Writing Prompt: What’s The Purpose Of A Belly Button?

Courtesy of Jill Tahara

I was so bored. What the fuck was I doing here?

Honestly, I didn’t really know what a “fuck” was but my thirty year old self and our teenage rendition were actively using it in their conversation to my right and it sounded really cool. I had been waiting for a chance to say it out loud but nobody had spoken to me in some time.

I was in a tiny room with seven different generations of myself and everyone seemed to be making an effort to ignore me, completely engrossed in their own conversations. I had no idea what brought us here, how this was even possible, nor what we were supposed to accomplish. But I did know that was bored out of my mind. I was only five for crying out loud, I wanted to run around outside.

To the left sat my ten year old self in a backwards baseball cap speaking in hushed tones with the eldest individual in the room, our senior variant who appeared well into his sixties. I craned my neck to eavesdrop on their conversation but lost interest fast. They were talking about adult stuff, something called a “jee pee ay?” Whatever, I didn’t care. I wanted to play with my toys.

Across the room sat my middle aged selves in their forties and fifties respectively, the former uncomfortably cradling a toddler in his lap who was giggling uncontrollably, blissfully unaware of anything going on around him. We had a similar laugh but I did not share his joy. I had been trapped in that godforsaken room for so long, I had forgotten what happiness felt like

I groaned loudly and pulled my t-shirt collar up over my head. Maybe if I hid inside my clothes long enough, everything would go away. Maybe I’d pop my head out of my shirt and wake up back at home with all my toys. But before I could entertain that thought any further, I noticed a funny spot on my tummy.

“What is this!?” I cried out loud, emerging from my t-shirt and pointing to my exposed mid-section. Unsurprisingly, nobody took notice. “What the fuck is this!?” I proclaimed loudly.

The room immediately fell silent and everyone turned to face me. The kid in the baseball cap snickered while others scowled. The senior citizen to my left slowly got up and crouched before me, his gaze meeting mine.

“You can’t speak like that, buddy” he said, “it’s not appropriate.”

Confused, I pointed to my right. “They speak like that all the time!”

“And they’re wrong,” he replied. “Oh and by the way, that’s your belly button.”

“What’s it for!?”

The old man paused and shot a sideways glance at our middle-aged self with the toddler on his lap. He looked utterly bewildered, unsure of how to respond appropriately. Before he could open his mouth to speak, the ten year old blurted out.

“It’s a portal to another dimension!”

“That’s definitely not it,” said my thirty year old self gruffly. “But it doesn’t fucking matter. Can we not waste time with this shit?”

“Can you not act so jaded all the time? And stop cussing so much!” the forty year old man’s voice wavered slightly despite finally finding something to say. He turned back to me and tried to explain.

“Look, I think it’s uh…a scar…but uh…wait actually it’s a special scar! You know sort of like how Harry Potter had that…”

“You’re clearly new to the parenting thing aren’t you,” the eldest one said back at him, interrupting his train of thought. He looked to me again with a warm smile. “It’s a special marking that makes us unique. We’ve all got the same one and we’ve had it since we were a baby.”

“How else do you think Mom and Dad find us?” he said with a wink. I heard a loud smirk from the teenager to my right who quickly interjected.

“It doesn’t serve any useful function for us” he said, “but some girls put tese dope piercings in them or you can fill theirs with tequila and…hey!” The old man in front of me had risen from his crouch and rapped him on the head before he could finish.

“He’s impressionable. Don’t fill his head with that nonsense.”

“It used to connect to your umbilical cord. It’s what we used to feed when Mom was still carrying us,” calmly said the other middle aged man, who had been silent until that point. I noticed my thirty year old self glaring at him.

“Thanks for the reality check old man. What happened to your imagination?” He pointed at kid in the baseball cap. “You used to be creative. You used to be like him!”

“And you used to be like him,” the nervous parent cried out defiantly, now gesturing towards me. “So innocent, so curious, so inquisitive, so experimental. Now you’re just bitter.”

“You don’t remember my struggle!” cried my thirty year old self and before I knew it, the entire room had erupted into heated argument. Everyone was using a lot of big words and I began to lose interest again.

I stared back down at my belly button but still had no idea what the fuck it was for.

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