Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Confessions of a Young Trotsky Impersonator

He had the appearance of a young Trotsky, the same square jaw, dimpled chin, piercing wolf eyes, thick lips. He wore his hair in a mess of waves above his forehead, an almost-bouffant. He even wore pince-nez glasses. It was the glasses and the hairstyle that I found attractive. I knew next to nothing of Trotsky, let alone his appearance as a young man.

It was my colleague, Ruben, who first approached him and commented upon the likeness. As we sauntered towards the counter at the back of the café, Ruben paused by the table, cocking his head and sliding his eyes down to meet the young man's . 'Is there much call for a Trotsky impersonator around these parts?

'Enough,' said Trotsky's likeness.

Ruben slipped his hands into the pockets of his brown corduroy trousers and arched his back. 'Well yes, I suppose this is a fairly likely place, you being in a pokey academic café in Cambridge and all that. I suppose the University employ you to add a certain realism to their lectures, or something like that?'

The man neatly placed the book he was reading down upon the tabletop. He flicked his eyes from Ruben across to me. I was fascinated by his pince-nez glasses. Light grey pupils dilated a little behind the lenses. He prized his eyes from mine, slowly as if it took him great effort to do so. 'Something like that,' he confirmed to Ruben and then peered back at me.

The intensity of his stare quickly became oppressive. I blinked and stammered, 'I like your glasses.'

The pause was long enough to be obvious, but too short to enable a new line of conversation. 'Thanks,' he replied, totally deadpan.

'They're not a fashion statement, Julie,' Ruben scoffed. 'They are a tool of this man's trade.' He left no room for a comment. He swooped his attention back to the young man, chin raised. 'You do a good impression, even in your lunch hour.' He was using his patronising "I am very impressed" voice. 'The sobriety of your gestures, the cool indifference, the aura of intelligent vanity. Very good. ...I wonder... how much would it cost me to hire you for a lecture?'

His wolf eyes slipped between us, back and forth. Finally they rested on me. 'I will give you a discount,' he said. 'If you agree to go on a date with me.'

I dropped my gaze to the dark polished tabletop. There was a dog-eared copy of a Kurt Vonnegut novel placed in front of him. Breakfast of Champions. I thought this was someway off-kilter. It didn't seem to fit.

As I said, I found him attractive on the basis of his funky hairdo and those pince-nez glasses. Perhaps that was why I agreed. It certainly had nothing to do with wanting to hire a Trotsky impersonator.

We arranged a time and place, then exchanged numbers. Ruben teased me everyday between then and the arranged date.

As the date grew closer I became less confident that this was a good idea. The guy seemed totally dull, devoid of humour or soul. We probably had nothing at all in common. Agreeing to a date with a stranger purely on the basis of liking his hair and glasses (neither of which reflect a personal style) suddenly seemed like a rather stupid idea.

We met at a small eatery in central Cambridge. He was still wearing his pince-nez glasses and his hair was wild and wavy above his forehead, the same as before.

'Do you always dress as a young Trotsky?' I asked as I took my seat.

He answered with an immediate roughness, 'Yes.' He shuffled in his seat and cleared his throat. This time he spoke with a softer, less abrasive tone of voice. 'It's just a habit. I'll wear something more normal on our next date.'

I raised a single brow high. 'Assuming we have a next date.'

He shrugged and realigned his cutlery.

'So you must really love Trotsky then. I must admit, I don't know all that much about Trotsky. You'll have to fill me in.'

He seemed to sag in his chair. I assumed that I must have majorly disappointed him. The prospect of a second date slipped into obscurity, thank God.

At this point a waitress came to take our orders.

Selections made, the two of us sat in splintered silence, only background restaurant noises saving us from total awkwardness.

He gulped some table water, thumped the glass down and then leaned back nonchalantly. 'I too have a confession to make regarding Trotsky.'

I waited for him to go on, gliding the wetted tip of my index finger around the rim of an empty wine glass. I counted four rotations before he spoke.

'I am not a Trotsky impersonator. I am an English Lit postgrad student.'

I paused in trailing my finger around the glass, eyes flicking across the table.

He put his hands behind his head. 'I dress like this in order to impress professors and score with intelligent girls. So far so good as far as professors go.' He gave an impish cocked smile and put his thumb up, then returned his hand behind his head. 'As for scoring with clever chicks, they are only interested in Trotsky.' He rolled his eyes and turned up his lip. 'Soviet history absolutely bores me.'

I squinted at him, surveyed him for a moment, and then cracked a wide grin. 'Me too,' I said.

His lips curved into an echo of mine. 'But the pince-nez and the crazy hairdo get a double thumbs up. And death by ice-pick sounds like a spectacular way to go. It's not all boring.'

No comments: