First I'd have to get ahold of the navel ring, which is starting to get sore. Keep it upright and pinched between my fingers. Catch the ring in the mouth of the cutter, cut. Just imagining the jostling makes me nauseated enough. The tugs on my skin as I move into position. My hand shaking as I cut.
"I'll just go to a tattoo shop," I say. I'm sweating. My knees have gone fragile. "I'm sure they have a tool."
"I still think you should just use a wire cutter," she says.
I got my belly button pierced in the summer of 1995, who knows why. By then it had lost any kind of edgy stigma that piercing might have, but it also wasn't just a natural next step to fill the void between becoming a licensed driver and graduating from high school. I got it done at a tattoo shop in Rochester and it probably cost about $45. I don't think I went alone, but all I remember seeing is the pinch of my skin and something like an allen wrench burrowing through the fold. He slid a tiny ring into position, popped in silver bead and told me to lube it up with Bacitracin and spin it a couple times a day.
And that was that. Pierced.
I unbuttoned the top of my jean shorts and folded the waist. I took off my shirt to keep it from rubbing. No one was home, so I popped some Gin Blossoms into the stereo system and danced around the living room.
"This song will always remind me of getting my belly button pierced," I thought.
Lil Latrell's sister works in a medical field. When she hears the ring is stuck, she suggests icing the area then applying vaseline. I wince. I believe she is envisioning a scenario where my skin has absorbed the ring. That tearing it free will be like removing a tongue from cold metal.
I loved having my belly button pierced. When the next semester started, it was my icebreaker. My "one thing about yourself" I shared the first day of class. I wrote about it in a poetry class and my professor scribbled on my assignment in green ink: "Some people consider the belly button a third eye. Explore!" One night I went to an all-ages dance club and, for the first and last time, wore a half shirt. Then, after three months, the ring got caught on a guy's jeans. The bead popped off, the ring fell out and by the time I noticed, it was gone for good.
So I did it again. Except the hole had closed and now there was scar tissue. The piecer needed to use a bigger ring and a bigger bead. Now it was this garish thing stuck in the middle of a blueish white stomach. It brought none of the joy of the first ring. I didn't dance. I didn't explore the idea of a belly button as a third eye, either.
My mom's first question was "But what about when you get pregnant?!" A silly argument against a navel piercing. I'm sure that at the time it didn't occur to her that it would take 18 years to find out the answer: Take it out, I guess.
Chuck always says my belly button feels like it's filled with tempura. I blame the ring for clogging it with gunk.
"Wait. You have your belly button pierced?" Chrissie texts. "How about I slap it out of you."
It started to kind of hurt a few months ago when my ever-shrinking belly button pushed it into a permanently upright position. I laid in bed and tugged at the sides, twisted the bead, tried to remember how it went in so I could figure out how to get it out. All the jostling made me woozy, so I could never work at it too long.
It poked out the front of my shirt in a weird way.
"Aw, your belly button popped," my friend Greener says.
I lift my shirt.
"Nah, it's just my ring," I say.
"You have to get that out of there," she says.
I am procrastinating. I don't want to take it out. Even though I never really liked the Ring II, little in my life has lasted as long as this clunky old thing.
Hank tells me that his wife had to get her's taken out right around the ninth month. They went to seediest of spots in Minneapolis, where removing the ring was certainly the most wholesome thing to ever happen in the shop.
"The ring's still gone, but the spirt remains," he says.
I went to the tattoo place yesterday, plopped into a chair. The guy, a friendly acquaintance, simply put a reverse wrench-like tool through the middle and opened. He lifted the bead out. I looked away as he worked the ring out of my stomach.
The whole thing took 15 seconds, maybe, to undo.
"I feel like I should cry or something," I said.
It was just so easy. And it really lacked ceremony.
Now the spot just feels a little raw.
He told me that there are place holders that work for pregnant women. A long flat piece that will withstand the stretch of my stomach. He also said the hole won't close, and if I want to put in another ring after I have the baby, it'll still work.
I'm not sure what to do with that information.