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Fiction #77
(published Early, 2002)
Missing Invisible
by Marni Borek

All the time after too cold baths my sister tells me everything would be better. She tells me it takes many, many cold baths to bring a bellybutton back and I tell her that's okay, I'm willing to do whatever it takes. I want to look like everybody else because no bellybutton makes me look different. Kids tease me and grown-ups call me Rosemary's Baby. Ma says it makes me special, but she still doesn't let me swim with everyone down at the lake. You're my strength, she tells me each summer. We sit on the front porch making iced tea and watching my sister splash along the shore. After we make iced tea I braid her hair into knots. Her hair is blonde like mine so I don't know why I don't have a bellybutton. My sister is a red head.

The doctors tell Ma they don't know what happened to my umbilical cord. They're sure that I had one at the beginning, but that it disappeared when I was still small. The size of my pinky. When babies are born, doctors let mommies cut the umbilical cord with big scissors and then tie the rest up. This is what makes the bellybutton. Ma is sad that she never did this so I say she can cut another part of me. But she tells me it'll hurt too much so she cuts flowers instead. Our kitchen is filled with lots of geraniums.

The boy next door has a very big belly button. It pokes out of the bottom of his shirt and is always very dirty. His mother runs after him with a Q-tip so she can clean it out, but he always runs too fast. He and my sister run fast together. I stay behind because people without bellybuttons cannot run very fast. They go to the mall sometimes and bring me back sweets like one of Baskin Robbins 32 flavors. People don't like when I'm at the mall. One time I went shopping with Ma and a little boy got killed by a big truck in the parking lot. Then another time a little girl got kidnapped right from the Macy's bathroom. Everyone said it was my fault. That I had special powers to make bad things happen. I'm a very nice person and don't do bad things. I don't even squish bugs.

The umbilical cord makes sure babies get lots of food when they are in mommies' tummies. Anytime mommies eat hot dogs and potato chips babies do too. I never got to eat Ma's food, so I was born hungry and still am. My sister gets angry because no matter what I eat I stay very skinny. Sometimes she pinches my arm and I bang my elbow into her ribs. The neighbors call Ma to let her know Rosemary's Baby is doing bad things again. Ma tells them I am just a kid. At night they throw rocks at our house and leave notes that say Move Away. If there was a place where bellybuttons didn't matter we would.

I pretend to have a bellybutton. I draw on myself with purple and red magic markers. I make myself an innie because they are prettier and don't get as dirty. Ma hates wiping my bellybutton off because she knows it makes me sad. She says that someday she will take me to a hospital that gives away missing body parts. Someplace right near Hollywood so I can visit all the stars when I'm there. My sister says the best one is Burt Reynolds and getting his autograph is very important. I'd rather spend time in the hotel pool with my new bellybutton.

One time Ma let me go to a birthday party three blocks away. I ate lots of cake and popcorn and threw up on the new carpeting. She had to pick me up before the games started and the girl's mommy burned my gift. It was a beautiful doll that I wanted for myself. I was so upset when I came home that I decided to make my own bellybutton. There were big screwdrivers in the garage that could help me. I took a smaller one because I was small and twisted and turned it on my tummy. It hurt lots but I was very brave. I fell asleep before I could see if it worked.

When I woke up, Ma was holding me like a baby and crying. There was a brand new Band-Aid on my tummy and it smelled really bad. I asked Ma what happened and she just cried and cried. Sweetie, she said. Don't ever do that again. I want to be like everyone else, I said. But you are, Ma said. It's just that some parts of you are invisible.

So missing is really invisible, I guess. My sister says this is wrong and that I should keep trying.

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