why we all call him Doctor Proctor
The crossdresser skirted customers in the café. Eyes traced kneehigh frills to sockless highheels to hairy legs to unbelted paunch back to bushy arms and ruffled shoulders and five days of stubble; some stared with demure disgust; others incredulously, lingering looks of vicarious curiosity or perhaps impetuosity. Scanning over creamcoloured coffeecups like alligators purveying the marshy miniscus for unwary prey they submerged to news, crosswords, the Art & Life section, and whatnot. David Bowie’s Changes played on the overhead speakers.
...Thankyou sir. Have a nice day, said the cashier, who returned a whiskered man his card.
Yeah you too bub— oh, s’cuse me.
Hello mayam how’re you today?
Fine thankyou she responded behind black sunglasses.
What can we get started for you?
I want an espresso.
Sure. That’s fine.
That’ll be... 2 19.
Here you go.
Thankyou. Here’s your change. One two and...
That’s alright. She refused with a hand for him to keep it.
Thankyou mayam. He clinked the change in the tip’s-cup. They’ll give you your espresso at the side counter... Hello.
Hello, he said soft and blearily.
Oh uh hi. What can we start for you today?
Will —the cashier’s throat cleared– will that be all?
The crossdresser judged pastries beneath a white coiffured wig. Humm, he hummed indecisively— a gnarled finger raised to his ruby lipstick and an identically polished fingernail tapped the glass –as only an old man would. No. Just the coffee today.
And what size would you l...?
Small? ...what are the sizes?
The cashier exhibited: here’s our smallest size. This is our small, the medium, and our l...
Small is fine.
O K. That’ll be 1 oh 8.
The man rummaged through his purse producing a sequined wallet then fingered out two one dollarbills and handed them to the cashier who took a small cup from the stack and exchanged. Then the crossdresser asked for change and the cashier said Sorry s... but cut his apology and passed 92 cents back to the skirted man who then went to three coffeepitchers and inspected the regions from whence the coffees came; one from The Congo; two from Peru. He chose a darker blend of the South American specimens and traipsed to a tower-stool at the entrance between a businessman who glanced up and returned to hovering his hands over typekeys yet input nothing, and a twentysomething girl stooped over a college textbook.
After awhile the man in the skirt twigged her peering peripherally from the pages and asked her, What are you reading?
She smiled up feigning surprise and folded the front cover onto her hand and said Oh this? It’s World Literature.
Some of it. I guess. It’s a summer course so I gottalotta read this week.
Accelerated huh, hinted the old man in the skirt, folding his legs.
Mmhmm... she paused and automatically complimented his heels.
Thankyou. You know, at first, women did not wear heels. Only men. Now, of course, people think it odd, for a man.
I heard that. She was dressed in a cotton longsleeve with her school’s emblem, an elephant with CCC slung across the tusks. She wore workout leggings and a pair of Nike runningshoes. Testing the waters she motioned to his purse and complimented it as very darling.
Another gender appropriation I suppose.
As old men will, he abruptly changed the subject of their discourse to something more manageable. So you go to CCC. How do you enjoy yourself there?
I like it. Yea.
Not the exclamation I anticipated from a prettyfaced lady like you.
She broke out blush. Thankyou. She sipped from her mug, coughed the contents before her esophagus caught it and spewed out So, dyou go there too? Ya know, before?
Actually, I’m a professor of History. He sipped.
Oh. Wow. I didn’t know.
It is a populous school. You’re not to be blamed.
You do talk kinda like a teacher.
He laughed heartily and deep, as he had not inside the quiet confines of the coffeeshop for years. Yes. I pontificate verrry professorially, as befits my position. I wager fifty percent of my students would sleep during classtime if it were not for what I wore.
The businessman collapsed his laptop and absconded.
Why dyou say that?
It is history. I have no delusions. He winked.
Yeah. She hesitated to say... It can get kinda boring.
And what will be your area of expertise? Miss boring?
She gandered the textbook for an answer.
The man in the skirt understood. Still deciding eh?
She nodded. I thought I was going for painting. Oil.
Ah, an artist. Playfully he peered overshoulder. Not so loud. He raised a painted fingernail to his lips conspiratorially. It’s not safe here for an artist.
She colluded with him, leaning close. Then she sniffed. He did not smell like a crossdresser. Not flowery at all but musty. Are you an undercover artist as well?
They returned to their cups and sat in the silence that follows and fragments a thing unspeakably funny.
I wish you were my professor, she confided.
Who is your professor for World Literature?
Doctor Smith, really.
No. I don’t know him.
I dunno why we all call him Doctor Proctor. My friends in the class. But... well...
Go on. It’s confidential. Remember? He airbrushstroked an abstract.
Well, on the first day of class he told everyone to call him Doctor Smith. And totally stressed the Doctor, like, a million times and...
Yes, I know the type.
Yeah, she rambled, he’s just like this real old weirdo... the word caused her a conscious pause.
It’s okay, he reassured her. And what’s so weird about him?
He looks down the girls’ shirts during tests. For one thing.
The old man smirked, tattoed eyebrows raised. Well, can he be blamed? He slurped his coffee languidly.
Are you serious man.
The old man’s smirk contorted into an airy grimace. Oh. How dare he. The thought! Casually inspecting naïve beauty in lowcut.
Hey dude, we don’t all dress like that. She indicated her mostly modest outfit, patting the creases of her CCC sweatshirt.
I did not assert that.
He’s a damned pervert.
Naturally? What, you think...?
Pardon he accented française. But I do believe a certain constituency of students and teachers alike make a point of ostentatious display, present company excluded. It seems only natural an attraction would arise. He winked again.
Are you, she mumbled for correctness in her next remark... you’re... hey ma... I mean professor. She smiled chummily. Guess ya never know. I’m sorry. No offense.
Please, call me Doc. Now, he clicked his highheels, if you will excuse me, I must access a restroom. He jerked at his skirt.