The first time he saw his belly button – that remarkable socket into which the universe had plugged itself, through which all living had flowed as he blasted from the great eternal oblivion of notness into a seventy year battle to live and exult on a planet he had evolved on but never known about - it was no longer connected by anything and he chased his belly to find the rest.
It was an early epiphany, a huge moment full of running, swimming, rolling downhill, escaping your mother and ’57 Corvettes; but it lacked the impact of the first time he didn’t see it.
“Uh, what the hell?” he said to the world as much as to his wife in the bathroom.
“What the living hell?” in a voice more panicked than picnicked, betraying a tone of realization usurping disbelief.
“Did you say something, honey?”
He tried to find the words but didn’t want her to know, was suddenly ashamed as a fetid, unclean thing. She wouldn’t have him anymore. He stole another glance at his toned, hairless now featureless belly, ran a hand over it with wonder. He wanted desperately to get her out here, have a look, for surely she would see what he couldn’t for some reason. But he couldn’t win that one. He had no navel or no mind and he couldn’t decide which he wanted to keep.
He heard the shower start. “Well, you see, honey, it seems my belly button has gone missing. Isn’t that kind of funny?”
“What do you mean, you silly freak? Let me see.”
She would pseudo-seductively waltz over, bathrobe loosely tied. “That’s odd, she would say on close examination, the bathrobe involuntarily closing up. “Do you have a hernia or something?”
You can see Kirk Douglas in everybody’s torso if you stare long enough. She’d run her hand across my uninterrupted abs. “No dimple, where’s Kirk? Come on, Kirky Kirky, where are you hiding?” she’d say in the calm before the storm. Then, “what are you??!?” she’d scream terror stricken, running out the house naked onto the admiring lawn.
The shower stopped. “That was quick. Maybe she already knows. Hell, I’ve been laying here asleep all damn night. ‘Honey, did you take my navel? Come on now, where is it? I need it for work you know. Suppose Mr. Feeney saw me without it.’”
“Strict policy here. Proper bellies only. No navel, no job.”
“Wouldn’t want me to lose my job would you?”
“You still there, darling?” the voice came from the bathroom.
“Of course. Why?”
“Oh, I just thought you might have already left. Do you happen to have my belly button?”
Remember when you had that horrible stomach ache, then farted for about a minute until it went away? Or when…..
“You too, eh?
And then she exited from the bathrobe in front of the mirror and he saw his belly button on her back, not even opposite her own but between the shoulder blades. It was all out in the open now. He went to her and felt it.
“God damn honey – look at your back,” he said, relieved that it wasn’t just him and happy to at least see his belly button somewhere.
“I can’t do that, you know. Why? What’s wrong?” she said a little panicked and picnicked.
“Do you feel this?” he said gently, inserting an index finger and scouring for lint.
“Ai! What are you doing?”
“Listen. I think we’ve entered a transmigratory phase where our body parts start mingling,” noticing a familiar breast hanging from his arm at the moment she screamed.
“It’s time we got divorced.”
“I believe you’re right,” he said through a mouth he’d known before only from the outside.
That’s when the ominous sucking started up. He followed the sound to its source that was his belly button turned wide vacuum cleaner nozzle and his wife an old fashioned Electrolux, great for picnics and panicking. Sure, it got him and he went into the most amazing strawberry Jello and a giant stuck his huge spoon in and his belly button moved on.