Mud Bottom

Winter walk

Light flecks of snow stuck to my windshield as I cautiously pulled into a narrow parking stall. I had hoped the winter weather would go away by late February, but to my chagrin it still fell in light wafts, covering the ground in a slippery layer of ice powder. Bitter wind blew through my black woolen jacket the moment I stepped from the vehicle, sending shivers up my spine. I shouldered my heavy backpack, and loaded my arms with the four massive textbooks that I needed for my next class. Being an Exercise Science major has many disadvantages, one of which being the necessity to carry around every single science book ever printed. And they are not small. On the contrary, each one looks like giant versions of Webster’s Dictionary. Dressed in a pair of light green scrubs from work and bent under the heavy load of printed information, I looked like a crazed librarian in a Halloween costume.

Eager to get out of the cold, I decided to jay walk the street separating the parking lot from campus to avoid the extra 30 seconds of walking to get to the crosswalk. Had I instead chosen to follow the law and walk where I should have, I would have exited to the other side of the road onto a nicely paved walkway devoid of snow and thickly layered with warming salt crystals. Alternately, I faced the steep incline of a small grassy hill leading to a sidewalk further down the way. Undeterred by this sight, I stepped onto the slippery slope and began the short journey to the bottom of the hill. Suddenly my right foot slipped on a patch of wet grass and darted to the right, nearly toppling me sideways. I wobbled to and fro to catch my balance, then stood there shivering in relief.

“Phew. That was close.”

The trail less traveled

Deciding it would be safer to avoid the slick grass, I spotted a game-like muddy trail leading downwards. I inched to the left until I stood in the center of the path and continued on. No sooner had I taken two steps when both my feet shot out from under me in a cartoon-like fashion and I found myself sliding on my back down the steep incline. My books scattered in every direction and my loosely adorned backpack slid off my shoulder and paralleled my slide to the bottom of the hill. When at last I stopped drifting I just laid there for a second and stared at the sky, incredulous. I glanced around, embarrassed that someone might have seen my fall, then sighed in relief when I noted I was alone. I felt globs of frozen mud clinging to my back as I straightened to stand up. Twisting my neck as far as it would allow, I groaned when I saw the damage; from my shoulders to my ankles, every inch was covered in a thick layer of mud and dead grass. I could have laid on my stomach and no one would have seen me due to the self-inflicted camouflage.

The trek back up the hill to fetch my things was quite the ordeal. I had to cling from bush to bush like a demented version of Tarzan. Then on the way back down again I gave up entirely and slid on my butt to the bottom, already knowing my pants were ruined forever.

More mud caked my backside when I stood up for the second time. The initial layer of mud began to dry and flake off in small chunks, which left a trail of dirt and grass wherever I went. My cautious walk to the nearest bathroom was peppered with little flakes earth with every step. If Id had my druthers, I would have inconspicuously darted to the bathroom, fixed the issue and carried on as if nothing had happened, but alas. I left a trail directly to the stall that I locked myself into, a fact that I heard several strangers comment on.

Self assessment

Enclosed behind the thin metal door I surveyed myself in greater detail. Not only had the mud plastered the entire back half of my body, it had somehow managed to cover the front of my scrubs all the way up to my neck, and wrapped it’s filthy fingers all the way around my knees. I looked as though I went for a swim in a mud bath and then rolled in a pile of freshly mown grass clippings afterwards. I scooted my pile of books under the door of the stall to protect them from getting more dirty, then proceeded to brush off as much of the clay as possible. Some of the bigger chunks of earth and grass came off, but most of it, since it was still wet, just rubbed deeper into my clothes. Every layer was soaked, from the outside of my jacket to my skin, and everything was discolored a light gray-brown. I continued brushing until it looked fairly decent, then focused my attention on what to do next. Class didn’t start for another twenty minutes, not long enough for me to return home and change, but still enough time to do something at least. I debated going as I was and pretend like nothing had happened, but then I got out and saw myself in the mirror.

Nope. Nope. Nope.

Unless I wanted to explain to the entire 120 people in class why I looked like I had just been dumpster diving, I would have to find some other means of changing clothes.

The bookstore.

They sold clothes, right?

Enticed at the notion of hope, I shouldered my backpack, grabbed my books and tried to ignore the colossal mess I made on the floor. The stall I was in looked as though a herd of cows stomped through it. I hurried away before anyone came in and asked questions. As a second thought I removed my jacket, turned it inside out and tied it around my waist to cover my butt, because it suffered the most mud casualties.

There were two ways to get the bookstore from there: one inside that wound around the maze of campus buildings, and the other that was more direct, but outside. I decided on the latter to avoid the cynical stares of my fellow students.

Weighed and measured

Freezing now without my jacket, I bustled the interminable distance to the other end of campus. True to plan there wasn’t anyone else crazy enough to brave the chilly winter weather, leaving me free to writhe in self-inflicted agony without lingering eyes. Except one person. She clicked her way past me under several layers of fluffy clothing, her high heels slapping the wet pavement with a stuffy air. Her eyes scanned my body with undisguised scrutiny, finally resting on my face with a look of disgust. Indignant, I lifted one nostril, pursed my lips and looked her up and down with the same scorn, acting as though I was dressed in royal garb. She sniffed and scuttled away, her nose lifted proudly. I grunted and carried on, my arms stiff from holding all those books.

At long last I reached the book store and hurried straight to their clothing section. The prices made my wallet scream. A single shirt cost $35, and a pair of simple sweat pants was almost $50. I figured the cost would be high because all college paraphernalia is, but never in my worst nightmares did I suspect such grossly outrageous prices! I groaned aloud and shuffled through every rack hoping for something cheaper. I did find a pair of socks under $10, but that wouldn’t help my situation at all. Resigned to my fate, I let out a deep sigh and moved to leave the store when I heard a soft voice call after me. Turning, I saw the store’s clerk, a young girl of 18 or so, waving at me. She had seen my tattered clothes and heard my panicked cry. She must have figured out what happened, because she gave me a sympathetic smile and led me to the back of the store where a clearance rack stood forlornly against a bookshelf.

Dressed by the clearance rack

“These are a lot less expensive than the other options,” she told me, waving a hand at the few clothes items.

I thanked her profusely and promptly turned my attention to the limited attire. They were indeed less expensive, but not by much. The shirt cost $25 and the pants $10, totaling a cost of nearly 40 bucks after taxes. Also due to the restricted choices, the pants were far too big and kept threatening to fall off. I kept having to pause to hoist them up as I bustled from the changing room to my class.

No longer covered in mud, I still looked a spectacle. I turned the muddy clothes inside out and bundled them in my arms amongst the ever mountainous pile of books, but because of all the jostling of walking around, and the constant need to pause and pull up my pants, things kept dangling down and dragging on the ground. Eventually I discovered that if I positioned one hand under the books I could latch onto my pants to hold them up, and balance the books and other clothes on top of my forearm and stabilize them with my other hand. This didn’t leave any hands free to keep the dirty clothes in place, however, so I ended up just pinching them under my armpits and letting them drag on the floor behind me.

What a life I lead.