THE AFTERMATH

    He left something behind the morning after.
    I found it almost by chance. It was hidden
    in the plies of soiled linen. It dropped
    from the sheets as I shook them, as though
    the hole from a cigarette burn had gone loose
    and was aired with the hairs and the smells.
    But we did not smoke the night before.
    Wrinkly, stretchy, bold, ridiculous,
    much bigger than I remembered it,
    what now lay on the floor was his bellybutton.
    That little piece of bit that I’d licked
    with the tip of my tongue so many times.
    So, glad I did not step on it, I picked it up,
    wiped the fluff and held it with extraneous pleasure.
    I stretched it to sheath my right thumb; it fitted
    like a thimble of flesh. I covered it up
    with a pink rubber glove and then proceeded
    to do the washing. It was midday by then.
    Scraps of breakfast cluttering the sink.
    Sunday afternoon unfocused mind.
    I imagined him sinking in the tub,
    contemplating his new orifice,
    wondering whether he should call back.
    I put the soggy navel in one of those drawers
    where one jumbles up miscellany, the likes
    of foreign currency, outdated flyers,
    torn rubber bands or borrowed photographs.
    It looked obscenely ominous in there.
    Then I waited and forgot. I heard his voice
    a few days later on the answer machine.
    ‘Do you remember me?’ he said ‘I think
    I left something behind the morning after.
    Have you spotted my leather cock ring
    with stainless steel studs by any chance?’
    I phoned him back, explained I had not seen the item,
    but invited him to come round to my place
    to have a look. I tidied up the flat.
    I left his bellybutton on my bedside table.
    I was eager to see him again.
    When he arrived, he rushed into the bathroom.
    He had to wee, he said, but the noises and moans
    that I heard then suggested that he was busy
    with other affairs. Was he looking for his navel
    in there? Why was he running water in the bath?
    He came out, all agitated and flushed,
    apologetic, a stupid grin on his face.
    I couldn’t wait. I led him straight to the bedroom.
    I displayed for him my collection of sex toys.
    He didn’t pay attention, of course; his eyes were stuck
    to my bedside table. ‘Is that a bellybutton?’
    he cried. I pretended I did not understand.
    I forced from him explanations, ashamed confessions.
    Any excuse to have him shirtless again, really.
    Embarrassed like teenager ashamed of her period,
    he showed me the blood soaked tampon he had inserted
    in his belly hole and argued the stretchy bit
    belonged in there. ‘Are you sure, Cinderella?’
    I thought. ‘Let’s give it a try. Does it fit?’
    It drove him almost to tears. The navel,
    stretched beyond recognition, and moist,
    rejected his skin. It belonged to me now.
    He left like he left the first time: his navel behind,
    avoiding my eyes with a gloomy ‘good bye’.
    I didn’t know whether I’d see him again,
    but I was left with his navel, which fits my thumb
    like a thimble of flesh. That’s mine now.

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