I was sadly mistaken when I assumed the worst part of my day was the discovery of hairline splits in the bottom of my leather boots while walking Roxy on the drenched grounds of MIT yesterday. The previous night’s brief bout of snow flurries had given way to heavy rain by the morning, and it was still coming down when I left work just after 4 pm, after my socks had dried.
Let me back up to 2:30 pm. I had just returned from my walk with Roxy, who had refused to poop because she was uncomfortable in the rain without a jacket. Laura and I adopted her eleven years ago, and we know that she is very particular about many things, and getting wet is one of them.
Matt from our headquarters office came into our suite, and said, “Sorry to bother you, Bev, but I come bearing some, ah, strange news. About a half hour ago a man on the 7th floor of the Gates Tower (of our building) was yelling about internet security, digital security, and conspiracy theories, and he referenced Noam Chomsky at least once in his rantings. The police were called, but he was gone before they arrived.”
“So, where is he?” I asked.
“Well, they think he left the building.”
“They think? I’m locking our office door,” I said.
I e-mailed Noam at 4 pm to tell him what had happened, and he suggested that Glenn and I leave right away, which we did, without incident. Rather than walking Roxy at MIT again, I would let her do her thing at the cemetery near our house when we got to Watertown. Dogs aren’t allowed in cemeteries, but it was dark and rainy, and I decided an exception could be made in this case. When she finished up, I walked toward her with my plastic bag, to guide her toward the car (she’s mostly deaf, so I can’t call her, and the rain was coming down hard). I could see that she was sniffing something long and black, and when I reached her, I leaned over to see what it was – a dead animal? A dropped scarf? Then my right leg fell into it – the black thing – up to my knee. I tried to step away with my left leg, but the ground around me was like quicksand, and my left foot sank in to my knee as I fought to pull my right leg out. I took several “steps” this way, feeling my ankle boots filling with mud with each pull. After a minute my mild amusement began to edge toward panic. What if I got stuck out here in the rain for hours? Or worse, what if the Earth swallowed me up?
I took a deep breath and thought about the familiarity of this – what was it? Of course, snow! I remembered what I did when I found myself hip-deep in crust-topped snow while walking Roxy in a field the winter before, something probably every child knows. “I have to crawl!” I thought, laying my chest down on the ground. I spread my arms out to my sides and pulled my legs out slowly, one at a time, hearing great sucking noises as each foot emerged. Roxy, who weighs all of 28 pounds, continued to sniff around, oblivious to my situation. I crawled gingerly on my belly to the next row of gravestones ten feet away. The soft grassy ground continued to give way and I sank with each effort as I inched toward what I hoped would be more stable ground. When I had crawled to just beyond the adjacent gravestones, I was relieved to be able to stand, though my mud-soaked boots continued to sink a few inches with every squishy step I made toward the asphalt driveway. Never before had a solid driveway looked like my long-lost sweetheart.
Roxy stayed next to me, and when we reached the car, I looked down to see that not only my boots, but my hands and the entire front and arms of my down-filled brown coat were caked with black muck. No surprise there. Aside from small patches of mud on her paws, Roxy looked like her usual brown self. Had she spent the last five minutes in an alternate universe? I picked her up and put her in the car, and drove the two blocks home, imagining how funny this story might sound when retold.
When I got home and told my son what had happened, he was alarmed. “So an angry bearded man was in your building ranting about conspiracy theories and yelling out your boss’s name, and then you fell into a sink hole in the dark, rainy cemetery? Do you know how lucky you are?” he said.
I don’t know about lucky, but I was never so happy to take a shower. Laura would be home soon, and I was hoping she would find more humor in my story than Jay had, at least until she saw the pile of muddy laundry I had left on the floor near the washer in the basement.