Irish Writers Class
Now I started my second year of reading My Utmost for His Highest, in totally different circumstances now, but still desperately needing the messages it and the Bible had for me.
Pearl got a present from a relative which inspired Rachel to make up this tune:
Some little Christmas thing
Sitting on my mantel
I don’t know what it is
I got it from some corny relative
It killed my cat
What do you think about that
As the world blows up
As far as I can explain a tune in words, it was a simple, alto melody sung mostly in low notes. The line “I don’t know what it is” sounded similar to the beginning of the Aerosmith song “Living on the Edge,” which, incidentally, came out soon after Rachel made up this song. (I always jokingly wondered if Aerosmith stole it from her.)
“It killed my cat” ended on a higher note, “What do you think about that” on an even higher one, and “As the world blows up” even higher.
Pat Robertson actually predicted the spring/summer Flood of 1993 on or around January 5, according to my diary.
My Winterim class, Irish Writers, taught by a tall, thin teacher named Todd, was a lot of fun. It was held from 9 to 12 each day. We learned not only about Irish Writers, but about the Irish people. I had no idea just how colorful they are.
Todd had been to Ireland, and showed us pictures of a man he met there. He said the man tended to walk with his arms behind his back and his hands clasped, an Irish thing. Todd passed around a brick of peat, which is dug out of bogs and used for fuel.
We learned about Irish history, and that the Irish are passionate about everything (including freedom, and in such a way that, until 2000, it seemed impossible to stop the fighting over it). The Brits looked down on them, at least in previous centuries, for loving sex and alcohol so much.
We learned about stout (no, we didn’t drink it). We read books, plays and stories by Irish writers.
James Joyce said he was no good at making things up, so his stories were based on things that really happened. As far as I was concerned, he had little sense of plot and most of his stories were dull.
We read A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man–the second time for me. I had to trudge through that novel in high school. It was just as bad the second time. (What is the point of that 42-page Hellfire Sermon, anyway?)
The only part I liked was the beginning, with the stream-of-consciousness stuff about a moocow and some bird plucking out the kid’s eyes if he didn’t apologize for something: “Pull out his eyes, apologize, apologize, pull out his eyes!” I like to repeat that now and then.
We read his collection The Dubliners, and the only stories I liked were “The Dead” and “Araby” (which I had also read in high school). “Araby” would show up again in a Lit class junior year.
We saw My Left Foot, a filmed version of “The Dead” with Colm Meaney (from Star Trek: TNG), and a John Wayne movie, The Quiet Man, set in Ireland. Though we didn’t like Foot, and I think we liked the movie Dead, we loved The Quiet Man.
I loved the very end of The Dead, focusing on snow falling on tombstones in a graveyard. It reminded me of my own musings at that time whenever we passed cemeteries in a car: that the people in those graves were fortunate to not have to feel the snow or the cold, or have heartaches, or go through any more of life’s many problems. I just hoped their souls were in Heaven.
Our first day of class, we chose or were assigned partners and days to do presentations. I ended up with Clarissa, and we had to do the next day’s presentation on “Araby.”
Clarissa and I had no examples of past presentations to go on, and had to just make everything up, not knowing what would work and what wouldn’t. We thought we did all right, and certainly our best from what he’d told us to do. But afterwards, Todd told the class with a grin,
“Maybe tomorrow’s presentation will be better.”
He often did this, ripping on people and grinning at the same time. It was the only fault in an otherwise pleasant guy who actually loved Jane Austen but wasn’t gay.
One day, I brought in some of my Irish pen pal’s letters. I said she would talk about the noise of bombs going off and helicopters constantly flying overhead, and about the constant violence in Belfast, where she lived.
Shawn had Irish ancestry, so one day I said to him with a grin, “I understand you now.” I explained what I had learned about the Irish. I told him I had Scottish ancestry, which I thought meant we had a lot in common. But I forgot that the Scots and Irish fought each other. Shawn said, “That must be our problem, then.”
I talked to Steve about what Peter told Memadmin. I asked if I needed to apologize to Peter for anything I did freshman year.
He said, “No, you did nothing wrong.” Others told me this, as well, such as Julie. “It would be good to let him know you never meant to hurt him.” I didn’t want to say anything to Peter, though, but Steve did. When he did say this to Peter, he got no response. To describe Peter’s reaction, Steve thought a moment, then said, “Indifference.”
Psychological Hell as Shawn Turns Dark and Moody
On the 5th, Shawn wanted me to come over, but I had to unpack. He called up the next night, and said to call him when I finished my homework. I tried, but kept getting his answering machine, so I went over there to find out what he wanted. (It couldn’t be the usual; he said firmly that the physical stuff was going to stop!)
I found him in the lounge, watching one of the movies rotating around the dorms that month–the end of Poison Ivy. Blech! A few other guys and Frank, the RA, were watching it. I came in during one of the sex scenes. I went up to Shawn and said, “What is this?” Another guy said, “It’s a porno. Wanna watch?” Um, no.
I went to the vending machines; Shawn stood by me to wait for me, but went back to watch the end of the movie. The other guys kept making perverted comments, which angered Frank, no saint himself; one said, “Oh, you’re just mad at us because there’s a female here.”
Whatever Shawn wanted with me, I never found out; after the movie, he just sat there flipping through channels, so I got to know the remaining guy better. He’d been in the Special Forces, and had interesting information about the Japanese mindset and the sterility of drinking urine on the battlefield to stay hydrated. He seemed to be flirting with me; I hoped so, and hoped that Shawn would notice and get jealous.
But Shawn was persistent, asking me over again the next day. I had to write a paper first, and didn’t finish until 9 or 9:30. He called to ask if I still wanted to come.
He didn’t even hint that he was calling to cancel because it was getting late, and we know what happens when it’s so late. But since he did not actually tell me this, and I can’t read minds, I did still want to go, so I went.
What was this about? I expected it would be nothing but talk. Part of me wanted more, but part of me just wanted to talk.
He let me in, but started reading his homework and watching TV. (I guess he must have brought a TV from home, because I’m pretty sure he did not have one before.) It seemed so rude. So I started watching the TV with him and occasionally making comments, which got him to at least glance at me now and then.
Finally, he put down the book and said, “Could you do me a favor? Could you give me a back rub? My back is killing me.” Back rub? Seriously? Those always led to more with us. But I didn’t expect it to, this time, naive person I was.
He lay down, I sat beside him and began using the knowledge he’d given me about giving back rubs. When I stopped, he gave me one; he tried to behave, but almost transgressed a couple of times, then stopped himself. But then he kissed my back.
Soon, he lay down beside me, held me and told me to try falling asleep, “just to see what’ll happen.” I put my arms around his neck, full of tenderness, and nestled my head on his neck and played with his hair. Some things happened….
It got close to midnight, so he said I’d better be getting back to my room. I began arranging myself as he got up, smiling, and sat in the chair. He didn’t seem to feel guilty this time, so I was happy.
Then all of a sudden he said, “What are we doing?”
I paused, upset at this turn, and said, “Well, I know my reasons.” I love him, that’s it.
“What are they?”
“There are some things I’d rather keep a secret.”
I was irritated, especially as the same old conversation over the same old stuff began, the hyper-analyzing. He seemed mad at somebody, hopefully himself and not me.
He asked, “Where do you want this relationship to go?” I couldn’t answer.
Where did I want it to go? The hope of marriage, but only if it seemed right; the hope to go out and be a true couple, with romance and not just being some chick he fools around with on the sly; but the fear of commitment while other guys still interested me.
You can’t tell a guy you want to marry him in a couple of years, if he doesn’t feel the same: You’ll just scare him off.
He said, “I’m probably not Mr. Right. You’ll probably meet a lawyer.” He thought a lawyer would be well-read and my intellectual equal, unlike Shawn, who would be an engineer. (This is funny because I ended up marrying an engineer.)
He said he was afraid of commitment. (Well, so was I; so what?)
Once, he asked a question and I paused to form an answer. Introverts have to think before we speak; we do not form our thoughts while speaking, like extroverts. But Shawn snapped, “And I don’t want to wait four days for an answer. That’s what I don’t like.”
And I don’t like people who snap at introverts for taking the time we need to think before we speak. But unfortunately, I was not able to say this, not knowing about introversion, NVLD or the art of verbal self-defense.
He kept snapping at me like that, once because I thought he was talking about me but he wasn’t. He said he doesn’t like it when I do that. (Well excuse me for misunderstanding and not reading your mind!)
“I’m not a book reader like you, not so smart.” (What? He was a math-brain and was in the National Honor Society!) “I don’t think I’d give you the attention you need.” (What? I liked spending much of my time with my friends or alone in my room, recharging.) “A girl from Taiwan asked me, ‘Why are you so rude to her? It seems like she has to seek you out.'”
Then came the revelations of what kept going through his head, what he would do to me if I let him, overpowering thoughts of what he could get away with if he tried, how badly he wanted to try.
(It was only our fear of offending God that kept us from going all the way; I would have allowed him, otherwise, because I was just as full of lust as he was–and from what he said, he may have started to realize this.)
He asked, “Do you do all the things we do because I force you?”
I said, “Not all of them. I must make it hard for you to do things I don’t want.”
He said, “No, you don’t.”
He said, “I wish our friendship could be like mine with Frank or Pearl.”
I said, “It could never be that way, now.”
He thought maybe, if one day he scared me enough, I’d turn tail and run; I said, “You really think scaring me will–You’ve already scared me to death!” I was thinking of the “Dreadful Night.”
He told me he was into one of my friends. (Fortunately for me, she had a boyfriend and was not interested.) What a thing to tell a girl who loves you after you’ve just been using her body and making you think you want her!
He insulted me, made me feel like some cheap whore, no better than the pop tarts. He referred to us as “sexually active,” which I objected to–though legally, he was correct.
I no longer knew what was right or wrong, beyond the sex act itself; he told me I should read the textbook for his class, Understanding Morality.
He almost seemed to blame me for things he himself had chosen to do even when I tried to get him to go away, times when he himself chose to come over and do all these things, but I was too much in love to stop him, like now.
He called me a source of stress, but all he ever had to do was stop coming over, stop asking me over, stop starting things he knew I would not want to stop, and let me get over it; no one was putting a gun to his head and forcing him to touch and kiss me. Sure I wanted him to, but it takes two people, and he had the right to refuse to do it anymore.
He was being such a jerk, saying such things, almost making it sound like I was to blame if it didn’t stop–then he tried to start it all over again, while telling me he felt nothing, which made me bat his hand away.
After all this scolding of me for allowing him to have his way with me, he turned creepy, tried to get me to do something in front of him which I did not want to do. I said, “I’m not a pervert!”
He smiled and said, “Yes, you are.”
“No, I’m not!”
“Yes, you are.” He began doing things I did not like….I told him to stop….He suggested doing to me what I did not want to do to myself….I said no….
Is this why he kept wanting me over the past few days? He’d had time to reconsider, this was premeditated and not spur of the moment, but every night he asked me over until I finally came, after he had insisted he would not do this to me anymore.
Then he bumped my arm, which was holding a can of pop.
I said, “You’d better be careful, or my pop might spill.”
He said, “It already did. It’s on your shirt.”
I looked down at my shirt, saw a dark blotch in the dim light, and said, “You’re dead.”
He laughed and got me something to wipe it up with. He said, “Maybe I shouldn’t let you come over here anymore,” but with a smile, so I said, “I hope you’re just joking.”
He finally helped me sneak out around 1:30, with my long hair tucked into my coat, then told me to call him that afternoon if I wanted to talk more–which I did not. I knew how it would go: the same as always.
It felt like we’d lost the ground we gained with that tearful phone conversation, all because he could not keep his hands to himself and I was too in love to stop him.
I spoke to Sharon about it; she said no one would care if they saw me leave, because I’m of age, so don’t worry about my reputation, which Shawn kept warning me about. She said we should make up our minds soon, and either commit or snub each other.
This seemed to turn a corner, but not the one I’d hoped for at the beginning of Christmas Break: We went from the fun we were having before, to a new and more disturbing phase, where we did things we’d never done before, went farther than ever, while he often treated me with contempt.
The thing I did not want him to do to me, he eventually did in February, suddenly and forcefully from what I recall, taking away my innocence and filling me with thoughts I could barely control. Not what is clinically called “coitus,” but another thing.
And even though he himself had similar thoughts and told me about them, he judged me for them when I confessed them to him.
In fact, considering his mental health history, I can’t help wondering now if something happened over Christmas Break that led to this, if he was on the verge of another nervous breakdown, and I was the unlucky one caught in it.
From January through the end of the school year, he kept going from manic hyper stages where he treated me kindly, to foul moods which ended up hurting me.
I had told Shawn so many things, including deep, dark secrets. We usually seemed like best friends. But sometimes, like January 10, I wondered if we were even friends. Some weeks he’d call all the time and sometimes stop over, but I wrote on the 13th, “some weeks, like this one, he won’t call and he won’t even sit by me.”
I had hoped things would change for the better between us, but instead they got worse. He was moody. I was too afraid to call him or go over without being asked.
On the 11th, he was in a bad mood, so I didn’t want to sit with him at a meal; I was surprised to see him come sit with us. But he just started writing in notebooks instead of attending to the group’s conversation. Why bother sitting with anyone, then, especially me?
He was having troubles with his Winterim class and the two joint teachers, who he felt were against him. At 2 or 3 in the morning, he kicked in the door of someone who woke him up with their stereo!
Shawn had told me to sit with my friends whether Peter was there or not, so on the 12th I did so. I sat with Steve, and Peter was right across from me. He didn’t stay long because of class, but it seemed to go well. I stayed cheerful despite fighting to control my shaking. Even Peter seemed cheerful.
On the 12th, I saw my old suitemate Tom checking out a display for some date rape movies. A guy with him said, “You saw the word ‘sex,’ and you went right to it.” Tom denied it, but I said, “Yeah, we know you, Tom.” He gave me a kind of lecherous smile.
That night, my suitemates held a seance in the suite lounge. Clarissa and I stayed in our room, hoping they wouldn’t call something into the suite that wouldn’t leave, and keeping our crosses nearby.
Pearl and Tara were in England for their Winterim class, which was led by my old Expository Writing teacher. They visited such places as London, Bath and Stratford-on-Avon, and included a showing of Phantom of the Opera. I was envious, but had no way to afford such a thing. It did, however, make it into my story “Bedlam Castle.”
Then on the 14th, Shawn sat at my table for a minute, then, as he passed behind me on his way out, tapped me on the back. I looked up; he smiled and said “bye”; I smiled back. This made me feel better; kindness from him again?
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)