I never wanted to go through again what I had just gone through in the past few months since the breakup.
Soon after the breakup, I discovered the British 70s sitcom Are You Being Served? While looking for a distraction, I turned on the TV, and in walked Mr. Humphries (the flaming gay character) in an outrageous outfit. What the heck was this show? It soon became a favorite, and Catherine also watched it.
On May 1, Pearl, Sharon and I were talking about the warm weather while on the sidewalk after a party, so I suggested we go for a walk when we got back to campus. We gathered up a few others there, including Catherine, Rachel and possibly Cindy, and went over to the bridge over the lake.
We talked about the ghost of the football field and probably other ones, which freaked out someone, probably Cindy or Sharon. The cattails in the lake were now dried, big, round, cottony things which stuck up high out of the water. I said, “Aah! They look like human heads!” This freaked out Cindy or Sharon even more.
This is probably the time when the wheels of Pearl’s scooter got caught in between the planks of the bridge. This bridge was soon blocked off because it had become unsafe and had to be fixed.
On May 9, I visited Pearl in her room, and mentioned the prayer meetings with Mona. Pearl wanted to join, and spoke to the Rev about starting a campus group (since there were no Christian groups on campus at that time). Eventually, Anna and Shawn would also join this prayer group.
This meeting sparked the founding of an InterVarsity Christian Fellowship chapter at Roanoke. Details to follow.
Quirky “Friendship” with Shawn Heats Up Again
The following evening, a Sunday, Shawn came over again, almost two months after the last time. Around 7 or 8pm, I was in my room watching TV when Shawn called. He said, “I stopped by your room several times, but you weren’t there. Want me to come over?”
I kept thinking, But we’re not even prayer partners anymore because Mona is now. I wonder what he wants to come over for?
We set up a time for 9:30, when nothing was on TV. He came over late, as usual. We started talking. There is a rather icky note in my diary: “I think it was before our last meeting as prayer partners, and not this, that I had to fish my decorative button out of the toilet.” Ewww! What button? How did that happen?
Anyway, after a few minutes, Shawn asked if I’d written anything about him in my diary, and if he could read it. I didn’t let him, but I did read some things from it to him. He just didn’t want to hurt anybody in the way he’d been hurt. He asked what I didn’t like about him, and I told him.
Then after I checked on a recording of Dr. Who and he looked at my music collection, all of a sudden he said, “Do you feel like you need to be kissed again?” I made my “you silly boy” look, smiling and looking at the floor like I couldn’t believe he just said that. But I didn’t say no.
For the next two hours, we acted like we were dating. Then he asked if I wanted a hug. While we stood with our arms around each other’s waists, he told me there are times when he has deep feelings, and would like to go out with me. “But I’m only here for two years, and we’ve only got two weeks left, so it’s a little late to start anything.”
Though of course, looking back, he seems to be jumping the gun, thinking if anything is started, it’ll be serious and/or go long term. Two years is plenty of time for most college relationships to run their course! Couldn’t he have just let things happen and stopped finding reasons for them not to?
I wrote in my diary, “This time, no misunderstandings.”
The next day, we sat together at lunch, next to a group of visiting high schoolers, and I said we should scare them with stories about the campus ghosts and the “horrors” of Roanoke.
Before he left, as he rested his hands on his bag and his chin on his hands, he winked at me. I smiled back. I was happy again, as I hadn’t been since the breakup.
I told Mona what was going on. She said it was normal and would probably strengthen our friendship, but be careful. “Don’t let him break your heart, and don’t break his.”
The college sold May Celebration T-shirts which had “53082” (the college’s zip code) in a logo similar to the one for Beverly Hills: 90210. My friends and I all got one. That shirt lasted me for many years.
On May 15, a Friday night, Shawn came over again. We were supposed to talk about something unrelated, but it turned playful yet again, with this conservative Christian–no sex before marriage, etc.–using my belt to tie me to the bed post and then–tickle me, then release me. He said, “See, I’m a nice guy. If I weren’t, I would’ve taken advantage of you.”
After a rather intense make-out session, during which it sure felt like he was in love with me–I asked, “What are we? We’re obviously more than friends.”
Shawn said, “We act like we’ve wanted to go out for a year but we’re trying to make up for it in a week.”
He said this would probably happen again and again. He couldn’t figure out why his feelings (heart) were so cool, and he said, “Whenever you want to get serious, I don’t, and whenever I do, you don’t. We just haven’t connected.”
I wrote in my diary,
I still relish the memory of Shawn’s arms tight around me, and him wanting more and more….
Man, this is fun, this “secret romance.” I suspect Heidi thinks we’re dating, from the things she says. If she does, I’ll have to swear her to secrecy. But the idea of rumors and puzzled whispers is so intriguing, and I’m hoping for it….
I’m starting to have so much fun again, and it’s getting easier to maintain my shaking happiness.
On the 18th, a Monday, I had Persuasive class with Shawn and a couple of my new friends: Carol and Sharon. Shawn was late every day, so I said to the others, “Let’s see if Shawn’s late again today.”
Carol said, “I don’t see how anyone can be that chronically late. I mean, they should know by now, the class starts at 1:45.”
Sure enough, he was late. Another time, he was on time and somebody else was late; he said, “Even I was on time. Where were you?”
On the 20th, I wrote,
This guy’s a handful to control, for a conservative Christian. I suppose maybe this is training for dates that don’t know how to keep their hands to themselves.
(If I have any children that’re now reading this, you should be ashamed of yourselves for reading your mother’s old diary. But you’d better take my warning: You need to set your limits and make a date conform to them (…the person with the strictest standards must win). Know how to slap hands and say a firm “no.”)
This was after what happened on the 19th, Tuesday. First, Shawn was half an hour late to Bible study in my room, but then so was Mona, so it all worked out. Pearl came as well.
He read Philippians 4 from my Bible, but was so stressed out from a terrible Calculus test that he kept making funny mistakes–and I kept teasing him by correcting him (for example, “Cement” for “Clement”).
Then he prayed, and I couldn’t help smiling mischievously as he said, “Thank you for what’s going on in this room.”
Pearl left, then Julie called to say she and Dirk were going to show Black Adder. Mona, Shawn and I talked about the prayer group/Bible study; we thought of names to call it, such as Campus Lite (instead of Campus Life), then Mona left.
I asked Shawn if he wanted to watch Black Adder, but first he wanted to watch Home Improvement in the suite lounge. At 8:00 I wanted to go see Black Adder, but he found the movie The Jerk and wanted to watch that instead. So I consented, feeling rather helpless: It was my suite’s lounge, and I didn’t want to just leave him there.
I thought we were just going to watch for a few minutes, but we ended up seeing the whole thing. Shawn was a mischievous rogue the whole time, being an octopus, throwing my belt in my doorway, spinning me around (making us both dizzy), holding me upside-down, etc. etc.
Once, I got up and said, “You’re a handful!”
He said, “That’s the trouble. You’re not letting me get a handful.” And this from the same mouth that prayed at Bible study just a few hours earlier!
He’d keep asking me why I liked him. It was hard to figure out, since he didn’t fit my ideal as well as Peter did (or, at least, how Peter presented himself to me before the breakup). I didn’t like sports, but unlike Peter, he was into sports.
He acted like a little boy sometimes, and kept misunderstanding my signals. But he was a spiritual Christian and knowledgeable. He’d even been told he should be a pastor. And this whole clandestine thing was more appealing to me than getting back with Peter: It was exciting and fun.
Heidi and Nicole had only planned to stay at Roanoke for one year. But now, Nicole decided to keep to this plan, while Heidi decided to stay on another year. Heidi had a new boyfriend, and Shawn thought he was the reason she wanted to stay. By the way, this guy and Heidi are now married and live in the States.
Even though I kept warning Shawn that someone might walk in, he put his arms under my shirt and around my waist. Before I could get away, the door opened!
I jumped away, wondering how much was seen by Heidi’s boyfriend. He went to Heidi’s door, and I said to Shawn, “See, I told you!”
The boyfriend left, and we started laughing. “I think Heidi already suspects something,” I said, “and with [her boyfriend] seeing us….”
Another time, Nicole walked in. Heidi wasn’t around, so she left as well. In fact, Shawn and I were alone.
After the movie and making out in my room, we heard Tom come in the lounge, and to avoid the appearance that we were more than friends, Shawn went out in the lounge. He came back in the room and was about to open the door again, but I wanted a good-bye kiss first.
“What do you want?” he said.
“What do you think?” I said.
He said, “I think–I think–Nicole and Heidi are here!” and opened the door.
We all watched television for a bit; once, he followed Heidi to her room, and she said, “Did you come to see Nyssa or did you come to bother me?” He said, “I can do both.”
At some point, Shawn mentioned the Kama Sutra; she said she read it once, but threw it away because the positions would hurt somebody. He also made some saucy joke that made her cry, “I am still virgin!”
Shawn was my first exposure to conservative Christians with a wicked sense of humor–so perhaps you have him (and Phil) to blame for me developing one myself. 😉
On Wednesday, I went to Krueger Hall to watch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure in the lounge with my friends. I invited Shawn to watch it with me in the suite, but he preferred to go to Krueger, saying, “There’s safety in numbers, you know what I mean?”
He and I were the only ones who’d seen it before, so Pearl, Rachel and Carol told us to be quiet. Shawn, who didn’t know if his family was recording Quantum Leap’s season finale, kept flipping to it during the commercials.
The others left after the movie, but Pearl said she might come back after her shower, so I stuck around and watched more TV with Shawn. I went to the bathroom and came back to find him gone. So I watched the last few minutes of the show, hoping he wouldn’t make me remember all the details for him.
I did not know he had hidden in the room, and was watching to see if I talked to myself, or would leave without waiting for him.
I spilled some Orange Slice on my face and wiped it off, glad no one was there to see me (wrong-o!).
I flipped through the channels a bit, hoping he would return. (He later told me what channels I flipped through.) He didn’t, and I feared he’d left without saying good-bye, so I left.
I started down the hill behind Krueger on the way to the suites, when I heard running behind me on the sidewalk. I either stopped and turned around, or was jumped on.
It was Shawn. We went to the main suite lounge, and were in there for a minute, him wanting to pants me, something he had become obsessed with wanting to do, but which I did not want. He gave me a hug, keeping his arms by my waist. I put my hands in my jacket pockets, nervous.
“You’re not supposed to put your hands in your pockets,” he said. “Why?” I said. He moved to pull my pants down, but I grabbed them and stopped him.
We watched some TV with Tom in my suite, then I asked Shawn for his address, even though he said he wouldn’t write back. We went in my room for that, I wanted a kiss, but he ran out, saying, “It’s safer this way.” He told Tom, “You’ve got to watch her.” I cried, “What?!” He poked his head back in the door, grinned at me, then left.
On Thursday the 21st, as I packed for home and swept the floor, I turned around to see Shawn standing in the doorway. “You startled me,” I said. He said he’d just scared his friend Yukari, too, by walking behind her and matching her footsteps before making his presence known. (What, trying to be a ninja like Peter, there?)
He closed the curtains to hide the hot sun and dried egg on the window, which I believe came from some unknown person during pledging. I continued packing as he read to me the teacher’s comments on his Persuasive paper.
I really wanted to clean out the “Peter drawer,” which I’d left for last, so I did that while he talked.
No, I did not throw away my mementoes: I kept them, still have them. Before the breakup, I felt that burning pictures or throwing away mementoes would be like a betrayal of the good, happy days in the beginning of a relationship. I felt the same after breaking up with Peter.
I had to rinse off my hands in the bathroom after cleaning out some stuff left over from a vase, then after I came back, Shawn lifted me up again. He loved doing that. He carried me between the beds and spun me around, and put me down on Candice’s old bed.
The usual followed, him trying to push my limits, obsessed with getting to second base, me trying to keep him under control. He said, “I’ll be gentle, not grab or pull or tear or bite or chew,” which made me laugh, but I said, “Not without a wedding ring.”
Afterwards he grabbed a Teen magazine and looked to see if I’d filled out some personality test. We stood by the door. He’d open it, and I’d push it back, until he finally admitted he knew what I wanted.
“This’ll be the last one for the year, so it’ll have to be special,” he said.
We took our leave of each other for the summer, unless we saw each other at dinner. He wished me a safe trip home; he lived near the Illinois border, while I had a much longer trip.
I went to dinner right away, just to see what it would be like to go there with his kisses fresh on my lips. Catherine and I went to get an Eskimo Pie. Catherine said, “I smell roses. Do you?”
I sniffed, but smelled nothing, so she said, “It must be just me.” But I wondered if it was just me: the scent of Shawn’s cologne.
He did come to dinner, late as usual, so he had to drink diet pop. He sat between Catherine and me. He made some racy comments to her, so twice I hit his arm playfully (not out of jealousy, but because he was a conservative Christian and not “supposed” to say such things, so I had to tease him).
He helped put the reflector back on the back of Pearl’s scooter seat while she sat in it (she had rheumatoid arthritis and needed the scooter to get around).
Once, she said one of our catch phrases: “Don’t touch me theeeere!” Rachel gave her a high-five, and we all laughed.
He left, saying, “It’s been real fun.”
Catherine said, “It’s been real and it’s been fun. But it hasn’t been real fun.”
Ah, Shawn, why did you over-analyze our relationship and put so much pressure on it, refuse to even tell the world we were seeing each other?
Why didn’t you make me a legitimate girlfriend instead of (sophomore year) having a good time and then treating me like you hated me and we were sinning and it was all my fault?
We were having so much fun in the beginning. It could have been all laughs and fun, not the psychological hell it became sophomore year.
That night, we had a sleepover at Krueger Hall. We put beds or mattresses in the main lounge. I don’t remember who all was there, but I do know Steve, Pearl, Rachel and Tara were. Carol may have been there.
It was partly Sharon’s idea, but she had to work on the yearbook and couldn’t come. Some other girl was there. She said the girl who lived in her room before her wrote “so and so loves so and so” on the mattress. “She must have loved him quite a bit, because the bed’s all broken down,” she said.
We played several board games. One had the question, who would you like to see get a pie in the face? I voted for Rachel, and she voted for me because she wanted to see how I’d react if I did get a pie in the face.
We then tried to start gossiping. I wrote some of the gossip in my diary, but probably shouldn’t tell it here. Then Steve left, but not before giving each of us a hug. Rachel told ghost stories. We finally went to bed, but stayed up talking until around 3. I got four hours of sleep, but had to travel some five hours that day.
Afterwards, somebody said, “You probably talked about guys.”
We said, “No, we talked about ghosts and UFO’s.”
We woke up to the alarm at 7, but the person closest to it turned it off. That is, Pearl and I and that person woke up to it. Rachel was dead to the world.
I wondered if we’d sleep through Poetry. Pearl woke up about 15 minutes later and woke up Rachel, then I got up. Pearl later said, “If we were late to Poetry, how would I explain it to Counselor Dude?”
Somebody said, “Think of how embarrassing it would’ve been if we’d slept until noon right out there in the lounge.”
For Poetry finals, we would do a normal workshop class during the scheduled period, and also do individual meetings with Counselor Dude. Everybody in the class got together and conspired what to put in that day’s Poetry packet.
Counselor Dude had told us he had this thing about women’s toes. I guess they freaked him out. So all the poems were about–toes! He was amused. Mine was,
Mermaids once had toes
Back when dinosaurs roamed.
The evolutionist knows
Man’s ancestors had to separate.
Dinosaur woman on land
Heard the continent’s call,
But by the sea, dinosaur woman
Was lured by ocean’s cry.
Feet divided by toes
Legs merged together; toes merged with toes.
Legs became tails; feet became fins.
Dinosaur woman became dinosaur mermaid.
Toes transformed into fins,
The spaces between now like marmalade.
Toes once there, are toes now gone.
After I read it, Counselor Dude said,
“That is the–” his voice boomed–“BEST poem you’ve written all semester!”
All the poems were awesome, mostly demented (such as disembodied toes (Rachel) or sucking toes), all funny, but it would probably violate copyright to publish them here.
I longed to go home and get away from Peter, though I would greatly miss Shawn.
Soon after returning home on Friday the 22nd, I sorted through all my school papers, circulars and mementoes, tossed what I didn’t want, and put the rest in a box. Everything Peter gave me went in the box, as well. I marked the box FRESHMAN YEAR; for the next three summers, I would do the same.
When I wrote these memoirs, these boxes were very helpful. So, packrats, even when your mother complains about all the things you keep, don’t let this stop you: You just might need them.
Sophomore year, I would no longer have a male suitemate. Though it seemed a bit weird at first, it hadn’t been all that different from living with a brother–a flirty brother who didn’t tease me mercilessly, that is.
I already missed “Big Ben,” our campus clock, bonging the time every hour; the campus; seeing everyone at meals; Shawn. I’m not sure why I still thought about Peter, maybe because Shawn refused to call our relationship anything beyond “friends.” I missed cable and Mystery Science Theater 3000, Donna Reed, Doctor Who.
I looked forward to getting letters from my new friends, and writing to Shawn. My mother had just been given an old family trunk, full of stuff going back 110 years, including a stereoscope with a series of slides of a funny courtship.
It ended up in my room, where I put my sheets on top of it, instead of in my drawers (which were infested with those little segmented worms which get everywhere in houses, including in the trunk).
I had expected in March that by May things would be so much better, that I would love being home again. At first, everything was fine: We had a new, powerful antenna instead of cable, and it picked up Wisconsin PBS stations, such as channel 10 and sometimes 36. Whenever I got channel 10 in well enough, I would watch it. Both it and channel 34 from Elkhart played different episodes of Are You Being Served?, so I would often see it twice a day.
However, summer began to drag. I missed everyone, and felt bored doing my usual things. I had too much time to think about Peter, though I rarely cried.
You’d expect my thoughts to revolve around Shawn after everything, but no, I still thought of Peter. Shawn was that intimate friend I would tell everything to, but not a boyfriend, since he would kiss me and flirt with me and turn into an octopus and act like a boyfriend–but kept resisting, kept the relationship a secret, refused to make it anything beyond “friendship.”
I wrote long letters to Shawn and my other friends, writing them late at night when the house was quiet, about whatever struck my fancy, deep thoughts or happenings around town or church or home.
Most of the people in the college/career class at church were several years older than I was. My friends were still in the high school class, or left for college and then rarely showed up even in summer.
I had lost track of all but one non-church friend. I thought I was just weird, until I went to my 10-year high school reunion and discovered that lots of people lose track of their friends when they leave high school.
So I was lonely, and began marking out days in my calendar, each one a milestone that would bring September closer.
There was a bit of excitement in Sunday School one day: One woman in my class had just decided to divorce her husband. It sounded like he was cheating on her.
But even though she made the decision, she sounded just like me back in late January/early February: devastated, barely making it through the day or the night.
One of my old youth group friends was there (a guy I once had a crush on), and several of us sat talking with her even during the church service, because the woman needed support.
So much of the advice she got from people at church was confusing and contradictory; we seemed more united. I told her I went through something similar with an ex-boyfriend.
She smiled and said something soothing, your typical cliché, but I didn’t want her to sympathize and try to comfort me. I was just trying to make her feel like she wasn’t alone.
I loved to listen for the South Bend accent during the singing at church. I wondered if I now had a bit of a S– accent that would be noticeable as I sang (as if anyone could hear me sing anyway).
This may have been the summer when a squirrel in the tree next door seemed tame. It would go up to our neighbors, probably to get treats.
One day, as she hosed off her car, the neighbor lady played with him. He’d run up to her, she’d turn the hose on him, he’d run off, then he’d run up to her and do it all over again.
From my diary entries, you could say I was obsessed with Jesus. This was because I had almost no one else. (Actually, I think many Christians would say I was not obsessed with Jesus, or that how I felt was a good, natural thing.)
After all, according to Shawn, some people would get upset when they saw me coming over to sit at their table, because I would “bring them down” (not a good thing to hear when you’re already depressed).
Shawn would listen but was far more concerned in changing me and tearing down the way I was than letting me grieve; I didn’t want to annoy my family or friends by talking about Peter; my friends were in another state; Peter treated me like a pariah; people told me I shouldn’t get this way over a guy; yet I could not shake the feelings I had.
Nobody understood me. It’s normal, especially for women, to process emotions verbally after a breakup or trauma. But for those with nonverbal learning disorder, talking becomes especially important for releasing anxiety, and we don’t know when to shut up.
That’s probably why I talked about Peter so much in the early days. But when people began telling me not to, the need to process the situation did not stop, so I had to pour all my feelings into journals.
I now know that what I had was depression, not just the blues, and that I tried to deal with it alone when I should have had the help of a counselor.
Various things can work together to make a person so depressed that she can’t function properly. The depressed person doesn’t want to be this way (though some, like Shawn, might think she does), and would give anything to be normal again.
As I wrote this part of my memoirs in 1999 and read articles about depression, I saw that I was not odd or at fault for the things I felt, did, and said. The “words of knowledge,” though they misguided me, were an attempt to find something to hold onto, something that said this would pass. I believed in those days that this could only pass if Peter came back to me.
The writer of the article “When Depression Hits Home” in a 1999 issue of Today’s Christian Woman expressed my feelings exactly when she said, “I wasn’t crazy–I was depressed!” I had feared I was crazy. Now I know that I wasn’t.
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)
Table of Contents
December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?
April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign
October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:
Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams
June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:
July & August 1994: