by Naked Dan
Chapter One: The Proposal
Carlisle Hall was just coming to life on the Monday morning after Spring Break as I walked into the building and slogged my way up the stairs. I walked with my head down, still feeling the shame of having to attend this meeting but hopeful that it was a way to keep my college career alive. The Sociology Department office was on the second floor, right at the top of the stairwell. I went inside, and a receptionist in a white blouse looked up and smiled at me.
“Good morning,” she beamed with far too much enthusiasm for the first day back after a week-long vacation.
She looked me up and down as if evaluating me. I had decided to wear a simple yellow dress that went well with my brown purse. The dress straddled the line between casual and dressy, and I thought I looked good in it. I was only 5’4”, and I have always thought that I was too wide for my height. I did have a flat belly, which made my C-cup breasts more noticeable. But it was my lower body that I hated. My hips were too wide, and my butt and legs were too thick. That thickness wasn’t from fat though. My years of playing softball and practicing Tae Kwon Do had made my legs very strong and muscular. The dress I was wearing flared out and made my thighs not so noticeable.
“Hi, I’m Danielle Keaton,” I said to the receptionist, and I couldn’t help but hear the nervousness in my own voice. “I have an eight o’clock appointment with Dr. Slater.”
“Oh yes. Just have a seat, and I’ll tell her you’re here.”
I turned to where she gestured and sat in one of the three chairs against the wall across from her desk. I clasped my hands together to keep them from shaking and said a silent prayer that I could handle whatever it was that Dr. Slater proposed and that it would allow me to continue at Coachella University with my full scholarship intact.
I had cheated on a history paper, and my professor, Dr. Finfrock, had called me on it. I couldn’t deny it. My job in the University Printshop was a matter of public record. I had gotten a very late start on the assignment, but I had intended to pound it out over the weekend before its February 26th due date. And then, that Thursday, my uncle suffered a fatal stroke. He and I had never been close, but he had been my mom’s only brother. I felt compelled to fly home to Dallas that weekend to be with her. So I canceled my Saturday date with Kevin (I hadn’t been that excited about going out with him anyway) and booked a flight home.
The day before I flew out, Amanda Johnson, valedictorian of her high school class and with a perfect 4.0 grade point average throughout her college career, had come into the Printshop wanting to print out an assignment on the color laser printer. I helped her open the file from her USB drive and get it formatted and printed. The name Dr. Finfrock on the cover sheet had caught my eye, and I realized that she was in the same course I was in, although in a different section. I distracted her long enough to make a copy of the file on the PC’s hard drive, which I then copied over to my own USB drive.
I flew home that Saturday morning and spent a difficult weekend with Mom before flying back late Sunday night. I had just a few hours to get that paper ready, so I changed the font and what I hoped would be enough of the text on Amanda’s paper, removed her illustrations, which hadn’t been required for the paper anyway, put my name on it, printed it, and turned it in. What I had failed to change was the citation page, which listed sources for those illustrations (with the phrase “Used by Permission” notated as well).
A week later, Dr. Finfrock asked me to stay after class and confronted me about it. I confessed, telling him about my uncle and the difficult time my mother was having. He told me that that was no excuse, which was something I really couldn’t argue with, and that he would have to refer the matter to the dean.
The following week, at a disciplinary hearing, I was presented with my punishment. I was fired from my job at the Printshop. I could finish the current semester as a student, but I would receive a grade of F in Dr. Finfrock’s history course, doing irreparable damage to my GPA. I was to be suspended for the next long semester including any intervening summer sessions, so I wouldn’t even be eligible to return until the following January. But that didn’t matter since all of my scholarships would be revoked, and without those, I couldn’t hope to ever afford to return to Coachella University. My plans of finishing my undergraduate degree with no debt and then starting law school had been shattered.
I cried for two hours after that hearing. Spring Break was coming up, and without the income from my Printshop job, I had to get help from my dad to be able to fly home for the week. I tried to tell my parents what had happened, what I had done, but I could never bring myself to do it. They could sense that something was wrong and tried to pry it out of me. I told Mom that I was just still depressed about Uncle Robert, and she seemed to accept that.
I flew back to the Palm Springs airport on the Saturday after spring break week wanting to use Sunday as a day off from everything. But Sunday afternoon, while eating in the dorm cafeteria, I received a call on my cell phone from Dr. Hallam, the president of the university. He apologized for calling me on a weekend and then told me that there might be a way for me to escape my suspension and to have my scholarship restored. My heart fluttered in my chest at this new ray of hope.
He told me that Dr. Lorraine Slater, the chair of the Sociology Department, wanted to meet with me and offer me a volunteer position in a new research project. If I accepted and completed it, my record would be cleared. I wouldn’t have probation, and I could even continue in Dr. Finfrock’s class, although I could receive no better than a C in it.
“It will be very difficult on you, I’m afraid,” he told me, and he almost sounded embarrassed that he was even offering it to me. But at that point, I didn’t care. If there was any chance of my getting out of this, I had to pursue it.
“What kind of research project?” I asked before the call ended.
“It’s rather unique, and Dr. Slater wanted to go over it with you herself at 8:00 tomorrow morning, in her office. She did, however, want me to tell you to Google ‘Andrew Martinez Berkeley 1992’ and read a couple of articles about him.”
I scrambled to write the search words down. “Andrew Martinez Berkeley 1992,” I repeated back to him.
“Yes, that’s it,” he said. “Oh, and one other thing; what’s your shoe size?”
Wondering why he would want to know that, I said, “Six and a half.”
“All right. That’s it then. Remember, Dr. Slater’s office at eight AM tomorrow.”
“OK,” I said. “Thank you so much for this opportunity.”
“Well, you may not want to take it. But whatever you decide, I wish you the best of luck.”
I may not want to take it? How bad could it be? I had visions of having to write some kind of full thesis as I scarfed down the rest of my lunch and rushed back to my dorm room. As I walked up the stairs, I resolved that no matter how ridiculous the offer sounded, I had to take it, even if the work required killed any semblance of a social life. Getting my degree was the long term goal, and I was going to do what I had to do to achieve that.
When I got into my room, I sat down at my computer and typed in the search terms. Google came up with a long list of results starting, of course, with a Wikipedia article. I read with curiosity and wonder about how, in the early 1990’s, student Andrew Martinez had attended his classes at the University of California at Berkeley wearing nothing but a pair of sandals and a backpack. I almost laughed at the photos of him walking across campus naked. Apparently, he got away with this for quite a while and had become a minor celebrity.
Martinez was once quoted as saying, "When I walk around nude, I am acting how I think it is reasonable to act, not how middle-class values tell me I should act. I am refusing to hide my dissent in normalcy even though it is very easy to do so." His naked student act ended in December 1992 when UC Berkeley explicitly banned public nudity on campus. The city of Berkeley created a new ordinance against public nudity the following year, and Martinez was the first person arrested for violating it. He started wearing clothes after that but struggled with various things for the rest of his life, including problems with mental illness, and committed suicide in a jail cell in 2006.
The whole story was both funny and sad, but I wondered what it had to do with Dr. Slater’s offer. I figured I would have to be her assistant as she wrote a dissertation or book on the guy. I sincerely hoped I wouldn’t have to write the book myself.
A tall woman with graying red hair walked into the reception area. She beamed at me, holding her hand out.
“Danielle!” she said. “I’m Lorraine Slater.”
I stood and shook her hand. “Good to meet you,” I muttered.
Dr. Slater looked at the receptionist and made some kind of facial gesture, but I couldn’t see what it was.
“How was your spring break?” Dr. Slater asked me as she led me into her office.
“To be honest, it could have been better,” I replied.
I walked in, and Dr. Slater closed the door behind me. Her office was small with several photos and degree certificates on the wall behind her desk. There was one window, and it looked down upon the commons, a large open space in front of the library. Her desk was clear except for a small gym bag.
“I can understand that. Did you go home?”
“Yes,” I said as she went around and sat behind her desk. She motioned for me to sit in the chair facing her.
“You’re from Texas, right?” she asked me as I sat down, letting the strap of my purse fall from my shoulder but keeping the purse between my hip and the side of the chair.
“Did you tell your parents about the trouble you’re in?”
I shook my head.
“I just couldn’t,” I said with a shrug.
“Well, maybe you can get out of this without ever having to tell them a thing.”
“That would be so incredibly wonderful!”
She leaned back in her chair, and her face turned serious. “Did you read anything about Andrew Martinez?”
“Yes, I did. It was… interesting.”
“Yes, he was an interesting guy. I was a graduate student at Berkeley the semester that he was running around naked.”
“Really!” I said. “Did you know him?”
“No, we never talked. But he did fascinate me. I used to follow him around campus, at a distance of course, and study people’s reactions to him. I was sad to see the university enact that prohibition on nudity just to get him to stop. It was a blow against true freedom of expression.”
She stopped for a moment and looked out the window and down at the students walking across the Commons. With a sigh, she leaned forward and put her arms on her desk.
“I think attitudes are changing though,” she said. “ESPN Magazine publishes an annual Body Issue with photos of top ranked athletes posing nude.” She pulled a copy of one out of her desk drawer and slid it toward me. The cover featured a photo of a nude Venus Williams. She was in profile, arms over her breasts and her hip thrust out toward the camera, the curve of both buttocks very visible. I didn’t even know ESPN had a magazine; I had thought they were a television network. Dr. Slater continued speaking as I thumbed through the magazine. “Discovery Channel has a very successful reality show called Naked and Afraid where two survivalists, a man and a woman, have to live for three weeks in the wilderness without food, clothes, or water. Have you ever seen it?”
I shook my head no.
“VH-1 has a show called Dating Naked, one of those silly reality shows like The Bachelor except that everyone is naked. There’s also a show about a realtor who specializes in property in an upscale nudist community in Florida. The genitals on all of these are pixelated of course, but I have a feeling that in ten or twenty years, these kinds of shows will be airing unaltered. And in the last few years, World Naked Bike Rides have been held in many cities. Nudity in public has also been prevalent at several different events in the San Francisco Bay area despite a city-wide ban on nudity that was imposed within the last couple of years. In fact, a small group of committed ‘urban nudists’ is vigorously fighting the new ordinance.”
Dr. Slater seemed to be in full lecture mode. I was trying to make sure I remembered the names of these TV shows she had recited, and I shifted nervously as I closed the magazine on her desk and pushed it toward her. “Should I be taking notes?” I asked when she paused.
“No, this is just background information for the project I’m hoping to launch, an in-depth study of people’s reactions to nudity and how those reactions change after continued exposure. If you volunteer and participate for the full project, your suspension will be cancelled, and your scholarships continued, pending your grades of course. I couldn’t get your job in the Printshop back, but you might feel comfortable with a new campus job in the art department that pays a lot more.”
“OK,” I said tentatively. A higher paying job didn’t sound like much of a punishment, so I was worried about a catch. “What, exactly, would I have to do?”
“Well, you would be confined to campus. But you live in the dorm and eat in the cafeteria, so that shouldn’t be a problem. As for a social life, I know there are dances in the Student Union as well as other events. You could go to those if you wanted.”
“I’m OK with that,” I said, eager to get my scholarship restored.
“As for what you will be doing, you’ll be attending classes like you normally do. I’ll have a team of six research assistants who will take shifts monitoring your interactions.”
Dr. Slater stopped talking and looked at me, as if trying to gauge my response. I was still perplexed.
“Is that it? Going to class. That’s all I have to do?”
“Yes, that’s all you have to do. The research assistants will monitor people’s reactions to your nudity and keep all the records. They’ll take video, and you’ll be wearing a tiny microphone that will transmit to a receiver that the RA on duty will have. That will record all the audio that we can then go back through in detail.”
She kept talking, but I didn’t hear what she said. My head was still spinning.
“Wait,” I said, holding up my hand. “Did you say my nudity?”
“Yes. If you accept this assignment, you would be required to spend the rest of the semester without any clothing.”
Dr. Slater had an intense expression as she looked at me, and I realized that, as outrageous as her proposal sounded, she was serious.
“You mean go to classes naked?” I said, thinking aloud more than anything. “I could never do that. No. Not in a million years. That’s crazy.”
“Are you sure? Andrew Martinez did it.”
“And he was crazy. The articles that I read said he was diagnosed with mental illness.”
“Several years after he left Berkeley,” Dr. Slater said. “And after policymakers had squashed his freedom to be who he really was, to make a wonderful statement about our society. It’s sad really that he was never accepted. We as a society can be cruel to those who are truly different, who don’t fit into what is considered the norm.”
Silence descended on the room as Dr. Slater sat and watched me as I thought. I had been going to Coachella University for a year and a half. I had friends. I had two guys that I had dated briefly during my freshman year. And there was Kevin who had been trying to get me to go out on a date with him for over a month. How could I ever just let them all see me naked? And not only once, but on an ongoing basis for the rest of the semester? It was March 16, and the semester ended in the middle of May. That was two months. I couldn’t think of a time that I had ever been naked for longer than two hours; now this woman was asking me to run around naked for two months, and in public?
“That’s nuts,” I said. I thought of my two options: leaving Coachella University forever after this semester, my reputation in tatters, or staying and doing this. I felt trapped, like I was being blackmailed. They couldn’t do this to me! “How can this be legal?” I said out loud. “This, as an alternative punishment?”
“It’s not an alternative punishment,” Dr. Slater said. “It’s an alternative TO punishment. If you do this, you would be performing this department, the university, and the entire field of sociology a huge service.”
I was still shaking my head. Someone freely walking around the university bare ass naked was ridiculous. That I would be that naked someone was so far beyond the realm of possibility that I couldn’t believe it. Was this meeting even happening? Perhaps I was in a dream, one of those dreams I used to have in high school where I went to school in my underwear without realizing it.
“I can tell you’re having a problem with this,” Dr. Slater said, “but that’s because of the years of social conditioning you’ve undergone, conditioning that has ingrained in you this notion that our bodies always have to be covered when interacting with others of our species.”
“But what if I get arrested?” I said. “Aren’t there indecent exposure laws or something?”
“No, not really. Thanks to court rulings, nudity in public without any lewd conduct is legal in the state of California. There are quite a few cities who have implemented nudity bans, but Coachella University doesn’t fall under any of those.”
“Palm Desert doesn’t have a nudity law?” I asked.
Dr. Slater shrugged. “It wouldn’t matter if they did or not. The university’s mailing address may say Palm Desert, but the actual campus is on land that has never been annexed by any municipality. We are in unincorporated Riverside County.”
I didn’t know what was more unbelievable, that it was perfectly legal to walk around naked or that my university was asking me to do that very thing. Of course, this was California, and I had just read the story about Andrew Martinez.
“There may be people who will call the police on you,” Dr. Slater continued, “but any calls to 911 on campus are routed to the University Police Department. Everyone there is aware of this project and are even helping us compile statistics on the calls they receive, whether it’s people calling to complain because they’re offended or calling because they’re concerned for your safety and well-being. But you can rest assured that there will be absolutely no legal problems for you. The university will accept all liability.”
I thought back to the summer between ninth and tenth grade. I was spending a Friday night with a friend named Samantha. She lived in an apartment complex and as we were talking, she said that she had always had thoughts of sneaking out late at night and skinny-dipping in the apartment complex' pool. That sounded so exciting to me at the time, and I told Samantha that we should do it. We stayed up until almost two in the morning, working up enough nerve just to leave the apartment. Once we did, we made our way to the pool, which officially closed every night at ten o’clock, and climbed over the gate. We huddled in the darkest corner, quickly stripped, and darted into the pool, careful not to splash or make any noise. Being in the water naked had felt strange and wonderful. Samantha and I held onto the side and whispered to each other. I had forgotten what we talked about so long ago, but I remember being startled by the sound of footsteps and seeing the figure of a man walking outside the pool enclosure. I felt real terror right then, and I think Samantha felt it too. We both held our breath and froze. I remember how vulnerable I felt, naked and in the water so far away from any clothing. I couldn’t even move for fear of making waves in the water that the guy, whoever he was, would hear. My biggest fear had been of getting in trouble. I had visions of being arrested and taken to jail and of having to call my parents to bail me out. Luckily, the guy kept walking. We thought at the time that he was just some drunk who had walked home from a bar up the street. But we quickly got out and put our pajamas on over our wet bodies because, like idiots, we had forgotten to bring towels.
I never skinny-dipped again after that. In fact, I always made doubly sure that everything I ever wore was properly buttoned up whenever I was with other people and that I wouldn’t have a “wardrobe malfunction” anywhere embarrassing. Now, Dr. Slater was proposing that I just go everywhere without a wardrobe and that the university would be just fine with it.
“If it’s legal to just walk around campus naked,” I asked, “why doesn’t anybody do it?”
“Because it isn’t ‘socially acceptable,’” she replied, using her fingers to accentuate the quotation marks. “And that’s the point of this entire project. Can it become socially acceptable? Which groups of people will accept you; which will applaud you; which will shun you? Will there even be anybody who joins you?”
Dr. Slater shrugged. “You never know.”
I turned my head and looked out the window at the Commons. Students were walking to and from different parts of the campus. A guy and girl were sitting on the bench beneath the three tall palm trees, talking and drinking coffee. Another girl in shorts and a halter top was lying on her belly on a blanket on the grass, text book opened in front of her as she studied. I tried to picture myself walking through the area with nothing on. What would it feel like to be so naked and vulnerable and free? Something caught in my throat when I thought of the word free. Would being naked really feel free, I wondered. Was I actually considering doing this?
I turned back to Dr. Slater and asked, “Would there be any alerts going out, telling people about the project.”
“No. If people knew about the project, they would alter their responses and interactions with you.”
“So if I did this, what would I say to people about suddenly going everywhere naked?”
“I’d prefer that you never said anything,” she replied. “Just act like you normally do when you’re dressed whenever someone talks about what you’re wearing. But I know that’s not realistic. People will be persistent about something so… unusual. So, you could just say that you wanted to try becoming a full time nudist. And leave it at that. And if that doesn’t work, say that you are doing a study for the psychology department and that the study is all about you. But only say that as a last resort. Under no circumstances should you tell anyone else that the study is actually about them and their reactions. If they knew that, they would modify their behavior, and we wouldn’t get the true results we’re looking for.” She paused for a moment before adding, “And speaking of the psychology department, Dr. Adams is intensely interested in the project and wanted me to tell you that his counseling services are available to you free of charge if you ever need to talk about any issues related to it.”
I turned and looked back out the window. I thought of the people in my dorm, in the food hall where I ate, in my classes, and I wondered what they all would say to me, what they would think. How did I feel about that? Afraid, mostly. I had spent a year and a half building up a network of friends and acquaintances here, both male and female. All of that had the potential for falling apart. But the alternative was leaving the school forever at the end of the semester. That social network wouldn’t matter then. And I didn’t come to Coachella University to socialize; I came to get a solid degree that would get me into law school. And, I had promised myself on the way here that I was at least going to try to do whatever it was that Dr. Slater proposed, no matter how outlandish it sounded.
“OK,” I said, still looking out the window at the people outside and imagining myself naked among them. “I’ll do it.”
Chapter Two: Preparations
“Wonderful!” Dr. Slater exclaimed, and I could see a sense of relief in her expression. She had been almost as tense as I was, with her lecture-like spiels, but I was just noticing it now that she was relaxing. She pulled a manila file folder from her desk drawer, set it on her desk, and pushed it toward me. “Here’s a contract for you to read over. It spells out our expectations of you and what you will get in return for finishing the study.”
I opened it and started reading. The contract was pretty straightforward. I was to remain nude and on campus from now until the end of final exams, the last day of which was May 16th. I could only wear protective footwear and minimal jewelry (rings on my fingers and ears only). I also had to wear a special necklace with a tiny embedded microphone that I was to charge every night while I slept. I was expressly prohibited from wearing pants, skirts, socks, shirts, bras, underwear, backpacks, and any shoulder bag with a strap wider than two centimeters. I looked at my current purse, which I was only carrying today because my dress didn’t have pockets, and wondered how wide the shoulder strap was on it. There was a release for photos and videos of me should any be used for any academic publications related to the project, and my stomach turned as I thought of how many pictures would be taken of me over the course of the next two months. Everyone I knew carried a smart phone at all times, and every one of those smart phones was equipped with a better than decent digital camera.
“While we’d like to prohibit people from taking photos of you,” Dr. Slater said when she saw where I was reading in the contract, “that just isn’t feasible in today’s world.”
“I know,” I said and went back to reading.
Upon successful completion of the study, my suspension was to be rescinded and my disciplinary record expunged, just as Dr. Slater had said. My scholarships would be continued, pending only my grade point average. I would also be awarded six credit hours of Sociology 4950, a special topics course, with a grade of A, something that would greatly help my grade point average after the anticipated lower grade in Dr. Finfrock’s history class. It would also save me from having to take two elective courses later on. But there was a clause at the end of all this stating that if any representative of the University of Coachella Sociology Department caught me wearing clothing of any kind before the end of the semester, the entire contract was null and void.
“I can’t wear anything ever?” I asked Dr. Slater.
“Correct. We are studying long term social patterns relating to the acceptance or rejection of a nude person. That person needs to be nude at all times for this. In fact, I would recommend packing up all your clothes and having them stored here in the Department. It’s not required of course. And you can always withdraw from the project at any time. But having your clothes removed from your room and stored here would help ensure that any decision you make would be done with some premeditation and calculation and not in the heat of the moment.”
My immediate inclination was to reject this suggestion out of hand, and I started to say something to that effect. But I thought of my morning routine and how I never felt fully awake until I had gotten downstairs for coffee and breakfast. I could see myself getting dressed automatically, without thinking, and then violating the contract before I even realized it. And it might also be good to have temptation removed. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be to go nude anywhere, but I could imagine that the urge to cover up might, at times, become overwhelming.
“OK,” I said and thought I sounded too meek. Then I realized that I was going to be naked in a world of clothed people, where clothing denoted status and power. How could I not feel meek?
“Excellent. I’ll have one of the RA’s meet you at your dorm to take them.”
“RA’s?” I asked, thinking of the Resident Assistants in charge of each floor of the dorm. My RA was a theology major named Stacy. She seemed very religious and was very vigilant in making sure any males on my floor were properly escorted at all times and were off the floor by the ten PM curfew. I wondered what she would say the first time she caught me naked outside of my room.
“Research Assistants,” Dr. Slater said. “I have a team of six. They will take shifts shadowing you, taking video and making sure that the audio from your microphone is being received and recorded. All covertly, of course. Their video cameras are very small and will be mounted on some part of their clothing. They will follow you at a distance, and the people you encounter will never know that they are being recorded. They will also serve as your bodyguards and will intervene if your safety is threatened.”
“That’s good to know,” I mumbled as I continued reading the contract.
“Any questions?” Dr. Slater asked as I looked up from the last page.
“Backpacks,” I said. “What am I going to use to carry my stuff?”
Dr. Slater smiled and unzipped the gym bag on her desk. “I think you’ll like this,” she said as she pulled out a gray binder. She set it on her desk facing me, unzipping and opening it. She pulled a Kindle from the pocket on the left side. “This has all of your college text books, including the entire reading list from your British literature class.” She set the Kindle aside. “That will be yours to keep, by the way, once you complete the project. Here’s a spot for your phone, room key, and pens or pencils. You have paper here for note taking, and a copy of that contract.” She flipped the pocket page over. “And here you have several towels to use as seat covers.” She pulled a black cloth from the back pocket. When she unfolded it, I saw that it was larger than a washcloth but smaller than a hand towel. “For sanitary reasons, you know. It’s common nudist etiquette to sit on a towel. You just put one of these down wherever you sit, either in class or the library or wherever.”
Dr. Slater put the Kindle back in its spot and zipped the binder closed again. “And there’s a pocket on the outside here where you can keep your current seat cover,” she said as she folded the black towel and stuffed it inside the front pocket of the binder.
She left the binder on her desk, and I looked back down at the contract. Seeing the black towels and hearing what I would be using them for just made me even more conscious of the fact that I would be completely naked for the next two months. Surely, this had to be some kind of joke. Maybe the experiment was seeing what Dr. Slater could get a student to agree to do. Once I signed the contract and started taking my clothes off, she would stop me and tell me April Fools or something. I could only hope.
“Any other questions?” she asked.
I shook my head, picked up the pen, and signed on my space at the end of the contract. Dr. Slater smiled as she turned the contract around and signed on her designated line. She put the contract back in the manila file and put it back in her desk drawer.
“Now that the paperwork is out of the way,” she said, “let’s get started.”
She reached into the gym bag and pulled out a brown cord with a large sand-colored carved bead. I could see that there were clasps on either end of the cord. “This is the necklace you’ll wear. It’s the same kind that the people wear on that Naked and Afraid TV show I told you about. The little ball here is actually a microphone.”
She turned it over and showed me the bottom side of it. “It has a micro-USB port here. You can charge it every night with this.” She pulled a charging cord and plug from the gym bag, showed it to me, and put it in the outside binder pocket with the black towel. “Go ahead. Try it on.”
I took the necklace from her and put it on. The little ball naturally hung down just past the notch of my collarbone.
“Perfect!” Dr. Slater exclaimed as she stood up and moved to my side of her desk. “We also have some sandals for you,” she said, pulling them out of the gym bag. “You can go barefooted whenever you’d like, but the concrete walkways get too hot for bare feet most of the year.”
“Yes,” I said. It was only mid-March, but high temperatures in the Coachella Valley were already topping 90 degrees most days.
Dr. Slater dropped the sandals back into the gym bag and pushed it toward me. She was standing right over me, so I pushed my chair back and stood up beside her.
“Dr. Cleveland, the assistant chair, is on sabbatical this semester, and his office is right next door,” Dr. Slater said, pointing toward her door and to the left. “You can use it to change in if you’d like some privacy.”
“Change?” I said.
“Well, undress might be a better word,” Dr. Slater laughed. She took my elbow and guided me toward the door to her office, grabbing the gym bag off her desk. “Isn’t this exciting?”
The word I would have used was terrifying, but I didn’t say anything. I looked out into the reception area and saw a group of students standing around the receptionist’s desk. She was talking to one of them, a tall guy with sandy brown hair, her cheeks blushing slightly as she batted her eyelashes at him. Under other circumstances, I might have thought he was good looking, but at that moment, I felt like I was walking to my funeral. What had I gotten myself into?
Dr. Slater handed me the gym bag as she showed me into Dr. Cleveland’s office. She looked at me and must have seen the look of fear in my eyes.
“Take your time,” she said. “Today will be the hardest day, but it will get better after this. You’ll probably even have fun with it. I kind of wish I could get away with doing this myself. Just put your clothes in the bag and bring it back to my office when you’re ready.”
I forced a smile at her as she closed the door. As soon as she did, I collapsed into one of Dr. Cleveland’s guest chairs and tried to fight back the tears. I remembered my first trip to Coachella University and how the tour guide had said that there were fifteen thousand students enrolled. I wondered how many faculty and staff could be added to that number. And all of them, all fifteen thousand plus, would soon have free visual access to my naked body. I knew I had just signed the contract, but how could I do this? I should just get up and walk out, withdraw from the university, and never look back. That was my only other option. But then I would have to explain to my parents how I had cheated on that history paper, stupidly thinking that the professor wouldn’t notice the similarities to Amanda’s. Surely, I remembered thinking, with all the students he had, he didn’t actually read all of our papers.
It’s only two months, I told myself. Once I got through those two months, I could accelerate my plans, take summer classes, and graduate early. The extra six credit hours I would get from this project would help. I figured that no one would want to hang out with the girl who had inexplicably run around naked for two months. But that didn’t matter. I didn’t need a social life after this. I was just going to get my degree and get out of here to go to law school. I could do it. It was just two months.
I took off my shoes. The sandals were still in the gym bag. I took them out and placed them on the floor in front of me before putting my flats into the bag. Taking a deep breath, I stood, unzipped my dress and let it fall to the floor. Just in bra and panties, I stepped out of the dress, picked it up, and folded it as well as I could. I put it into the gym bag on top of my shoes. Taking another deep breath, I pushed the straps of my bra down until my breasts were exposed. I turned the bra around so that the clasps were in front, unhooked them, and dropped the bra into the bag. The air blowing from A/C vent above me felt strangely stimulating on my nipples. I looked down and saw how hard they had become. I told my body to stop it. This was not supposed to be exciting or sexual. I pushed my panties down and stepped out of them. I crouched down to pick them up, put them in the bag, and zipped the bag closed.
When I stood up, I realized that I was completely naked in the office of a professor I had never met. It felt strange and somewhat naughty. Other than that late night skinny dipping episode, the only places where I had been naked had been bathrooms and locker rooms. I looked around at the office, which was about half the size of Dr. Slater’s. There were family photos on the credenza behind Dr. Cleveland’s desk, and I wondered what he would think if he could see into his office right then.
I felt a chill in the core of my spine, and I wondered if it was from the cool air conditioning or from nervous excitement. I looked down at myself, glad that I had trimmed my pubic hair and glad that I hadn’t shaved it completely off. I was in a swimming-for-fitness class, and the way my one piece swimsuit was cut practically forced me to keep the hair trimmed. Running my fingers through my pubic hair helped to straighten it out and fluff it up after it had been pressed flat by my underwear. I almost had to laugh at the thought that I was combing my pubic hair so it would look good when I went out.
My legs looked as tan as my arms, but I could see the shape of my one piece on my white skin. At least I would be getting rid of the tan lines soon. I took a walk around the office, and my hands brushed against my bare thighs and hips. When I got back to the sandals, I slipped my feet into them. I had to bend over to tighten the Velcro straps. The soles were thick, but I could run in them if I had to. I don’t know why I thought of that. But I knew I was going to be very vulnerable when I left that office, and I guess being ready and able to run just sounded like a good idea.
Being naked and wearing footwear was another new sensation for me, and it felt unnatural. I took another walk around the office, feeling the weight of the sandals on my feet. My nerves were still frayed, and I kept telling myself that being naked in this office was all right, that I wasn’t going to get in any trouble for it. But I still felt wrong, somehow. It must be that “social conditioning” that Dr. Slater had mentioned, I told myself.
I took another look down at my thick thighs, my curly strip of brown pubic hair, the pasty white skin of my belly and breasts, and the shriveled and puckered brownish pink nipples and areolas. I pulled on my nipples, trying to stretch them out and make them less erect, but my touch only kept them stimulated.
“Shit,” I said out loud. Maybe, I hoped, getting out from under the air conditioning vent in this tiny office would help.
After grabbing the gym bag in my right hand, I turned the door knob with my left and inched it open. When I got it open wide enough to peek into the reception area, I was happy to see that the group of students had gone. The receptionist in the white blouse was at her desk talking on the phone. She was facing the glass outer doors of the Sociology Department offices. I cracked Dr. Cleveland’s door open a bit wider so that I could see those glass doors. Two people passed by in the hallway but didn’t look in at the receptionist.
Dr. Slater’s office was just out this door and a few paces to the right. I could quickly get over there without being seen. Why that concerned me, I don’t know. I guess part of me hoped that this was just a test to see how badly I wanted to stay in college and that once I had shown Dr. Slater that I was willing to strip naked, she would tell me I could get dressed and keep my scholarship. I knew that was crazy. She had obviously put a lot of work and money into this project. But then, this project was crazy.
Stop overanalyzing everything, I told myself. I took a deep breath, gathering my resolve, and dashed on tip toes over to Dr. Slater’s office. As I slipped inside, I kept my gaze on the receptionist and on those glass doors, making sure that no one saw me before I could get Dr. Slater’s door closed. I turned around to see if Dr. Slater was at her desk and gasped. The students who had been out in the reception lobby were now gathered in Dr. Slater’s office! I instinctively covered my breasts with my free arm and moved the gym bag over my crotch. I must have had that deer-in-the-headlights wide eyed look, because Dr. Slater rushed to me.
“It’s all right, Danielle,” she said in a soothing voice. She stood in front of me, blocking the others’ view of my body. “It’s OK, really. I know this is difficult, but it will get easier. I thought meeting the team would help put you at ease.”
“The team?” I said.
“Yes, the research assistants. They’re all graduate students in the department.”
“Oh,” I said, remembering our conversation. Taking a deep breath, I said, “OK.”
“Wonderful!” Dr. Slater stepped aside, showing me to the group. “All right team. This is Danielle Keaton.” She turned to me and asked, “Do you go by Danielle?”
“Most people call me Dani,” I said, my voice soft and almost cracking.
Dr. Slater turned back to the team. “You can call her Dani. She has bravely volunteered to be our test subject, and we all owe her our gratitude. Dani, this is Ginger, Linda, Emma, Greg, Cindy, and Jeremy,” she said, pointing at each person.
The only name that really registered was Greg, the handsome sandy-haired guy I had seen talking to the receptionist. He smiled and gave me a little wave when Dr. Slater said his name, his dimples becoming pronounced with that smile. I would have blushed if I hadn’t already been blushing from the embarrassment of being naked in a room full of people. As Dr. Slater continued with the introductions, I forced myself to lower my arm, revealing my breasts to everyone. I was happy to see that my nipples were not as erect as they had been. Greg’s expression didn’t appear to change when my breasts were revealed, and I felt a twinge of disappointment, although I don’t know what I was hoping for from him.
“Now,” Dr. Slater said when she had finished the introductions, “let’s have a look at you.”
She held her hand out, and I automatically passed the gym bag to her. I stood with my feet close together, my thighs touching. But everyone could still see my pubic hair, and I fought the urge to cover myself with my hands.
“Dani, you are beautiful,” Dr. Slater said. She turned to the team. “Don’t you all think so?”
I heard a bunch of yes’s, and I saw some of them nod. But Greg just looked, his mouth slowly turning up into a smile when he saw that I was looking at him and no one else. I must have turned fifty shades of red.
“Greg, how is the microphone working?” Dr. Slater asked.
Greg put his hand to his ear, looked at me, and said, “Say something.”
“Uh,” I stammered. “Something?”
Greg gave Dr. Slater a thumbs up.
“Wonderful! All right. Dani, your first class is at 11:00, correct?”
“Yes,” I said, trying to think. “British lit.”
“OK. It’s 9:30 now. What we’ll do is have you go back to your dorm room so you can start packing your clothes. Greg here has first shift, so he will trail behind you. He’ll stay in the dorm lobby, but he’ll be able to hear everything. This first day is very important to the study. We need to register the shock that most people will feel and see how they respond to it. Ginger will meet you at your room around 10:15 or so to pick up your suitcase or trunk or whatever you brought your clothes in.”
“It’s just a suitcase,” I said. I hadn’t brought many clothes to college, especially since I didn’t need any winter wear in the Valley.
“Good,” one of the girls, Ginger I assume, said.
“That should give you plenty of time to get to class,” Dr. Slater continued. “Sound good?”
I shrugged and said, “I guess.”
Dr. Slater put her hand on my shoulder. “Don’t worry. You’ll do fine.”
“Should I respond to anyone if they…,” I started to ask, but I paused to try to find the right words, “well, if I hear any rude comments?”
“That’s entirely up to you,” Dr. Slater said. “Just be yourself and do whatever comes naturally. People will respond how they respond. It’s all part of the study.”
“OK,” I said.
We all stood there looking at each other for what seemed like a long and uncomfortable time. Dr. Slater finally grabbed my purse from the chair where I had left it and handed it to me. She was almost bubbling with excitement.
“All right,” she said as I took my purse.
Dr. Slater leaned past me and opened her office door. I turned and faced the outer office. The receptionist in the white blouse looked up at us and smiled. I wondered if she was suppressing a laugh at me. I felt ridiculous in my sandals and nothing else.
“Now, you have a wonderful day Dani,” Dr. Slater said.
“Thank you,” I muttered.
I was really doing this. I was really going to walk out of this office and all the way back to my dorm completely naked. I couldn’t believe it, but I stepped forward anyway. The receptionist gazed at me for just a second before looking back at her computer screen.
“Have a wonderful day, Miss Keaton,” she said as I passed by her desk.
“Thanks. You too,” I replied automatically.
I stopped at the glass doors and looked back at Dr. Slater’s office. She was still standing there watching me, with Greg at her side. The rest of the team was behind them, trying to see around. Feeling like a circus attraction, I pushed the glass door open, poked my head out, and looked up and down the corridor.
Chapter Three: Coming Out
I don’t know why I checked the hall first before leaving the Department of Sociology office. I knew I was going to be seen going back to the dorm, but I was still dreading that first time someone did see me. It had been strange standing naked in front of Dr. Slater, the team of RA’s, and the receptionist, but I knew that they were all in on this project. What I dreaded was that first look from someone outside of the sociology department.
The corridor was empty, so I scurried across to the top of the stairwell and then down to the landing where the stairs turned and went the rest of the way down to the first floor. The stairs emptied right in front of the main entrance of Carlisle Hall. I looked back up the stairs and saw Greg standing at the top, He was now wearing a green backpack. He nodded and winked at me, mouthing the words, “It’ll be all right.”
I looked back down the stairs and saw the feet of two people walking past and then turning toward the front doors of the building. I felt the flutters in my belly when I realized that they just as well could have turned and come up the stairs. Oh, what the hell was I doing? I felt like I was hyperventilating and wondered if I should run back up to Dr. Slater’s office and ask for a paper bag. Greg was still at the top of the stairs, waiting patiently. His gaze made me feel like covering up, but I also found it stimulating at the same time. He was so handsome and well built, and he was looking at everything I had. I’m sure he had watched my big ass as I scurried down the stairs. That Sir Mix-a-Lot song came to mind, and I wondered if he was one of the guys who liked big butts and cannot lie. I hoped he was and then thought myself silly for even wondering about it. He was a grad student, working on a masters or a doctorate, and I was some college sophomore who had been caught cheating and now had to run around naked like a lab rat in some experiment.
The lobby at the bottom of the stairs looked empty now, although I could only see a small part of it from the landing on the stairs. I knew I had to stop distracting myself with thoughts of Greg and get on with walking to my dorm. I took a slow, deep breath, trying to get my nerves and my body under control. My nipples were still hard, and I couldn’t help but feel aroused, feeling the air circulation hitting every part of my body. I took one step down, then two, then three and four. The lobby still looked empty, but it was a big lobby, sitting directly under the sociology department offices. My next step down allowed me to see all the way to the building’s main doors. No one was in sight. I breathed a sigh of relief, although I realized I was being silly because there was no way I was going to be able to get across campus without being seen by someone.
I bounded down the rest of the stairs, my breasts bouncing almost obscenely, and I realized that I couldn’t run or even walk fast without making a spectacle of myself. I laughed, realizing that, naked, I was already a spectacle. The double doors of the large lecture hall to my right, which seated at least a hundred students, burst open just as I was stepping away from the stairwell. My stomach seemed to jump up into my throat. I stopped like a deer in the headlights and thought I should rush back to the stairs. But I knew that many of the students leaving that hall would be heading upstairs. And where would I go then? I couldn’t run back to Dr. Slater’s office.
“Holy shit!” I heard a male voice say.
People coming out of the lecture hall stopped in their tracks and almost got run over by students behind them. My knees felt weak as I continued to make my way across the lobby.
“What the hell?” someone else asked.
I could almost feel their gaze on my naked buttocks as I walked to the exit doors. My head was down, my eyes on the floor in front of me. I tried not to look at the people looking at me as they continued to file out of the huge lecture hall. The flesh of my butt jiggled with each step. How could I let all of those people see me like this? How could I be naked and so out in the open? I wanted to run, but I remembered how my breasts had bounced on the stairs. I had to walk at a normal pace. This was going to be my life for the next two months, I realized, and I wondered how I could be able to stand it. I was naked! No one, especially anyone male, was supposed to see me naked like this.
“Hey!” someone called to me, but I kept going, pushing the door open and walking out into the warm desert sunshine.
As unnatural as I felt being naked and in sandals, I felt even more unnatural outside. I paused for just a moment, wondering how long it would be before I started hearing the reactions of people on the Commons. When I heard the doors behind me open, I started walking. My purse was in my right hand, clutched against my belly. I was afraid to put the shoulder strap on since I didn’t know if it was under the maximum width in the contract, whatever that had been; I couldn’t remember right then. I lowered the purse and put both hands on it so that I was holding it over my crotch, trying to hide my pubic region from view. I knew I couldn’t hide everything, breasts and butt especially, but I had to at least hide the most intimate part of myself. It was awkward to walk with both hands on the purse so I let my left arm drop and swing naturally.
“Hey,” a voice next to me said as a girl I had never met rushed to walk beside me. “Are you OK?”
“I’m fine,” I said.
“You know you’re naked, right?”
I wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. I just wanted to get to the safety of my dorm room. “Is it that obvious?” I snipped.
“Yeah, kind of.”
I walked another few steps, fighting the urge to break out into a run. The girl stayed with me.
“Why?” she asked.
I looked at her, slowing as I did, and then turned my head even further to see a group of guys, and even a few girls, following us. I could see three of them with phones out taking photos or videos. Shit, I thought, already?
“It’s an experiment,” I said. “I just read that it’s perfectly legal to walk across campus naked, so I thought I would put that to the test.”
People walking on the Commons were noticing me now. Several of them had stopped walking and just stood looking at me with their mouths hanging open. I’ve never liked being the center of attention, and I usually dressed and acted in such a way that I was never noticed by a crowd. Now, everyone was looking at me simply because I was naked. It made me feel lower than everyone else somehow, and the only word I could think of to describe it was humiliation. And yet, seeing those shocked expressions, especially on the guys, made me feel quivers that started in my nipples and travelled through the core of my being down into my belly and beyond. What the hell was wrong with me? This should be the most embarrassing thing anyone could ever experience, but I was feeling some kind of electric charge from it.
“You’re either very brave or very crazy,” the girl next to me said.
“Thanks, I think,” I said.
“You don’t need any help, right?”
“No, I’m fine. I’m just going back to my dorm room.”
I walked on, and the girl slowed and merged back into the crowd following me. I heard snippets of conversation and laughter, but I tried to ignore it.
“Wow, titties!” a guy ahead of and walking toward me exclaimed. I wanted to lift my purse and cover my breasts, but I knew that would uncover something else. And I sure didn’t want to hear what he would say about my vulva. He would probably call it a pussy, a word that I hated when referring to any part of the female anatomy. I had hated hearing guys in high school talking about “getting pussy” as if we were some big achievement or conquest, so I swore that I would never use the word myself.
I kept walking, passing just a couple of feet away from the guy as he slowed and gazed. I don’t think he ever looked at my face. He did tilt his head as I passed by, like he was trying to look at what was behind my purse.
“Nice!” he said, nodding, with a smug look on his face, and I was afraid that he might reach his arm out to stop me. Thankfully, he didn’t. I wondered how long it would have taken Greg to come to my aid if he had. I looked behind me to see the guy checking out my butt. I ignored him and tried to see where Greg was. There were so many people following me, looking at my naked buttocks flex and jiggle with every step I took. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die. If only I hadn’t dawdled for so long on the stairs, I would have been out of Carlisle Hall before that huge class had let out, and I wouldn’t have this group following me. Greg did not appear to be in that group. As I turned my head back around to face where I was going, I saw him off to the side, facing the people following me.
I put my head down and quickened my pace. Holding the purse over my crotch was awkward as fast as I was walking, so I let my arm swing normally, showing my vulva to the world. Two guys jogged up beside me, and one of them said, “Hey, can we get a picture with you?”
“No,” I replied instantly.
“Oh please? No one will believe us without some proof.”
“I’m trying to get somewhere,” I said.
“Well, are you going to be like this later?”
“Yes,” I admitted, thinking of those two months. How could I possibly do this for that long?
“Maybe later then? A photo, that is.”
“Maybe,” I said, and I quickened my pace even more. But that just made the bounce in my breasts even more prominent. I was glad that the two guys slowed down and merged back into the group so that I could slow back down myself.
“She says she’ll still be naked later,” I heard one of them say.
“Awesome,” someone said, and I heard another voice say, “Why?”
“Hey gorgeous!” another guy yelled. “Why are you doing this?”
I couldn’t stand having them follow me like this, so I stopped and turned around, facing the entire group. There was a collective gasp when they got a full frontal view of me. My knees weakened, and I prayed that I wouldn’t collapse. The people with phones in their hands held them up to get better shots of me. I couldn’t believe I was doing this.
“My God, you’re beautiful!” a guy said, and I must have blushed scarlet.
“Thank you,” I said. I heard the clicking of cameras as I continued to stand there and let everyone look. “After thinking about things, I decided that I didn’t want to hide behind any more masks or costumes,” I said, not sure what I was trying to say or that it was coming out correctly. “I want to live a natural life without worrying what anyone else thinks of me. So here I am. I’m going to be like this for a while, so get used to it. I’d appreciate it if you didn’t follow me around whenever you see me. Like you’re doing now.”
“You mean, you’re going to be naked all the time,” a girl asked.
“Yes. As long as I can get away with it,” I stuttered, my momentary burst of confidence gone.
With that, I turned and started walking again.
“How do you not get arrested?” someone asked, but I ignored them and kept on walking.
“I think I’m in love,” I heard someone else say. He sounded like the same guy who had said that I was beautiful, and the thought of that sent another shiver through my belly that I felt all the way down between my legs. I kept walking, taking a quick glance back to see the group dispersing. No one was following me, thank God.
I reached the other side of the Commons. My dorm was only two buildings away.
“Holy shit!” someone said, and I turned and saw three guys coming out of their dorm building and stopping when they saw me.
“What the hell?” one of the other ones said.
The shame I had felt since taking my clothes off in Dr. Cleveland’s office was now overpowering. I put my head down, watching my sandaled feet take each step, and clutched my purse to my belly, my arms covering most of my breasts. I made it all the way to the back entrance of my dorm, Holcombe Hall, ignoring anyone I saw and everything I heard. Slamming the door open, I burst inside and took the stairs two at a time up to the third floor. My room was right next to the back stairwell. I pulled my room key from my purse while still bounding up the stairs. I burst through the stairwell door and quickly unlocked my room. No one was in the hall to see me, and I felt a surge of relief. Letting people I had lived with all year see me naked like this was going to be worse than letting strangers on the Common see me, and I wasn’t ready for that yet. Of course, I wasn’t ready for any of this. I had gone into a morning meeting hoping to keep my college hopes alive, and I had left that meeting stripped of both my clothes and my dignity.
I closed my door, threw my purse on the desk, and collapsed onto my bed, glad that Diane, my roommate, was gone. My hands were trembling as I covered my face with them. I sobbed and cried for a bit before I sat up and took off my sandals. I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the full length mirror on my closet door. I stood and walked over to it, trying to wipe the tears and redness from my face. My hips have always been wide, but they didn’t look so bad now, I thought. I turned to the side, put my arms over my breasts, and moved one leg forward, emulating the pose I had seen Venus Williams doing on the cover of that ESPN Magazine that Dr. Slater had shown me. My butt looked smaller than Venus’s had looked in that photograph. I turned this way and that, looking at myself. My butt did round out behind me, but it seemed in proportion with my thickly muscled thighs and my pubic mound. Everything looked in balance as I looked at my full body profile. I turned and faced the mirror, seeing myself the way the guy on the Commons had, the one who had said I was beautiful. And I did look beautiful. The only criticism I could find was my two toned white skin, with the areas normally covered by my swimsuit far too pale. I figured that wouldn’t be a problem much longer, exposed to the desert sun as often as I anticipated.
Lying back on the bed, I stared at the ceiling and tried to process everything I was feeling. How could I have gotten so desperate to stay in college that I had agreed to go everywhere naked for two months? The walk to the dorm had been humiliating and embarrassing and exhilarating. I shuddered as the word “exhilarating” imposed itself on my thoughts. But how could I have felt exhilarated when I had also felt so ashamed? I thought of that moment when I had stopped and stood in front of that group of people, mostly guys, and just let them look at me, and I felt a surge of nervous energy. Before I realized it, my hands were between my legs, and I was surprised to find how wet I was. What was wrong with me?
Instead of stopping, I kept touching myself, massaging my labia as I thought of the guy who looked at me naked and proclaimed me beautiful. I thought of the glint in his eyes as he looked at my breasts, my nipples, my pubic mound. I had discovered the joys of masturbation in middle school, and I remembered how dirty I had felt after every time. And then I went to high school and heard other girls talking about sex, and I didn’t feel so dirty anymore. Since an unplanned pregnancy would have destroyed all of my future plans (kind of like getting caught cheating on a paper could have), I had remained a virgin. Outside of a couple of oral sex encounters with boys in high school, masturbation was my only sexual release. And I needed a release right then.
I plunged one finger into my vagina, then two, using my other hand to stimulate my clitoris, lying on my back with my feet flat on the bed and my pelvis raised high up in the air. As worked up as that walk across campus had made me, I brought myself to a quick orgasm, with a cry escaping my lips at it rushed over me.
Spent, I lay back down flat on my bed and tried to catch my breath. I felt the weight of the necklace on my chest, and I cringed when I remembered that it was a microphone. Greg was supposedly in the dorm lobby and could hear everything. Shit! Now he was going to think I was just some horny girl who ran around naked and got herself off every time she was alone.
I sat up, remembering that one of the other research assistants was going to come and take the clothes I was supposed to pack. All of my clothes-- every single garment. I must be crazy for agreeing to that part of the deal, letting them take every single thing I had to wear, but I got up and retrieved the suitcase from the closet. Before I could zip it open, I was overcome with the urge to go pee, one of the normal after-effects of my orgasms.
The floor had two full bathrooms, each with eight stalls and six shower units. The closest to my room was down the hall, past three other rooms. I opened my door and peeked out into the corridor, looking both ways and wondering if that was going to be my standard procedure for leaving a room for the next two months. I didn’t see anybody, so I grabbed my room key, just in case Diane popped in and out and locked the door when she left, and scurried to the restroom.
“That feels better,” I said out loud to myself as I peed, sitting on the commode. As I wiped, I thought about Greg again, knowing that he was probably listening. Would there ever be an end to my embarrassment? “Sorry Greg,” I said to try to make myself feel better, “when you gotta go, you gotta go.” I washed my hands and walked back to my room.
“So, I guess you’re still listening,” I said as I started packing my clothes. “That walk back here was… weird. I’m wondering if you envisioned having to follow a naked girl around campus as part of your graduate degree requirements. It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. I hope this gets easier.”
I got my closet cleared out, the clothes off their hangers and lying flat in the suitcase. I started on the drawers, but all I had in those were socks, underwear, a few t-shirts, and four pairs of shorts. The knock on the door startled me. I instinctively looked for something to put on so I could answer it before realizing that I would have to answer it naked. I opened it slightly and saw one of the girls from Dr. Slater’s office standing in the corridor.
“Dani?” she said.
I opened the door the rest of the way and said “Hi.”
She was a large girl with light brown hair and striking blue eyes. If she wasn’t so overweight, she would probably be really attractive, I thought.
“Hi,” she said as she walked in. “You forgot your binder.” She pulled it out of the bag she was carrying and handed it to me. I looked at it and at the corner of the black towel sticking out of the external pocket. In just a few minutes, I would be spreading that towel out on a seat in my Nineteenth Century British Literature class so that my bare bottom wouldn’t touch that seat.
“Thanks,” I said and set it down on my bed.
We stood looking at each other for an awkward moment, me naked and her in her frilly blouse and blue jeans.
“I also brought you a couple of other things,” she said, reaching into a plastic grocery bag that she was carrying. She pulled out a strapless hand purse and gave it to me. “For when you go out and don’t need to carry the binder,” she explained.
The purse was only large enough to hold my phone, my room key, and a little bit of money. I could carry it easily in the palm of one hand.
“Ginger,” she said. “I know. It was kind of crazy this morning. I couldn’t believe it when you came in all naked and everything. She has been pushing for this for a long time, and I never thought she would find someone to do it.”
“Dr. Slater?” I said.
“Yeah. She’s been trying to get this project going for I don’t know how many years.”
“I know. She had two volunteers last year. The first one never did get her clothes off before backing out. The second one never made it out of the office. So you walked all the way over here like that?”
I looked down at my bare feet and said, “Not exactly. I had sandals on.”
She looked down and giggled. “Cool.”
She was silent as she slowly looked up from my feet, taking in the rest of my naked body. I really wanted to cover up right then, but all my clothes were in the suitcase on my bed. I don’t think I could ever be attracted to a woman, but the way Ginger looked at me excited me somehow.
“What else did you bring me?” I asked, nodding toward her bag.
“Oh, yeah.” She pulled several cans of spray-on sunscreen and set them on my bed.
“Awesome!” I exclaimed. I took one, saw the SPF90 label, went to one of the corners of the room, and started spraying myself.
“You should probably spray that on at least three times a day if you’re outside a lot,” Ginger said.
I got the front with no problem, but Ginger came and helped me when she saw I was having trouble getting it sprayed evenly on my back.
“Thanks,” I said when she was done. I took the can from her and threw it on the bed with the rest of them.
Ginger looked at my open suitcase and said, “Did you get everything in there?”
“Yeah,” I replied. “Everything that’s clean, that is.” I had my clothes from Saturday and Sunday in my dirty clothes hamper.
“Here,” Ginger said, holding out the bag that she’d used to carry the sunscreen in. “Put your dirty clothes in here, if they’ll fit, and we’ll have them laundered and put with the rest of your clothes.”
I grudgingly grabbed the hamper from the closet and dumped my dirty clothes into the grocery bag. Ginger tied the bag shut and zipped up the suitcase. She pulled it down onto the floor and lifted the handle so that she could wheel it out with her.
“OK,” she said. “I guess that’s it.”
“Yeah,” I said, looking at my suitcase.
“I’ll be seeing you around. Although Dr. Slater doesn’t want us interacting with you very much.”
“I did see Greg downstairs, and he wanted me to tell you that he was very impressed with how you handled that crowd following you.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Thanks.”
Ginger shrugged. “Well, I had better get this stuff to Dr. Slater. Good luck. And have fun with this.”
“I’ll try,” I said.
I watched Ginger wheel all of my clothes out of my room and out of my life for the next two months. I wondered if Dr. Slater’s two previous volunteers had been in the same position I was in, where saying no would have come at great cost. But I couldn’t think about it for long; I had to get to my British lit class. After making sure I could navigate through the Kindle in my binder, I got my sandals on and the binder zipped back up. I paused at my closed door, looking at the last remaining guardian of my privacy. And once Diane saw me naked later, even the door wouldn’t provide me much refuge. I wished Dr. Slater had been able to get me a room without a roommate for this experiment. Diane was such a party girl that I was sure she would make a big deal out of my nudity. She’d probably even invite a few guys up to the room, just to be a bitch.
I pushed thoughts of her aside and tried to mentally prepare myself for class, giving a brief thought to skipping today. But my grade point average was more important now than ever before, and skipping classes was just not an option for me. As strange as that walk to my room had been, I knew I had to try to act as normal as possible and even try to ignore the fact that I was naked, as impossible as that sounded. So I opened the door and walked out of my dorm room without peeking into the corridor first.
End of part 1
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