of forgotten strings and dust and food and a life unexamined until there it is, right there, on your finger and it’s disgusting or it is not but either way it is you entirely.
It is you, Edan. I hope it’s enough.