by Ansley Moon

Maureen was in the business of navels. She didn’t pierce them, she didn’t paint tattoos on them, and she wasn’t a delivery nurse that cut the umbilical cord. No, she just loved navels.

Something about them reminded her of the embryonic stage of life. She was sure she could remember her life in utero and the Hendrix, Dylan, and Joplin played during her last trimester.

Every day she would see one navel. It wasn’t as if she was looking for them, they just seemed to appear, after all she did live in New York City. Whether it was some baby squirming out of its clothes, some teenage girl in a risqué midriff riding the subway and nursing a cigarette behind her ear, some construction work using the front end of his shirt to wipe his brow, some promiscuous woman barely wearing anything or some guy in Duane Reade reaching for something and exposing his bare belly. Granted, some days there were more than others, like on Friday or Saturday nights or on sweltering city days.

She had even begun compiling a book about navels with photographs. In it, she explained the physical difference between the “inny,” “outy,” or “combo,” as she called it. The first photo she took was a photo of her own belly button, a small brown outy that she contrasted with a white tank top against her dark skin. The rest of the photos came in spurts. There would be days when she would forget her camera and see the most beautiful navels. And there would be other days or even weeks when no one would allow her to photograph.

Maureen decided to sign up for a nude drawing class. She had no propensity for nudity or drawing, but she figured she could coax at least the model into letting her take a photograph.

When she got to the address, she pulled her slip of paper out of her purse and checked the number on the building. There were no signs posted. It must be to keep the freaks and the perverts away she thought. She opened the glass door and walked up the five flights of stairs, her heart pumped hard in her chest when she reached the last flight of stairs. She sat in the back and pretended to draw until class was over. After class, she walked up as the model was tying his robe. She blushed and he agreed.

The final take was stunning; his belly button was a cute, flat inny, outlined by a small trail of dark hair.

She took the class two more times, resulting in one photo of a popped pregnant lady’s honey-colored navel, and one woman who refused to have her photo taken.

In the winter she finished her book. It included photos of innys, outys, and some combos, big navels and small ones, some scarred ones, black ones, caramel-colored ones, dark brown ones like hers, white ones, pink ones, yellowish ones, fat ones, flat ones, jeweled ones, tattooed ones, pregnant ones, hairy ones, even some scary ones.

She put all the originals into an old shoebox, and crossed out the word Tattoos and wrote N A V E L S underneath in black ink. Then, she placed the box into her closet on top of two other shoeboxes, one that read T-Shirts, and the other, KNEES.

ANSLEY MOON was born in India and has since lived on three continents. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Southern Women’s Review, Glass: A Poetry Journal, J Journal and various anthologies. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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