Because I could not stop…

By Geoff Gaskill

I went out walking and came home with a black bra.

Well, I didn’t come home with it, but the mystery did. I found it on my walk one late afternoon and can’t seem to get it out of my mind.

It happened at the end of a day when I’d been out walking, and by then was weary in body and mind. A mystery was the last thing on my mind and I was looking forward to an early night, perhaps a drink or two and, after something to eat, to settle down in front of the TV for an evening of mindless entertainment.

However, life being what it is, had other plans for me. As I took a short cut down a deserted side street that led me back home I spied a black bra lying half on and half off the footpath but not in the gutter. The weather was clear, and the road, footpath and gutter were all dry. Why these details should have been important I don’t know, but it seemed at the time that they were, and I took particular notice should someone ask me about them later. I’ve watched crime shows on TV and I know police want these details to be exact in order to solve the mystery.

As I think back it all seemed trivial at worst, a small domestic drama at best. Just how and why did the thing get there? Despite the lapse of some time I have been trying to figure it out since.

The scene was a street, home to a couple of abandoned houses, a vacant block of land and a number of closed industrial establishments. No one bothered to come down that way in the louring gloom. A few metres away the street gave way to a major thoroughfare where traffic roared by on its way to other places, too busy to bother with the object lying at my feet.

It looked like a new bra though there weren’t any sales tags on it. Neither was there a carry bag anywhere to be seen. Its attitude struck me as louche, if I may describe an inanimate object so, with one cup not quite inside the other, a ‘hand on hip’ attitude, I fancied. The more I looked, the more it all became curious rather than sinister. The more I stared at it there in the gloom, the more its attitude gave me the impression I was staring at a lost soul. Would I leave a lost soul in such a place and time without at least the offer of help? I shook myself. My imagination was running away with me.

The first detail about it was the colour. Why black? Not so many years ago black underwear for women was considered a bit … well, you know, racy. Only a certain type of woman wore a black bra. Nowadays, of course, it’s almost well, ordinary. Black has become the new black. If she (for I began thinking of it as female) had been any other colour I could have intuited the sort of person she was. White would have meant she was staid and old-fashioned. But what would a staid, old fashioned lady (yes, I thought of her as a lady) be doing in a place like that at a time like that? Red would make her a hussy and I might have understood why she was there. She would have been a redhead, volatile, risk-taking, and headstrong. Peach or other pastel colours suggested modesty. Again, no modest woman would be seen dead in such a place.

So my imagination ran. But black? At this point a certain disappointment crawled into my mind. The mystery of the black bra was nothing more than an ordinary, garden-variety mystery and not worth my stopping or expending any more energy thinking about it. The corollary was that I would be thinking about the cast off of an ordinary person – female I presumed – and of what interest was an ordinary woman to me? I prepared to walk on, leaving the black bra and its siren call mystery for another to ponder.

A thought stopped me. HOW did that bra get there? The backstory was the interesting thing! Seen in this light the woman who owned it might not be quite so ordinary after all! Why would an ordinary person be so alienated from her bra as to cast it off into the street? A fight? With a bra? More intriguing than this was how did she do it? Would she have ripped off her outer garments first? What would prompt such a drastic action? She would have had to undo her bra and fling it away. All deliberate and calculated. Now it was beyond curious. It was downright intriguing. In my mind I pictured the scene where, with curses on her lips, she discarded the bra to an uncertain future, spurning any hope of reconciliation, never wanting it to darken her doorstep – or her chest – again.

That scenario, I confessed, seemed more like the intemperate ramblings of my over-heated imagination.

I soon came up with an alternative. I hypothesised the bra was the unwilling participant – a witness if you prefer – in a tryst. In the throes of some sort of illicit passion it had been removed (How? By whom?) only to be forgotten when the coupling was done. I imagined the lovers parting and leaving no evidence of their time together other than the bra, now a discarded orphan in the street. I’m a romantic at heart and I imagine the meeting was by moonlight. But why the street?

Who has a romantic meeting in the street? I recall John Lennon asking, “Why don’t we do it in the road?” but I never reconciled the daring of that proposal to its potential discomfort. Another thought intruded: what if the lovers had been discovered? I mean can you take your clothes off in a public street not far from a major thoroughfare in so casual a way that an item of underwear is left on the ground, after doing whatever it is you wish to do without that underwear, and then not expect to be seen? I can’t.

No, all in all, the black bra at my feet was a mystery. I visualise somewhere there are a pair of breasts pining for the homecoming of their little black friend, who was somehow untimely ripped from their cosy embrace. Perhaps, some place not far from where I found her there is a house where a candle flickers in a window beckoning her, the prodigal, to return where all would be forgiven.

I did think of picking her up but stopped in mid reach. What would I do then? Maybe I could take her to the police. That’s what a good Samaritan would do if he found a real lost person. But the black bra was not a real person despite what I thought of her and how or why she got there.

I could imagine how Constable Jock McSporran would react to a man carrying and surrendering a black bra to the tender mercies of the constabulary.
“I’ve brought you this black bra. She’s lost.”
Here I point to the bra in my hand.
He raises an eyebrow. “Oh? It’s a she is it?”
“Yes, I picked her up in the back street.”
“Oh? Picked her up, did you?”
“Yes, I suspect she’s lost.”
“Oh? She’s lost you say?”
“Yes, and I thought you might find her owner.”
“Oh? We haven’t had any missing person reports – or missing bra reports – today.”
“Really? None?”
“No. Not one.”
“Well what do you suggest I do with this?” Here I hold up the bra in my hand.

On second thoughts I decided that course of action was not such a good idea.
So, to my eternal shame, I stood up and left her lying there in the street. I abandoned her. Like Emily Dickinson, “I could not stop.”

My bra, if I may put it that way, is only one small domestic mystery in a world filled with other, more urgent ones. This one I would leave to be played out and solved by another. I wondered if the next person that came along that street wondered, as I did, what her story was. Or did they, less squeamish than I, take her home, give her a good bath, and adopt her as their own?

I’ll never know. But now I’m thinking of offering the rights of this story to the BBC or one of the Hollywood studios. But only on condition that Hugh Grant gets to play me.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Geoff Gaskill is a retired secondary school teacher who spent thirty something years of his working life telling children how to write. Since he retired about ten years ago, he decided that he should practice what he preached. During that time, Geoff has written many short stories, a couple of plays and two novels, all which sit in his top drawer at varying stages of ‘completion’. Otherwise he spends as much time as he can as an actor and director in the local theatre scene. After all, actors and directors are story-tellers too.

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