The day had started out innocently enough. Spencer, his little brother Duncan, Atom, and I had only been back in Manhattan for two days, after having been in East Hampton for a week. East Hampton had been nice, for a place Steven Spielberg lives , but there's only so much you can do in a rich-person summer vacation town. So we were ready for some action. Sort of. We at least wanted to get out of the house.
So, as I said, the day had started out innocently enough. Duncan, Spencer, and I all got out of our respective beds around nine, and wandered around Spencer's apartment for a while. (Spencer's apartment, which can only be described as "a penthouse on Fifth Avenue," has quite a few rooms to wander through, so it was a while before we got bored of that activity.) Around ten, we called Atom to see what he wanted to do. We decided that we would meet him at his house later, drop some stuff off at Goodwill for his mother and go for a walk in Central Park. It all sounded like fun. Good, clean fun. My kind of fun. The trouble started on the way back from Goodwill, when Atom proposed a change of plans.
"So, Bef," he said. "Let's go get you pierced."
The thing was, Atom apparently had this silly idea in his head that just because I was visiting New York, I needed to experience extreme pain and have foreign objects affixed to my body in unatural ways. I kind of agreed with him. I mean, I kind of wanted a bellybutton ring. I wanted one enough that I'd thought abstractly about doing it. But I'd never gone so far as to actually plan it. Apparently, Atom had.
"Pierced?" I managed to squeak, before passing out. Well, I didn't really pass out, but I definitely felt my eyelids flutter.
"Yeah," he replied, a wide smile on his face. "My mom said she'd take all of us."
"Oh..." I said weakly. "Your mom."
Atom nodded happily, and proceeded to explain to me that his mom was very, very cool. I smiled faintly at him, and said yes, I supposed so.
Soon, we were back at Atom's house. I met his mother then, and she informed me that I was a very cute girl, and I had a very cute stomach. I thanked her, and decided that I liked this woman. She had good taste.
All of a sudden, we were on a subway train. I suppose we got the only fast train in the entire city, because we were at our destination in about four seconds. (Well, it felt like four seconds. It could have been a whole minute.) Our destination, by the way, was described to me as being "very downtown. It kind of smells."
Then we were there: the piercing place. It looked nice enough from the outside. It said "IAN'S" in big, shiny letters. Big, shiny letters are always good. At this point, I got even more nervous than I had been before. The reality of what everyone had assumed I had agreed to do hit me. I clamped my hand over my stomach and looked around.
"Spencer," I said, my eyes wide with fear. "They're going to put a hole in my stomach. With a really big, sharp needle. What if, one day, I need that little flap of skin above my bellybutton? And if you think about it, bellybutton skin isn't completely auxiliary. Like, it serves a purpose, at least more than your earlobes do. Oh my God, what if it gets infected and my intestines--"
Atom interrupted me and told me to hush, while dragging me across the street. He tried to reassure me that bellybutton piercing was fine and don't be silly, I wouldn't need that skin. I almost believed him, until I remembered he was the boy who wanted his tongue pierced. His tongue, which is the most non auxiliary piece of skin on your entire body.
We stepped into Ian's. It was a dimly lit shoebox of a place. The first thing I noticed when I stepped in was a glass display place with lots of body jewelry and handcuffs and lots of equally scary things. There was a man behind the counter. Also, there was a bright yellow sign that proudly proclaimed "SPECIAL ON NAVEL PIERCING-- TODAY ONLY!!!"
I turned to Spencer. "Look, they're having a... sale." I would have elaborated on that thought more, but my voice was starting to shake, and Atom was negotiating with the man behind the counter.
"Thirty-five dollars," the tall, multipeirced, multitattooed man said.
"Okay," Atom said.
I reached into my pocket for the money, but Atom volunteered to pay. While he dealt with that, Spencer and I looked around the store with Atom's mother. There were racks and racks of silly, slutty, tiny, see-through outfits. And lots of tight, strappy, leather deals.
"Hm," I mused to no one in particular. "So this is where the scary people get their scary people clothes." Then I realized that there was a lady a few feet away from me actually buying a silly, slutty, see-through outfit. I shut up.
Too soon, Atom was done arranging the financial aspects of my body-mangling, and I was being pushed towards a small room in the back of the store. I clutched my stomach and grabbed Spencer's arm. I pulled him into the room with me, because he had promised that he'd hold my hand during it. The room was a little white and black affair. There was a black padded table on one side, with stirrups at one end. On the other side of the room there was a white desk with lots of drawers and needles and implements of pain on top of it.
Trembling, I took a seat on the table and gripped Spencer's hand tightly, as the piercing lady walked in. She was short, and really thin, with red and blond striped hair. She immediately started telling me how extremely safe everything was.
"See these clamps? These are the only things that have touched anyone else that are gonna touch you. But they're cleaned in the autoclave-- you could put a piece of rancid dog shit in that thing and it would come out sterile."
"Ew," I said, wrinkling my nose.
"Well, it's true. Now--"
"Wait," I said, stalling. "Do you think my bellybutton would look cute pierced?"
"Oh, yeah," she replied, a bit impatient. "I wouldn't pierce anyone it would look shitty on, 'cause every piercing I do has my name on it, and I don't want people thinking I do shitty piercing."
"Okay..." I trailed off, doubtful.
"Anyway, what I do is I clean your navel off, then take the clamps..." I tuned her out, because I didn't want to hear how painful it was going to be and chicken out. When she was done, I had one question for her.
"Is it going to make me cry? 'Cuz I didn't have the easiest time with the hepatitis shots..."
She just stared at me and told me to lie down and lift my shirt up. I did as instructed, not wanting to upset the lady with the autoclave.
She wiped my bellybutton off with about three different kinds of cloths, each a different and exciting color. As I peered at my navel, trying to imagine what it would look like with a ring through it, I noticed it was shaking, along with the rest of me. Lovely. She turned around to get the clamps, and I pulled Spencer down for a quick kiss, hoping it would calm my nerves. It didn't.
Then the lady was looking at me, with these big, shiny, silver, sinister looking clamps in her hand. They had really long, skinny handles and instead of a square at the end, there was a little tiny triangle. She bent over me, with a look of concentration on her face, and took hold of the little flap of skin above my bellybutton. Then all of a sudden there was this incredible pain, and when I was able to catch my breath I looked up and saw that the clamps had attached themselves to me, and were flopping around while the lady was at her desk preparing something.
"Now, is that the worst pain you've ever felt?" she asked, her tone clearly implying that if I didn't intend for her to lose all respect for me I would reply with a very emphatic "no."
"Ow," I replied. "SHIT. Ow," I said again, this time very quietly. Then I realized that I was squeezing Spencer's hand rather tightly, so I eased up a bit. Now I was staring at the ceiling, not wanting to see the clamps flopping about. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the lady turn around with a needle in her hand. A big needle, about the same thickness of a quarter. I whimpered and squeezed my eyes shut.
I didn't particularly feel the needle go in. I guess the pain from the clamps was too intense. She stuck the needle in through the skin the clamps were holding in place. (I didn't see that part, but I had a triangular mark from them on my stomach for the next week on the skin surrounding the hole.) Then she took the clamps off, and I felt lots of little, short, stabbing pains.
"Spencer, I'm dying," I informed him in an even tone, squeezing his hand quite tightly.
"Don't worry, I'm just putting the bead on. Don't wanna lose the bead. Lost bead's the worst thing that can happen. Once, this girl-- oh, done." A pause. "You can get up now."
"Yeah..." I said, a bit woozy.
I sat up. "I think I'm going to throw up."
"Oh, that's normal," the lady told me. (It is?, I thought.) "Your body can't handle all the endorphins at once. You want a bucket?"
"No... I think I'll just go and pass out in the corner." I was only half joking. Somehow, through a collective effort, Spencer, Atom, Duncan, and Atom's mother got me out of the door and into the fresh air, which felt good. That's when I thought I actually might survive.
"Bef! You're PIERCED!" Atom shouted proudly.
Then, through the haze of pain and so-called endorphins, I smiled. Because I was.