Kevin Sampsell


Take your belly button. Stick your pinkie finger in. Take a picture of it when you do this. Touch the picture of it. Look at yourself in the mirror. Hold the picture up to the mirror. Put your eyes right up to the mirror. Close your eyes and think of it.

Be proud of your innie. Think of seashell pasta.

Suck in your gut.

Stick out your gut.

Go out in the backyard and take your shirt off.

Discover what the meaning of outie is. Say it and put the emphasis on the t-sound.

Ow-T. Ow-tee.

Wonder what it feels like to touch one, to possess one.

Talk to your neighbor over the wooden fence. Hide your body as much as you can when you do this. Ask your neighbor how to spell outie.

O-U-T-I-E, he says with confidence.

Tell your neighbor you want to show them something. Watch your neighbor climb the fence awkwardly. Listen to the scraping sound of shoes against fence. Call your neighbor "Captain." Ask Captain to look inside your belly button.

What do you see, Captain?

There's something in there, Captain says.

I give you permission to get it, Captain.

Captain holds a cell phone up to your belly and shines a light on it. The gold fur of your stomach skin comes alive. Captain licks all over the nail of their index finger and begins an investigation into your cave. Your belly cave. It's cold.

The backyard hums with tall grass and a hint of bees. California vibes.

Captain ruts around and declares finally, We have an outie after all.

Are you sure? you inquire.

Captain fiddles with the cell phone and holds it up to you. It shows Google image search results for "Belly button outie" and you scroll through with a sense of new recognition. You see a list of celebrities with outies. Michael Jackson. John Stamos. Kelly Ripa.

What should I do? you ask Captain.

You should kiss me, says Captain.

No, you say.

Captain looks away for a moment. You see Captain's face is hurt in this moment. Captain pretends to be looking at a bird. But truthfully there are no birds. You feel a dark satisfaction in this moment.

Get back to the business at hand. Your belly button now looks like a balloon knot. You are both looking at it cautiously, scientifically. You push out your stomach and nod your head eagerly. Captain unties the knot. Some air gets out and then Captain tries to pinch it closed. A smile cracks across Captain's face. Quick poofs of air escape, sneaking up Captain's nose and making tiny squee sounds. It is some kind of new delight.

When the pinch is released, so is everything inside you. You feel your weight shrink into a middle place. A disappearing middle. The air of you flaps and flaps into nothing. You lift from the ground. You fly into the sky. You whistle. You are spinning in circles and you don't know where you'll land.

You don't know what you are any more.

You hope someone finds you when this is all done.