The Man in the Maidenform Bra (1)
FICTION: Part 1 of 5. In which Hitchcock's 'Rebecca' meets Dante's 'Inferno' in a gender-bending misadventure in the middle of the night.
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Last night I dreamed I went to Manderley again wearing my new Maidenform bra.
It seemed to me I stood by the old iron gate leading to the drive. But for a while I could not enter because the way was barred to me. It was already very late, and I felt self-conscious. As if all the world were spying on me, passing judgment.
It was because of the chest hair, of course. Curling wildly around the underwire and peeking through the lace in tangled spirals of black and gray. That’s what they’d be talking about, whoever those invisible watchers were, their fingertips shielding their mouths to foil any lip-readers.
It was my own fault
I’ve had a terrible phobia about wax ever since that one and only experience the year I turned 40 and decided to cast virginity to the wind. Or wherever it goes when no longer useful to one’s self-esteem.
Never again, I told myself after that first and only painful experience. So now I’ve got big clumps of springy hair busting out all across my thoracic cavity.
I had expected to find Manderley in ruins when I arrived. This was my first time back since the inferno destroyed everything back in the day.
But from a distance, at least, the place appeared to have been completely done over for RuPaul’s Drag Race. Or maybe an episode of P-Valley. If I was uncomfortable before, I was petrified now. Was I about to be humiliated on television? Or was something worse in store?
Then suddenly, everything shifted
And I heard a voice speaking from beyond, the way voices sometimes do in dreams, announcing that the straightforward pathway had been lost.
I was so full of slumber in that moment that everything beyond Manderley’s iron gate seemed a bitter forest to me, despite the presence of TV cameras and lights beyond the gate. I still remembered the inferno the place had become the last time I was here. The sweeping balconies, gabled roof, massive chimneys, and all the windows swallowed in flame.
An inferno is of course another name for hell
But what the hell is hell? It’s not wanting what is, said a self-help author I used to read. It’s whatever heaven is not, said someone else. It’s where nothing connects with nothing, said the poet T.S. Eliot. And of course we all know about that philosopher who said hell is other people.
But I say, hell is a dream you cannot escape. Hell is when you appear in the middle of the night wearing a Maidenform bra, unable to wake up no matter how hard you try. Hell is wondering if maybe it was a mistake to start drinking soy milk again. Maybe it really does give men a set of those twin objects of desire, also known as bazookas, knockers, and headlights.
Hell is being afraid to reach down below your waist to make sure your guy-parts are still there.
“If I ever get out of this,” I tell myself, “I’ll never man-spread again. And I won’t mansplain either.” But somehow I had a feeling there was more going on here than that.
The trouble with a dream is that you lose control
And so, I stood at Manderley’s gate, knowing I should try to flee this place but finding myself fixed to the spot by three threatening creatures who crossed my path in succession. First came a leopard, then a lion, and finally a she-wolf.
I could taste last night’s veal parmesan at the back of my throat, wishing I had opted for the vegetarian lasagne instead. What did these creatures want with me, I wondered? And where was the chianti when I needed it?
Could these creatures tell just by looking that I ate red meat? Or did they think I might actually have a set of lactating mammary glands under this bra?
Remembering from my school days
That these animals were symbols of lust, pride, and avarice—appetites to which I am no stranger—I sank to the ground feeling all but lost when I felt the soft touch of a woman’s hand on my shoulder.
“Where did you come from?” I asked. “And what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to help you,” she said.
It was the actress Anne Hathaway from Les Miserables. Looking fresh and beautiful. Like she hadn’t yet gotten to the part where most of her teeth are gone and all her hair has been chopped off.
“I’m confused,” I said.
“I started out at the gates of Manderley in Hitchcock’s Rebecca then found myself in the Divine Comedy. It’s great to see you. I’m a real fan. But I was kind of hoping for Virgil the poet to come and get me out of here like in Dante’s masterpiece.
“Don’t get me wrong. You’re great. I especially liked you in the Devil Wears Prada. It’s just that Virgil has been doing this sort of thing since the 14th-century and might know his way around these parts a little better than you.”
Miss Hathaway cocked her elbow, resting a hand on one hip. Then she shook her index finger back and forth like a metronome.
“Oh. You think I’ve come to take you on a little tour that runs from hell to purgatory and finally into paradise. But you’re wrong. Every man’s hell is different, even when they wind up in the same place. Dante had his underworld—and you have yours.”
Great, I thought.
Why didn’t I major in poetry instead of mass communications when I had the chance.
“Well, as long as you’re here,” I said, “could you please explain why Rebecca’s story and Dante’s Inferno keep bumping into one another? And what am I doing in this bra?”
She looked at me like I was in kindergarten.
“It’s because you’ve dreamed a dream,” she said.
“Isn’t that what I’ve been saying all along?”
“Don’t get smart with me, buster. I’m trying to help you out here.”
“Sorry. I’ll be nice. It’s just…”
“Yes, yes. I know it’s frustrating. But what did you think hell was going to be? A five-star dinner at Maxim’s? By the way, nice chest hair.”
“So what happens next?”
I asked this as softly and compliantly as possible.
“Ah, I see you’re learning,” she said. “Well, as I was saying, you’ve dreamed a dream. And the thing about a dream is that it’s not part of the space-time continuum. Dreams aren’t on the time line at all. Here everything just floats around on its own.
“You’ve got a real mish-mash going on inside that psyche of yours. Which is why I’ve been sent to take you through the circles of this particular hell. I know you would have preferred Olivia Pope from Scandal because she’s Black and quite beautiful. But sometimes you just have to settle for vanilla.”
“Okay, cool,” I said, respectfully. “But I have a question. What about those wild animals over there?”
“Don’t worry about them,” she said. “Just take my hand and stay close to me. You’ll be alright.”
Her fingers were soft and light
As if Madge had soaked them in Palmolive dishwashing detergent like in the old TV commercials I studied back in my advertising class.
“Is this going to be like one of those ‘trust’ walks?” I asked. “Where the husband has to wear a blindfold while his wife leads him around in the dark?”
“Yes, something like that,” she said. “Except there’s no need for a blindfold in this case. Also, I am not your wife. So don’t get any ideas.”
I wanted to ask if I could take off the bra. The straps were biting into my shoulders. How do women wear these things all day, I wondered?
But I knew—the way you somehow just know things in dreams—that the bra was an essential part of the experience. Still, I couldn’t help wondering, “How much longer would I be forced to wear one?”
©2022 Andrew ‘Jazprose’ Hill
END OF PART ONE
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OMG this is wild! (And no you did not bring up Madge LOL). The narration is also spectacular.