One Flash by Briar Ripley Page

Alterations: An Interview

You wouldn’t know it to look at me, but I don’t have a navel. Don’t get me wrong; I used to have one. I wasn’t molded from clay or grown in a vat. But I never liked that hole in my belly. It reminded me of a woman who never loved me, and who I never loved. It smelled bad when I dipped a fingertip in, then brought it to my nose and sniffed. It collected all kinds of weird crud in its moist, bacteria-laden depths.

So after I’d made my fortune, when I discovered the body modification artist who pioneered the procedure, I knew what I had to do.

Several thousand dollars and a waiver signed, and then I was up on her operating table, numb from neck to knees. She took skin from my thigh and grafted it over the old umbilical pit. It healed smooth and perfect, a barely noticeable white scar tracing a rectangle around the flat place where my navel wasn’t.

Next, the tattoos: a rose garden. A serpent devouring its own tail amidst the thorns. A border of tiny eggs, just beginning to crack open. I was rewriting my origin myth in half a dozen different images, all sealed forever inside my transplanted skin. The tattoos multiplied until I had flowers blooming into open human hands crowding my ribcage. I stopped shy of my collarbones. You can’t see them at all if I’m wearing a normal t-shirt. Beneath this drab cotton-poly blend, riches and wonders lurk.

The last step was to get the stone embedded. Here, I’ll pull up my shirt a little and show you. Yes, it’s real—that’s a genuine fire opal. You don’t want to know how much I had to pay for this beauty. Yes, it’s attached there permanently. I have to clean it with a special solution so it won’t get infected, but let me tell you: it’s well worth it. See how it shines and burns in the light!

Yes, it is in exactly the same spot my navel used to be. So what? This blemish is one I chose for myself. Selfish? Maybe. A waste of money? Not on your life. I regret not one scalpel incision nor drop of blood shed, my dear.

Briar Ripley Page has been a janitor, a hotel maid, a meat-slicer, a goat farm assistant, a waiter, an art school dropout, an unemployed drunk, and a freelance writer/artist (not necessarily in that order). They’re about to graduate college with a B.A. in English, after which they hope to move from central Pennsylvania to London.