Tami, the Naked Freshman
Tami felt like a prisoner walking to the stump to be beheaded. Bracing herself like a swimmer about to dive into a cold pool, she walked through the big red door held open by the Dean and out into the dreaded cold air of the portico. She felt the cold of the wet cobblestones under her feet and found herself surrounded by three exquisitively dressed grownups. Fortunately the rain had stopped, no more of the stinging cold drops against her bare skin.
Aside from the Dean there was a tall bear of a man, balding, in a three-piece suit. And a smaller man, also balding, with an unsettling face that reminded her somehow of a rodent's. The four persons, the nude freshman girl and the fully clothed middle-aged men, stood around for a few moments in silence. Tami felt weak and vulnerable. She had never felt her lack of covering so keenly. It was worse even than when the Dean took that bathrobe away from her and told her she would have to stay naked. And now she was quaking inside, certain that she would be expelled for that little display of modesty in front of the camera. She looked out at the campus, fortunately nobody was around to see her . . . and at the world outside, that she would certainly be thrust into . . . God this is awful . . . She said a little prayer for God to give her strength . . .
"It's supposed to snow tonight," the little man said, with a slight lisp. Somehow he scared her more than the others.
"Yes," the Dean said.
"It gets very cold here in January and February, you know," the tall man in the three-piece suit said, looking down at Tami. "More so than in your tiny little home state."
"I'm sorry, Miss Smithers, I forgot to introduce you. This," he gestured to the small man, "is George Comstock. And this is Anthony Noyes. They are trustees of the college."
Tami weakly extended her hand to each. With the motions of her arm and her ragged breath, she felt her breasts lurching to and fro, and her crucifix swinging to bump against the side of her left breast. She forced herself to make eye contact and blushed as she noticed them each glancing down to her pubic hair.
"We are still skeptical of your claim of nudity being a religion," Mr. Noyes said.
"Yes," Mr. Comstock lisped. And now he looked her up and down, from her breasts to her pubic hair to her bare feet. "This is not a sight that one wants to see at a conservative Christian college. Not among fundamentalist Protestants anyway."
"It is," Tami said in a tiny voice, "it is. It is my religion."
"So what were you trying to do just now," the Dean said, taking off his rimless glasses and looking at her with piercing eyes. "Hiding yourself behind the other students for that photo? As if you were ashamed of being . . . NAKED?" She flinched as the word smacked her poor bare body like a sudden icy shower.
Tami gulped and thought hard. She looked down at her squirming bare feet, next to the men's shined elegant shoes, and picked through her words carefully. "I . . . don't want to embarrass the college. If people saw . . . my being . . . you know . . . in your . . . magazine or something . . . people might . . . um . . . be offended."
The three men exchanged glances. Then the Dean said, "You need not worry, Miss Smithers. The photo will be cropped at the shoulders. It will simply look like you were wearing a strapless dress and no one will be the wiser."
"So . . . you understand?" Tami felt a wave of relief washing over her, like a shower that was warmer finally.
It was Mr. Noyes who said, "Yes, we do. It is a plausible explanation." Mr. Comstock looked a little disappointed.
Tami stopped herself from betraying too great a sense of relief. She squared her shoulders and looked out at the bare trees and the splotches of dormant grass.
"Tell me more about your assignment with Professor Habib," the Dean said conversationally.
Tami was jarred by this sudden change of topic but took a breath and found herself falling into it comfortably. After all, math was her major. She spoke about fourth level derivatives, hyperbolic functions, arrays, and eigenvectors.
"Math was my major too," Mr. Noyes said, a little less frosty than before. "Some of what you say sounds familiar, but the discipline has progressed."
"And yet mathematics is mathematics," the Dean observed. "It relies on no new discoveries in the physical world. Archimedes could have just as well done the same work you are doing. We are always building on the accumulated wisdom of those who came before."
The Dean and Mr. Noyes, being academics, went back and forth for a few moments about great figures in the math world, Liebnitz, Fermat, Poincare, disparaged an apparently evil man named Thomas Kuhn . . . Tami recognized a little of what they were saying but not much. She wasn't versed in the history of Mathematics, at least not yet.
And as the conversation went on Tami started really feeling the cold. The men didn't of course, all warm and covered up in their suits. Tami felt goosebumps rising on her and began to shiver. She looked down at her flushed skin. She decided it was all right to clutch her arms around her breasts, to squeeze her legs together. After all, she was human, a tropical species that could migrate from Africa only after having inventing clothes. She even covered one foot with the other, to at least feel the relative warmth of her sole over her toes, then switched feet. She answered the occasional question politely but with an increasingly quivering voice.
She looked at Mr. Noyes and found herself counting the things he had on. The vest. The jacket. Pants, shirt, tie. Undershirt, underpants. Maybe thermal long johns? Thick socks, big, full-coverage shoes. Ten articles of clothing. And here she was, no covering on at all!
They had been out there perhaps ten minutes. During a lull in the conversation Tami, hugging herself, finally said, "C - can we please go inside? I'm c - cold."
"Oh of course," the Dean said. "Sorry Miss Smithers. We were getting oblivious to the fact that you were naked and unprotected out here. A good sign, if you ask me."
As they opened the big doors and went into the welcome warmth of Old Main, Mr. Noyes remarked, "You certainly picked a strange college to go to with your religion. Sounds more appropriate to the University of Hawaii." Tami felt a pang of longing for lying on a warm beach, basking in the hot sun. "Not a place like here, with sixty inches of snowfall a year." The shock of this bit of information fastened around Tami's heart like an icy hand.
They entered the reception room again. The first person they bumped into was Jen, talking with a woman of about 45 in an exquisite, exotic African-looking dress and a wraparound kind of hat. Looking down Tami noticed pretty standard-looking pointy black heels over black hose.
"Oh hi Tami, this is Professor Vanessa Congi," Jen said, swallowing the last of a bagel. "She's pretty cool. And she knows my Pop."
"Well I don't know him actually," the lady said. "I've heard of him. The good work he does prosecuting civil rights cases. One of the most eminent lawyers in his field."
Tami didn't know Jen's father was a lawyer. Jen gave hints of having traveled to lots of places. Maybe he took her along on his cases when he could.
As she was thinking this she felt someone brush by her left butt cheek. It was a thrill and a jolt at the same time. She saw that it was an older lady who was engaged in conversation with another older lady, about Michelangelo or something. Her dress was made to look like it was cotton but Tami could feel that it was actually polyester. If Tami had been clothed she wouldn't have noticed it. As the only naked person here she experienced sensations others could only guess at.
The Dean was still next to her, and now a muscular, stern-looking man came along. He had a shaved head that shone in the light of the ornate chandelier above.
"Miss Smithers, this is Professor Kurilenko of our Anthropology Department," the Dean said. "His specialty is anthropological biology. He might have some help to offer you."
At Tami's puzzled expression, the professor spoke, with a slight Russian accent. "Let me say, Miss Smithers, that we greatly respect your comportment and sense of conviction, going about naked in northern Vermont. The winters here can be quite cold."
Tami shut her eyes for a moment. Why must I always be reminded of how cold it's going to get? Are they trying to get me to break down and put on clothes? And admit that I was just streaking? So they can expel me? The mixed messages were confusing to the brave but naive 18-year-old freshman. "I -- think I'll be all right."
"The human body withstand extreme conditions, even in an unprotected state, given the right conditioning," the professor said. "My team and I can offer you exercises to get you through the winter ahead."
"It is to show that we support you and will assist you in your choice of religion," the Dean said, jumping in perhaps a bit too readily. "Professor Kurilenko -- "
"No, please -- "
"No, I insist," the Dean said, holding up his hand. "I know you don't really mind. The professor is a member of the 300 club."
"At the international South Pole station, where he was stationed, they have a strange tradition of waiting until the first night it falls to 100 below, Fahrenheit of course. They sit in a sauna at 200 degrees, and then run to and from the Pole, unclothed except for boots. A 300 degree differential within seconds. Hence, '300 club'."
Tami's eyes grew wide. So did Jen's. "That's -- crazy!" Jen exclaimed.
"The Pole is 250 yards away from the sauna," Professor Kurilenko said. "Nobody has ever suffered any permanent damage."
"All together, they run a third of a mile," the Dean said. "If a naked man can run that distance in minus 100 degrees, you should easily adapt to short periods of time in our much milder climate."
"Given, of course, the proper conditioning," Kurilenko said, in a way that raised goose bumps on Tami despite the warmth in the room. She felt her nipples pucker up. Again, she felt like these men were trying to scare her. Please, get me out of here. She longed to be back in her warm dorm room with Jen and Terri.
"If you wish to avail yourself of his services," the Dean said, "you are free to do so. Of course, your R.A., Miss Percival, will be advised."
Tami hated the mention of Wanda. If only she could convince Jen and the others that she was such a sadist. So far they seemed to think she was a bit aloof but basically O.K. And there seemed no way to tell them why she was a sadist without revealing the awful secret.
Gretchen stopped by, eating her third doughnut despite her attempts to stay away from them. Jen and Professor Congi moved away to talk. So did the Dean and that scary Professor Kurilenko.
"I admire you, Tami, you're so brave." Gretchen said. Tami liked her but this made her want to scream. Did her nudity always have to be constantly referred to? Couldn't she ever have a normal conversation? She decided to start one. "Gretch . . . Good doughnuts?"
"Mmmff, mmm," Gretchen said with a mouth full of custard.
"My mom taught me how to make them," Tami said. "It's really hard to get just right. Too much time in the oven, and they're like sweet pretzels which is kind of gross. Too little time, and they're pasty. Like the pasties my grandma used to make." An Irish specialty.
"What are pasties?" Gretchen said. "Oh sorry -- "
A glob of custard had fallen on Tami's nipple, completely covering it, about two inches under that adhesive name tag that felt like it was permanently glued to her bare skin. As Gretchen quickly proffered a napkin Tami blushed, thinking of the other meaning of the word "pasties". Those nipple coverings that she heard strippers wore. She saw a model wearing them in a magazine once. Looking real sleazy.
The custard felt gooey and sticky on her sensitive nipple. Another sensation she was forced to feel that a clothed girl wouldn't, not through a dress and a bra. Tami wiped the custard pastie off her nipple, watching her breast jiggle with the rubbing, blushingly aware of people looking. She then hunted for a wastebasket, which she found under the table. She bent down to throw the napkin in it, feeling like her butthole was on display for everyone. Exquisitely dressed grownups. A dignified setting, chandelier, portraits of distinguished guys on the wall. And sticking up them, my butthole! Ewwww . . . She was glad of the care she had been taking in the shower lately, keeping every part of herself scrupulously clean, inside and out!
Now as she stood there with Gretchen, up came another old lady, in an old-fashioned netted hat and white gloves, looking her up and down disapprovingly. "I don't see what you're trying to pull, young lady," she said quietly but sharply. She was joined by her husband, in an olive green suit, who looked at her bare breasts as if they were turds. The lady said, "We take religion very seriously around here." Tami blinked back tears and wanted to curl up and die.
"She has a right to her views," said another older lady, in a queen-bee type of dress. She spoke with an old-style Vermonty kind of lilt.
"I don't care what you say, judge," the lady in the netted hat said. "It is just not right. I don't know what the world is coming to!" And she and her husband left.
"Sorry about them, my dear," the judge said -- it was more like "my de-ah" -- "though one might forgive them. Your appearance is quite unusual. By the way, I'm Prudence Stanton. I'm the district judge here." ("he-ah")
After a short chit-chat about the college's courses of study, the judge left and now came one of the other scholarship recipients, Patrick Somerville. They spoke briefly. It turned out he already knew Rod, that cute nerdy black guy who had asked Tami out to the Black Formal next week. She found out that Rod was on an ROTC scholarship too. He must have been at this presentation the year he was a freshman.
"Rod's a good guy," Patrick said.
Tami smiled. She didn't want to say she thought Rod was cute. She was tongue-tied for a moment. "He's . . . smart." Oh boy. Damning with faint praise. Tami tried to think of something else to say. For some reason thinking of Rod got her flustered. Not like with any other guy she'd met.
Gretchen, Patrick and Tami were in this conversational lull when they heard singing and then all conversation in the big room hushed.
It sounded like slow gospel-type singing. Looking to the center of the room, they saw that it was Deneisha, the black girl in the white churchy dress, who had the music scholarship. People stood back from her in a circle to give her room. The Dean was up near her, with a smile that seemed designed to be noticed. As a singer Deneisha was quite good. Her voice was low and gentle. The tune was "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot". She went up a little on the second verse but didn't do any Mariah Carey-type oversinging like a lot of gospel folks do.
She finished her song and after a short moment there was applause, pretty loud considering this type of crowd. Deneisha smiled as if blushing and bowed.
The Dean then said, "It is traditional at this function for the recipients to display their talents if possible, only if they wish of course. There is no pressure on anyone." Someone whispered in his ear. "Ah yes, Mr. Bryce, I know your scholarship is in art but I hear you are an accomplished poet. Please let us hear."
The kid from South Carolina stepped forward and began to recite in a pleasant-sounding southern accent. It was about trees or something. Tami had a hard time listening to it. She had an inkling of what was about to happen and was having trouble concentrating.
The ending of the poem was met with applause, not quite as strong maybe as for Deneisha.
"Well," the Dean said, looking around for other young name-tagged kids who had won the Armor of Christ Scholarship. "Anyone else? No pressure, of course."
End of Part 3