Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

by Tom Casey on April 1, 2017

Bradley sought the ministrations of Mistress Angela much as Christians seek the sacred office of priests who broker atonement with God. In a true sense, like the Mass, it was existential theater. All the roles directly played to the audience and the audience was comprised exclusively of the players who were also the authors of what took place.
“How are you,” said the ebullient proprietress, who walked around her desk and stepped down to greet Bradley. Mistress Angela was a diminutive woman of mannered effusions with that histrionic whiff of the impresario. Her mercenary sincerity welcomed you to her dungeon (on the sixteenth floor of an office building!), a place of wailing and gnashing of teeth, where an army of attentive specialists were ready to act on programs of abuse written by her clients. And Bradley had seen many empowered by means of submission and servile humiliation. These clients were money brokers and lawyers, judges, corporate executives, politicians, clerics and venturing souls in pursuit of compulsive pleasures they could not understand. These luminaries seemed not so exalted, however, when hog-tied, ball-gagged and put into cages by young women issuing stern commands. There were other inferences, of course. Christ had been flogged unmercifully and nailed to a cross to save mankind so that, by extension, all mortifications had redemptive value in the Christian imagination. That is why Bradley went to this place, and why the others went, not only for freedom to experience the whole mosaic of pain as intensely felt pleasure, but also for religious satisfactions of worship and abuse, expiation. In this theater of the absurd, Bradley experienced masochism’s liberating mechanisms of punishment and the euphoria of exoneration. That first magic of his mother’s underwear years ago had opened Bradley to other fixations. His emotional interests were radial, with a locus at some distance from average. The formalized programs of self-abnegation and condign punishment had great appeal for reasons he did not clearly understand.
The outer office, despite the eccentric reception platform, looked like any place of business with a waiting room. Mistress Angela’s desk was elevated behind a low barrier with a chair resembling something like a witness stand. In her forties, she no longer participated in what she called “The Show.” She was primarily a businesswoman but with a liberal arts degree from Bennington College. Recently featured on a downtown cable broadcast on her enterprise, not without wry humor, she quoted La Rochefoucauld: “We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.”
Bradley sat thumbing through People until a woman of about 25, dressed in black spandex, came into the waiting room and told him that his session was now ready. He stood obediently and followed her through the unassuming inner door which opened to an unlikely mélange of rooms and devices.
“Enjoy!” the ever ironic Mistress Angela called after him.
The larger main area was visible through a Plexiglas window along the hallway. It resembled a high school gymnasium, but in place of parallel bars, gymnastic beam and climbing rope were meat hooks, a whipping post and wire cages. Presently, a thin young bearded investment banker, chained to the post and caned by a sham nun, cried out with each painful assault. Farther down the hall on the right were small cells with windows that allowed a view of those who consented to being watched in their duress. Through one Bradley saw a naked man tied to a chair while a young woman holding a flog circled him, asking questions he couldn’t answer, scourging him with each failure to come forth with information. In another room, set up to resemble a grammar school classroom, a superior court judge sat at a second grade desk and wrote his ABCs while a “teacher” standing in front of him looked on. She held a heavy wooden yardstick, and when he got to the “W” something went wrong to trigger her wrath. She expressed her dismay tersely, with incredulous angry reproofs. “You never get it right,” she said. Then she swatted him with great violence, and ordered him to begin again, which he did, reciting each letter audibly as he traced it on paper like a schoolboy until failing at the “W” once more with precise recapitulation. Again he suffered her castigation and the process resumed with blows as he cowered again and again until his orgasm, after which he whimpered like a boy who has wet his pants in class. “Here’s a note,” she said at last in accordance with his script, and handed it to him in a tone of disgusted resignation. “Give it to the school nurse.” The judge proceeded to the showers with this bit of paper, which he saved with other souvenirs and remnants of exoneration he kept in a special box.
Bradley’s escort ushered him into the make-up room at the end of the hall and settled him in front of a large rectangular mirror. “Put this on,” she said. “And these.” She handed him a green cotton shift and red pumps. Bradley did as he was told, and then he took his seat in the chair at the vanity. “Now Relax. I’m going to apply your makeup.” She then worked for long minutes with brushes, powders and blush, bringing out his features. She drew lines on his eyelids and applied mascara. She attached false eyelashes. “Red or white?” she asked, holding lipstick cylinders.
“Put your head back.”
She darkened his eyes and deepened his profile with the ease and artfulness of a theatrical veteran, and remarkably, through the magic of makeup, his unenhanced bland looks were transformed into the face of a starlet, but with protruding ears.
“Do you have the blonde wig?” he asked.
“Of course.”
She brought out a box with his name on it and withdrew a long-haired blonde wig. She placed it on his head gently, almost formally, a royal investiture, making Bradley feel a tinge of keen excitement. “I think I look stunning,” he said, with uncharacteristic self-assertion. “What do you think?”
“You look like a dream.”
Bradley could hardly contain himself. “What’s next?” he asked, though with too much eagerness, perhaps impertinently, and without permission. His mistress turned cold and rude.
“Brenda! How dare you! You cunt!” She reached for a leather flog, black, with many tentacles. “Get down on your knees!” she commanded. Bradley/Brenda slipped off the stool and on to the floor, eyes radiant with thrall.
And so it began.
For the next three hours he was manacled, scourged, forced to crawl on all fours and lick the boots of his mistress. He was caged in one of the smaller cells along the far wall where other clients were also imprisoned while their respective mistresses joked and gossiped, periodically insulting them, finally releasing them for the next round of mistreatment, rotating through the various rooms and implimenta in a loosely improvisational cavalcade of abuse. He heard one man screaming for mercy, his cries serving only as an occasion for amused derision among the dominants who were chatting and laughing at private jokes. Only the safe word would end the role play; all other expostulations were ignored as part of the eroticized general atmosphere of physical torture and psychological oppression.
In his final hour, Bradley/Brenda was led on a leash to have his snack, meat loaf in a dog dish thoughtfully cut into bite sized bits by his mistress. She filled his water bowl with white wine as a reward for obedient behavior. Then like a spaniel, Bradley/Brenda put his face into the dish and ate until it was licked clean, partaking also of wine. The template was orthodox, food at the end of his ordeal signifying consummation, a burnt offering meant to appease the wrath of inner demons and cleanse the soul. Communicants here were no less troubled by primitive impulses then sinning Christians and, like most Christians, few understood the psychological underpinnings of their blood liturgies. Bradley/Brenda, unworthy penitent in search of expiation, sinner seeking redemption, flagellant, apostle of mortification, author of bleating petitions for mercy from young women he would never know was a lamb among lost sheep of the biblical adage.
“Alright, Brenda. You are released.”
“Thank you, mistress.” Bradley/Brenda sighed.
“Go now.”
“Yes mistress.”
Bradley stood diffidently. With head bowed, lightheaded, lighthearted and weak kneed, he walked out of the main cell block to the showers. There, un-bewigged, mascara running in black streams from his eyes, gripped by an almost paralyzing euphoria, he raised his head in ecstasy. The showerhead rained on him like cleansing falls of holy water in Eden. He had learned the secret of saints and soldiers, that when the sacred and profane occupy the same spaces in spirit every emotion carries equally its opposite attribute. In the moment of pure feeling pain is indistinguishable from pleasure, love indistinguishable from hate, certitude defined by vertigoes of doubt, and redemption discovered in darker reaches of self-abnegation.
He took the elevator down to ground floor. He walked through the lobby door that opened automatically and emerged once again into the living world, where now everything seemed unreal in an atmosphere of tranquil joy. The faces of people in the street were filled with goodness and purpose inspired by benevolent intention. Automobiles and busses appeared free from gridlock and part of a great happy ongoing carnival. A stranger’s smile signified acceptance and love; the purposeful gait of pedestrians portended not frantic self-interest but resolute pursuit of public good. A powerful sense of new freedom felt very like end of war where everything is joyful.
Bradley checked his watch. A roll call would be taken in an hour for a vote on gay marriage that his constituents at home had elected him to defeat. The second amendment was under assault again and his caucus was meeting to thwart gun control. Yet another bill to rescind affordable health care was in the works and he would have to answer critics for his earlier vote against equal pay for women. Bradley hailed a taxi. A yellow cab squealed to a stop and he got in. “The Capitol, please,” he said to the driver, who recognized him.
“Good morning, Congressman.”

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