My Pregnant Friends Are Trying To Kill Me
Kristen Iskandrian

They don't like me because I avoid their bellies. They find me "uncooperative." Bellies share a root with bellicose, belligerent. I get emails with pictures of bellies and I delete them before I download the attachments. The bellies scare me. My friends know that I am deleting their emails because when I see them in person they look angry, their umbilici scowling beneath the thin shirts favored by pregnant people, who allegedly get hot. Those announcements, the navels -- protuberances of skin atop the already protruding flesh -- seem gratuitous, the way lips look under a beard. Too lippy. Under a beard, you just want an opening for mouth. The lips on top of the mouth are too extra. And my friends' bellies are too belliful. If I were trapped in an elevator with all of them, I would be squeezed to death. If we were on a sinking ship, they would need extra life rafts to buoy them, which means there would be none left for me, and I would drown. The more belly you have, the more you are protected, which is unfair. It seems as though in the boat scenario, the bellied passengers should just be left to float, on their tight bellies. In an airplane, if something went wrong, I would be asked to jump, before my friends. My friends would be moved to first class, where the ride is smoother and there are extra drinks and snacks. In the middle of the supermarket when I was helping myself to a second sample of peanut brittle my friend told me to feel her belly because it was kicking. She took my hand and pressed it against her belly. I yanked it back and said, "Oh, I don't want to get you sticky!" She was offended. She placed both of her hands on her belly as though to make up for the hand that had absconded. Her expression, hurt, said that she believed her belly deserved a receiving line of hands, a vestibule of handmaidens whose hands were at the ready, perpetually poised to touch, cup, stroke, pat. The refusal of one hand, said her expression, was not to be taken lightly. Before my eyes, her belly seemed to grow rounder and tighter and more defiant. It looked at my hand with contempt. It hated my hand. There would be a face-off, perhaps a brawl, between the belly and the hand, and the belly would definitely win. I considered becoming an amputee, but even that didn't guarantee my safety. I would be expected to experience the belly in some other way -- with my head, for instance. Or my belly. Maybe we would rub bellies and a genie would pop out, or another belly. That day, I left the supermarket with humiliation and peanuts in my teeth. They're still there. I feel nervous thinking about those bellies, so round and excited. I worry that one day they will be unable to fit into any clothing and will elect to wear me, pull me over themselves and stretch me out, to where I will feel the pull and pall of my skin over theirs, the dissolution of my form, the exchange of my shape for theirs, the becoming of garment. I will become a garment. I will be a becoming garment, fancy and taboo like a fur coat, but functional like pantyhose. A flesh girdle. But I will not girdle, I will pronounce. Exalt. Like a well-placed bow, or a mounted elk head. They will kill me for decoration, make examples of my reluctant hands. My eyes feel like shiny buttons.