19. Belly buttons

Sometimes I forget that I have a belly button. But I do. There it is, just this little bump half-hidden in this crater a few inches south of the bottom ridge of my ribcage, with a couple hairs keeping it company. What a strange wound, long-healed and long-forgotten, a little scabbed-over reminder that I was once attached by tube to another mammal who nourished me in a uterus for nine months. Now the belly button (the umbilicus) hitches a ride on my anatomy, knowing its job is done, collecting unemployment lint for as long as I live.

You have one too. Go on, take a look.

There are three kinds, so far as I know:

  1. The Dweller, like mine, a small knot at the bottom of a crater, as if a round piece of my abdomen was scooped out by a spoon and my umbilicus thought it a nice pit in which to settle.
  2. The Boaster, protruding outward, proudly, a little monument erected on the smooth plateau of your abdomen as if to say, “Yes, goddamnit, I was birthed!” They are of various designs: sometimes simple and predictably button-like, sometimes ornate as the petals of a rose.
  3. The Baby Turtle, withdrawn into sealed crevices, the skin closing around them. I do not understand these belly buttons. I imagine them like masochistic poets in darkened basements smoking long cigarettes and listening to vinyl records of whale songs while lamenting their departure from their creator. If you ever pry into their private world, they resent you for it.

More generally, you’ve got your innies and your outties. Some belly buttons are flat, some are round, some have the capacity to hold body-shots of tequila. Others look like knots on an old tree, or a tongue stuck out in jest. I’ve seen buttons resembling bottomless pits, buttons that look like the wrinkled neck of a turkey, but regardless of its curb appeal, that button is a reminder of your original womb address and you will always have a fond memory of your first home.

Do yourself a favor and try to appreciate your belly button more. Tonight I looked down at mine and thought, “You’re sort of a big deal around here and I never pay attention to you.” It’s your first scar. Through that portal you were fed your first meal. I’m not sure how exactly you can show your appreciation for your umbilicus, but maybe just a brief hello in the shower, or when you change your shirt, enough to let it know it’s at least more important than your appendix.

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