Just woke up from a dream in which it was the fashion for women in my town to wear light, indestructible body armor. The armor concealed you completely: face and head, arms and legs, hands, feet.
Mine was very pretty; it had a pattern of images from vintage maps: blue water, green or straw-colored land, purple mountains, and spidery black lettering here and there. I wanted a second suit of armor in opalescent black, which I thought would be more practical, but I couldn’t afford it just then.
The armor was flexible and in shape it was cylindrical with rounded ends, so that when wearing it, you presented a form like the faceless glyphs on mens’ room doors — only of course you were three-dimensional, very rounded and smooth.
Driving a car while wearing the armor was tricky, you had to take special classes to master it. From the inside, the armor was invisible: that is, you could see out perfectly in every direction. But no one could see you: from the outside, the armor was opaque. You could wear clothes inside it, or not, but it was still expected that you would shave your legs and get your eyebrows done, wear lipstick or at least a little mascara. That was the custom and everyone adhered to it.
I had lost touch with people in other towns and sometimes wondered whether women everywhere wore the armor now. I only saw other mothers in my town, and we didn’t do anything but look after the children. The children wore the armor too. It was not the custom for men to wear the armor, but I don’t know what the the men wore, I didn’t encounter any men at all in my dream. And this was not unusual, I hadn’t seen a man at all in months and months.
Then things changed. I went to a fashion show for charity, which was also a bullfight (somehow), and I saw with dismay that the new armor was completely different. The face, hands, feet and even sometimes the bare arms and the legs to the knee were exposed. Also, the new styles of armor came with a wand-like weapon.
Everyone was very excited about the new styles but I was discouraged and depressed. I forecast all kinds of negative social changes extrapolated from the new armor, but my predictions were met with good-natured laughter from the other mothers.
So I gloomily purchased a cherry-red sheath that exposed my face and bared my arms all the way to the shoulder and my legs to the knee. It came with a matching red wand that was shiny and gnarled and twisted — almost like a Twizzler, only leathery and stiff. The weapon, which emitted some sort of blinding destructive ray, didn’t reassure me but I took some comfort in the fact that the new sheath covered my throat, hair, and ears. I decided that I would keep my indestructible vintage map armor and continue to wear it whenever I could get away with it. And I hoped that maybe the opalescent black glyph armor I wanted would be cheaper now that it wasn’t in fashion.
As I was thinking all this one of the models in the fashion show, who was wearing an ivory-colored sheath that exposed her midriff, caught my eye. She signaled me to follow her, and I did, and then to my horror she set an explosive into one wall of the bullring and with a gesture she indicated that I should use my oversized Twizzler-wand to set it off. I shook my head “no” and handed her the Twizzler and she made an exasperated face and detonated the bomb herself.
The bullring exploded into chaos — there must have been other bombs set too — and the model scrambled into a hole that led down into a sort of tunnel, gesturing for me to follow.
“Wait,” I said. “I’m not going in there.”
“You’d better,” she said, looking me up and down. Then I realized I wasn’t wearing my map armor, but only the new, revealing red sheath; I wasn’t even wearing shoes because the style, with the new designs, was to go barefoot. So I scrambled in after her muttering curses under my breath.
“Who are you?” I said and she gave me the exasperated look again.
“Don’t you know?” she said. “I’m a dishwasher.” Ha!
But it wasn’t funny in the dream, it was serious. Those words opened up a whole cask of buried memories. Somehow in my dream world, dishwashers were a subordinate caste that had no access to armor; they weren’t permitted to wear it. Yet they were considered very dangerous. The word “Dishwasher” was synonymous with “Revolutionary” or “Rebel” or “Warrior.”
Not only that, but I had once been a dishwasher in my dream, years ago, before ascending to the protected caste of women who drove around in cars all day wearing fashionable, indestructible armor. Now the lady in the ivory sheath with the impractical bare midriff was demanding that I rejoin the ranks of the dishwashers. And not only that, I would have to — because I was wearing impractical armor too and because I had no shoes and because she hadn’t given me back my Twizzler-weapon.
“God damn it,” I said, and just as another bomb went off, I dived deeper into the tunnel.