The Barefoot College Student

I like to commune with the concrete. My feet have slowly built up a fine layer of dead skin to protect them from the cracked acorn shells and dried leaves that have fallen. Cobblestone is the worst. I dropped my phone the other day on the hot stone and the screen didn’t just break, but shattered to the point of being unusable. 

I like walking barefoot. It’s what I am used to. I grew up in a Hindu household, where the home is like a temple, and one doesn’t wear shoes in their temple. As a result, my feet were quite used to plush carpet and cold winter morning tile. When I was young, I danced in traditional form without shoes, and they burned red after practice. My feet were used to the abuse. 

Career fairs and interviews tend to require my one and only pair of nice, shiny black wedges that pinch and rub my feet in all the wrong ways. They stay on for the duration of the event and immediately are slipped off so that my bare soles can scrape against the rough hot stone. Anything is better than pinching heels. 

The other day, I cried during an interview. It was for a prestigious, really competitive internship, and I cried due to stress. Defeated, I slipped off my pinching heels and headed to the bus stop, walking on the uneven, rough cobblestone and sort of hobbling along. I was stopped by an elderly man with salt and pepper hair, wearing a full suit in 90 degree weather. 

“My dear, are you hurt?”

“No sir,” I replied. “The shoes hurt and i only have a little ways more to walk.”

“Alright then. Step onto the brick, it will hurt your feet a bit less.”

Astonished that he was even being nice to me, I smiled and stepped onto the brick path. “Are you a professor here?”

“Yes! Of engineering! I teach all sorts of engineering!” He seemed way too excited about this, but I supressed my cynicism to quickly remark “cool.”

“And what about you my dear?” He asked so sweetly. 

I replied, “Political Science.” I expected him to scoff, like many engineers at my school do when they hear someone is majoring in liberal arts. STEM majors are prized quite highly here, and while that is great for them, it inflates their ego just a tad.

“Wonderful! Lovely major! I wish you great success my dear.” He smiled, waved goodbye, and began walking along the adjoining sidewalk away from the bus stop. 

I was having a shit day, and him acknowledging that what I was doing was important made my day a little brighter. And it was all because I communed with the concrete. 

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