Please Sir – Part 1.
“Right.” David got to his feet. “That will do for now. Hand your papers in by the end of the week.”
He sauntered across his office to the far window and gazed down at the concourse beneath. Students were stretched out on the lawn enjoying the late afternoon sunshine. A tutorial on the lush grass would have worked well today, but it was too late now. Hopefully, there would be more opportunities to work outside. It always made a welcome change from the confines of his office. Not that it was a bad office.
David turned around to see Hector hovering at the doorway with some reluctance to leave.
“Yes, Hector?” He waited to hear what was holding back this mature, postgraduate student.
Hector hesitated a moment before closing the door and approaching the table where he had been sitting with three other postgrad students. He hovered behind a chair. “I—I just wanted to let you know. I was in L—L—London recently.”
This could be a long conversation, thought David, knowing only too well how badly the man stammered. Hector Horrowan seemed to live in a permanent state of agitation and was regarded as a recluse. There was always an air of unease about him when he attended the intimate tutorials, and he was usually the first to escape the room. For him to be here now was unusual. For him to reveal a personal detail, such as where he had been, was extraordinary.
As his stomach rumbled, David attempted to assist the twenty-seven-year-old to get whatever it was that was on his chest off it so he could get off to have some lunch. “Well, that’s good. I hope you had a good time. Is there something I can help you with? Do you want to go over that last equation?”
Wait for it. David sighed and sat down.
“That w—w—was easy.” Hector sat opposite. “In London I—I s—s—saw yer—you.” The stammering was becoming more prolific and his left eye began to twitch.
David frowned and thought for a moment. He hadn’t been to London for over six months. Hector must be mistaken. “Well, I’m sorry but I don’t think it could’ve been me. I haven’t been down there for ages.”
There was an awkward pause. David stared at Hector who stared at the table.
“Hector. It’s OK to be mistaken.” David laughed as he added, “Even I’ve been known to make the odd mistake.” There was no response from the man. Nor was there any sign that he was going to leave. Trying not to sound as impatient as he now was, David asked again, “Is there something I can help you with?” Still silence. Ignoring the rumble which was threatening to become thunderous as the image of his tuna sandwich on wholemeal bread goaded him, David got to his feet. “How about I get some coffee.”
Hector’s eyes flashed up at the Professor. “T—T—tea. I, er, prefer t—tea.” He began to wring his hands.
David filled the kettle and dropped a tea bag in one mug and a spoonful of instant coffee in another. He sniffed the milk. He knew it was ok, he’d only used it a short while ago, but it gave him something to do while he waited for the kettle to boil. Something was bothering Hector, and David was bloody sure it wasn’t a desperate need to tell his physics tutor about a trip to London.
“Here you go.” David slid the steaming mug of tea across the table.
The student wrapped his hands around the mug but remained silent.
“So what did you get up to in London?”
“I—I like to g—g—get away.” Pause. “Sometimes.”
I’d like to fucking get away right now! David always tried to make time for his students but he couldn’t resist glancing at his watch. If this conversation wasn’t going to be about Hector’s work for his PhD, it could hardly be of interest to David. And he was damn sure Hector had never done chit-chat before. Why the hell was he starting now?
Suddenly there was a tirade of words.
“I saw you in the Way Up club I was in there on my own having a drink and looking around and I saw you I wasn’t staring I just saw you and I knew it was you and I thought how lovely you looked your dress was beautiful and your hair was perfect I could tell even in the dark when I saw you.” Hector paused for breath.
The coffee in David’s mouth splattered the table. He shoved his chair back and leapt to his feet. “I—I’m s—sorry.” Shit! Get a grip. “I’ll be back in a minute.” He shot through the door, slamming it shut behind him.
In the hallway David leaned forward and gulped in some air. Six months ago he had visited his sylph-like lesbian friend, Gina, in London. Gina had enticed Diana into the trans and CD friendly Way Up Club. It was rare for him to let Diana go to such public places, but that night he had cloaked her in a scarlet gown and frolicked with others on and off the dance floor. He remembered Diana had spent a delightful erotic weekend with Gina. He wasn’t feeling so delightful now. One of his worst nightmares was on the other side of that fucking door! A student who had found out.
He wanted to head straight for the stairs and never come back. But his keys were in his desk, and there was no way he was breaking any glass to get into his apartment—the frosted snowflakes adorning the panel in his front door were far too beautiful to damage. Besides, it would bloody hurt. He took a deep breath.
Hector was still hugging his mug of tea. Except there was no tea in it now. He stood up. As David gazed at him, he looked older. And calmer. David felt anything but calm. He took a moment to recite in his head the lengthy calculation he had been willing to go through earlier.
“I want to be like you.”
Bugger! David made a mistake in the formula. Well, wasn’t this turning into some fucked up day? What could be worse? Losing his job because a student was going to accuse him of being queer? Or because he could no longer do his sums?! “What did you say?”
As the student gazed across the room, David noticed the man’s eyes were filled with…admiration.
“I don’t always feel right. It’s like there’s something missing. I’m restless and can’t seem to find any peace. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me. Then, about a year ago, I walked into a shop selling women’s clothes. I pretended I was buying something for my sister.” He raised his head and looked like a guilty schoolboy. “I don’t actually have a sister, but I wanted to be able to touch the pretty dresses and feel the soft fabric. I pulled a few off the rail and, when I was sure no one was looking, I held one close to my face. I discovered I liked the feel of the cool silk, and adored the pale lemon colour. I tired to imagine what I would like in it. I wasn’t nervous about being in a shop for females. I was simply enjoying myself. I told the woman in the store that my sister was my size. She scanned me, checked the label in the back of the dress and said this one should fit. I bought it. As soon as I got home I stripped off and wore just the dress. It felt amazing. I went back and bought some knickers, a bra and a pair of tights.” The words were tumbling from his mouth. “After working in the laboratory or sitting in a lecture theatre I’d go back to my apartment, shut the door and dress up. It was as though I had found my sanctuary in the clothes. Whenever I can I sit at home dressed as a woman. But I don’t feel so peaceful anymore. I feel rather pathetic. Ashamed even. But the thought of never wearing the clothes makes my skin crawl. It’s like there are two people in my head, one who is anxious dressed as a man, and one who is guilty dressed as a woman. It’s driving me insane. I thought maybe you could help me.” Hector fell silent and looked at David for some response.
David wanted to deny that it had been him in London. It would be easy to pretend Hector was wrong. But this man had just exposed his innermost self. He was placing a profound trust in David, and the very least he deserved was honesty. “Hector.” Pause. “I know what it might have looked like but…” Don’t do it. Don’t lie and leave this man alone to figure himself out. David knew how difficult that was.
He grabbed his coffee and walked over to the window. But this time he had his back to the view of the garden and stared across his office at Hector. He took a deep breath. “I know what you’re going through, Hector. I’ve been there.”
Then Hector sighed, as if a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “Thank God.” His lips formed a rare smile. “It’s good to know someone else and be able to talk about it.”
With the image of his tuna sandwich fading into the ether, David walked over to the kettle. “Let’s have another drink.”
While he waited for the kettle to boil again, he contemplated what to say. The notion of revealing his innermost needs was inconceivable, but could he reveal how he coped in those early days when he gradually accepted his need to crossdress? He was a man of intellect, a scientist, and such visceral conversations were difficult. Yet here he was, with a scientist and fellow crossdresser. For now he’d put aside the fact that the man sitting in his office was also a student. This was hardly the best place to be talking about something so far off curriculum, but there wasn’t a galaxy far enough away where he would find a better place. There was no way he was taking Hector back to his apartment, and the idea of talking in a coffee shop was too ludicrous. They both had things to keep private and he doubted anything they discussed would be revealed beyond these walls.