[Please note: The Tracy in these memoirs has absolutely nothing to do with the Richard and Tracy of my 2007-2013 abuse story.]
That Fateful First Date with Phil, Pt. 2; Complication: A Rival
Pearl told me that Phil had been seen at the movies with Tracy earlier in the year, and that he wouldn’t tell Pearl where he spent the night on the Saturday in between the choir’s Christmas concerts. She thought he didn’t want to tell her. But we agreed there wasn’t necessarily anything to all that.
Before dinner, we saw Phil in the Campus Center lounge, about 4:30. I was shy and happy and probably smiled a bit. I could barely hear my own “See ya.”
Sharon said he turned to me when he said, “140 minutes!”–but I didn’t see him look at me, and had to do some figuring to be sure it was said to me. Yep, it was 140 minutes to 6:50.
Sharon said, “Ooh, he’s a hot one–he’s looking forward to it.” She looked in the Campus Shop window and said, mimicking me, “‘Is he getting something for me?’ No, he’s not in there, Nyssa, so don’t get excited.”
It didn’t click in Pearl’s mind, when we ate an early dinner, that Tracy was at the next table with a girl who worked in the library with me. I didn’t even see them.
Pearl told Jennifer to “ask Nyssa who she has a date with tonight.”
Somebody told her, or she guessed, who it was.
Later on, Pearl told Cindy, “Nyssa’s going out with Phil tonight.”
Tracy probably heard her.
Cindy said, “I thought he was seeing Tracy. But if he said yes….”
Later, I said to Pearl, “Whether or not he ever did see Tracy, I have him tonight.”
I sat on the stairs by the side door of Krueger, and checked the other doors two times. It was getting late, 10 past 7–Where was he? I prayed he’d come, and soon.
At 7:12, he came. I said with a smile, “You’re late.”
He’d gotten the time mixed up. He’d been there around 6, then figured out that he was too early. Then he figured it wrong again, and came too late. (Odd considering that he knew at 4:30 that he had 140 minutes.) We knew we’d never make the 7:20 movie (Three Musketeers) now.
We got to his minivan, a brown Dodge Caravan with wood paneling, and he opened my door for me. (He tried opening doors for me all night, even when I’d already done it.) When he got in the van, he saw an envelope taped to the windshield.
“When will people realize I have a mailbox?” he said, and took it off. At first, I thought it was a parking ticket. He pulled a bit of a yellow letter out of the envelope, put it back and said, “It’s from Tracy. I’ll read it later.” Tracy? Just a friend’s letter, I hoped; not a girlfriend’s.
We got to the movie theater around 7:30 and looked for a movie on the posters outside. We chose Cool Runnings and loved it. Afterwards, we went to Pizza Hut.
There were no long-lasting, uncomfortable silences. I talked plenty, and figured the lack of uncomfortable silences was a good sign.
I said I liked to play chess sometimes, and played it on various computer games from the Coco Computer (Tandy brand, 1985) to my family’s present computer. Phil asked if I role-played.
Though The 700 Club had made Dungeons and Dragons sound evil, here was a Christian guy who played it; he’d mentioned it at one of the parties. I didn’t know what to think of it, and wanted to find out more. And I had always liked the idea of making up my own character for a game.
“No,” I said, “but it’s very intriguing.”
“Really?” he said, grinning. “I’ll have to roll you up a character.”
We talked about these things because, on Tuesday night, he said his ideal woman would like role-playing and/or chess, just so he would have someone to play with.
I didn’t want to go back to the dorm right away, so he drove me around part of S– and showed me a couple of landmarks. Past 10:30, we had to go back, to my dismay. But then, when he parked the van, he said,
“I want to ask you something, but don’t know how. How should I ask you this?” Pause…pause…. “So I won’t ask you–no, really–I know tonight was for us to get to know each other better. Do you want to be just friends, or do you want more, with the possibility of a relationship?”
I said, “The last.” Was I about to get the “You’re a nice person, but” speech? No, no! But we clicked! We’d be good together!–
But instead he said, “I’m available, and I’m interested. The only problem is this letter.” He explained what he thought it was about–Tracy explaining her feelings–and that he had to choose between the two of us. He hadn’t been interested in her before, but we both had good personalities and a good sense of humor.
Phil was not attracted to her, but he was to me–probably infatuated. The outcome of this dilemma seemed obvious.
“Most guys would choose you over Tracy because she’s overweight,” he said, “but I’m not most guys. Thanks for being so understanding. Of course, this letter could be different from what I thought. In that case, there won’t be a problem–so I’d better read it.”
He did, and I waited patiently. It was just what he thought. “This line is scary: ‘I know that a movie and a pizza a few times does not mean we’re playing the dating game’–and that’s just what we did tonight!” Tracy also said in the letter that when she saw him with us at the Study Break, she realized it bothered her.
“I almost wish no one were interested in me,” Phil said. “Yesterday, I didn’t have to choose between two people, and I was happy. Not that I mind having someone interested in me. It just always seems like either no one’s interested in me, or too many people are at the same time.”
I thought the whole thing was funny.
He walked me back, and said as we passed Verhulst (the music building), “My brother Dave asked me recently if I was going out with Tracy. This guy in the choir wanted to know. I said no.”
We walked pretty closely together now, I thought, and he definitely liked me.
At the door, I said, “So, should we do it again? After Break?” He said yes with an admiring look in his eye. I invited him into Krueger lounge, if he didn’t mind the people. Inside were Rachel, Ralph, Cindy and her boyfriend Luke, so I sat by them, and Phil sat by me. Cindy kept smiling at us.
Then it was just us and Cindy. Phil asked me if he could play the piano. I said okay, as long as he wasn’t too loud: It was dead hours.
(During dead hours, you must be quiet so no one is woken up. Otherwise, not only do you annoy people, but you get written up by the RA.)
So he played, and looked over at me a couple times with a silly smile that made me chuckle.
Cindy said to me, “I’m glad somebody’s amused by him.”
It got to be after 11, so I said I’d better go to my room. We said good-night.
It was late, but Pearl had specifically told me to call her afterwards. I tried to keep my report sketchy, not wanting to tell everything. Once, she gave the phone to Sharon and gave Jennifer the other line; they had me repeat the part about Tracy.
Sharon said, “Did he kiss you?”
I said, “Hey, that’s a personal question.”
She got all excited and thought he did.
I said, “No.”
She said, “Come on, tell the truth.”
Pearl told her something about Phil, so she seemed to believe me now. I tried not to paint Tracy in a bad light, but Pearl came back on and made an observation that made sense:
“That was impeccable timing on her part. I’ll tell Phil good things about you at my party on Saturday.”
It was almost Christmas Break. I had to miss Pearl’s party because she’d be in Kenosha and I’d be in South Bend, but Phil was close enough to go.
I began praying for Tracy, to keep from being resentful and unforgiving.
Call from Shawn!
On Friday the 17th, my Dad or brother didn’t come get me until after 7pm. As I waited, I got three double-ringers. Each time I thought it could be my parents.
The first call was–
My Christmas card to him probably inspired him to call. We talked things out, finally settled our differences. He said that on the night of our last phone call, his brother had died and he was upset.
(Until now, no one had told me when exactly his brother had died; for all I knew, it was after the phone call.)
Even though he’d left Roanoke to start his engineering degree at UW-Madison, he wasn’t there yet; he didn’t go there until a year later.
(And then he didn’t stay long. It took him a little while to get back to a different college, but he finally graduated and got a job as a mechanical engineer.)
I told Shawn that Peter and I were friends again. Shawn didn’t believe Peter’s assertions that he only got drunk twice, then gave it up, drinking only to get “a buzz.” Shawn said, “He’d come up to me at Zeta parties and say, ‘Hi, Shawn!’ with this goofy smile and voice.”
The following proved that he read my late September/early October letter, in which I wrote, “I’ll admit that I have feelings for you. I always have, and they got so strong last year that I’ll probably always feel something special for you”:
I told him about Phil. “Replacing me already!” Shawn cried. “I must not have been that special!”
I said nothing.
“You’re not denying it,” he said.
I laughed. “Don’t be so paranoid!” (I often called him paranoid during our underclassman years, because, well, he was.)
But he still was, and always would be special, even when years passed without our communicating with each other, even when at times I’d feel angry at things he once did.
Our relationship lasted longer than the ones with Peter or Phil; he was my first sexual lover; I had loved him deeply, even if he never seemed to fully return it. I could never forget that.
The second call was from Clarissa, asking about Phil, about meals over Winterim Break, and for my new home phone number.
After 6, as I listened to Program 4 of the radio version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a gift from my youngest brother), I got another call. I thought it could be Shawn, Clarissa, or my parents.
“Hello?” I said.
“Boo,” said the caller.
“Okay, who is it now?”
Peter did his hyper-laugh into the phone and blasted my eardrum. No doubt now about who it was. He called to say Merry Christmas because he got my Christmas card. He would’ve asked me to go Christmas shopping, but I was leaving in less than an hour. It was a short call because, as usual, he was busy.
Another Meeting with Peter
Some songs from this time: The “Purple Haze” remake by the Cure was one more of the many reasons why Q101 played better music than any other station I knew of.
So was “White Love” by One Dove, a beautiful but elusive song; I saw the video maybe once on MTV, and only heard the song on Q101 while at home.
“Big-Time Sensuality” by Björk was new; the Q101 DJ said it sounded like it belonged on B96, the Chicago dance station.
Other songs: “Low” by Cracker, “Love Train” by Hard Corey and Wray.
Clarissa and I thought we could read each others’ minds at times. We’d be thinking the same thing, or one of us would think of something she wanted to say to the other, the other one would ask, “Did you say something?” and the first would be freaked out and laugh. Now that happens to me with Cugan.
The Phi-Delts put a beautiful, live Christmas tree in their suite.
I wrote this in a letter on 12/23 to Mona S., whom I met at Anna’s Bible study freshman year:
After Thanksgiving Break I called Peter, and we got together for another talk at the Pub. It was easier to talk this time.
We spoke of a couple of his friends, who married at 18. I said, “I can’t imagine getting married at 18,” and he agreed.
He showed me his new Mustang and drove me to Krueger. Pearl and Sharon spied on us [in the Pub] for a while. I saw him at Pearl’s party a few days later.
I’ve talked to him for a few minutes on the phone a couple times since then. The second time was just a few hours after Shawn called, so that was a weird day.
I didn’t mention to him my date with Phil the night before; I think I was afraid of hurting his feelings. I still didn’t know if he just wanted to be friends, or something more.
He hasn’t said anything about getting back together, but other people…sometimes see the possibility that he will. There are certain things that are said or that happen that make people say, ‘hmm….’
I hope so, because that would give me a feeling of closure. That is, if I decide I don’t want him anymore.
See, there’s this other guy now, Phil. I really like him, and I just went out with him last week. If he chooses me over another girl that likes him, then Peter may have little chance. Especially since Phil’s a Christian and I don’t know what Peter is anymore.
Ah, the problems of the big city! [Referring to Mona’s previous letter. She lived in Milwaukee.] Cars towed, locking doors…But I miss it when I’m at school.
I have this disoriented feeling whenever I go home, though, like I don’t know what’s home or what’s the real world anymore. At school, I miss South Bend; at home, I miss school.
I don’t know where I’ll go after I graduate. I’m still trying to figure out if I’d want to be a librarian for more than a little while, or be a stay-at-home mom. But that’s a while off yet.
Anyway, as they say, Merry Christmas and Happy ’94! (’94? But wasn’t it just 1990?) Can you believe how close the year 2000 is?!
After the Pub meeting I described above, Peter drove me back to Krueger in his car, short though the walk was. The radio played I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers. Forever after, I would associate this song both with the summer of 1993 and with this event.
As I mentioned before, a football player named Bill would come in the library all the time while I was working, and chat with me. He was nice-looking, though not handsome, either heavyset or muscular, and seemed really sweet. He’d talk with the librarian Seymour as well.
I was almost certain he had a crush on me, and was just working up the nerve to ask me out. However, I hated football, and Seymour and Bill both said he wasn’t too serious about his classes.
I got the impression we had little in common, and didn’t want to lead him on. However, I did like seeing him every day, so if he asked me out, I might have gone.
Then he saw Peter and me in the Pub together. After that, I never saw him again. I felt bad, fearing he’d seen us, thought Peter was my boyfriend, and given up on me instead of finding out the truth.
At home for Christmas, I had two weeks of no homework. Mom put a catnip toy in the tree for Hazel as her Christmas present, and Hazel tried to climb the tree to get it, but failed.
Astrid and Catherine gave me homemade ornaments, and I put them in the tree. I still have and use those ornaments, which are some of my favorites.
On Christmas Eve, I wrote in a letter, “My parents are blasting Christmas music downstairs, so I’m upstairs in my room, and I can still hear it. And they talk about me turning my music up loud!”
Christmas Break was a good time for me, despite catching the flu from my family. I spent it anxiously waiting to go back to school and see Phil again.
I also wrote long, detailed descriptions in my diary of everything that had happened between Phil and me over the past few months. I finally found a guy who wanted to be with me.
Even a flu bug didn’t depress me, because I knew that Phil was waiting for me. I would do dishes and other things, and think of him.
Dad, my 27-year-old brother who lived at home, and I all had the flu that Christmas. I believe my older brother had his own house by this time. Mom, the only healthy one, jokingly complained about having to deal with all us “sickies.”
I saw one or two classic movies on a Chicago PBS station (24? 26?) which barely came in. I’d watch them in my room.
One was M in German with Peter Lorre. I could barely make out the subtitles through the static, and had to try to translate as well as I could; I did understand “der Kindermürderer” (child murderer).
I had no idea at the time that my Winterim teacher would mention this movie in class, and that I would discuss it with him after class one day. I also had no idea that, according to Leonard Maltin’s 1997 Movie & Video Guide, the courtroom scene at the end was now hard to find.
But I saw Peter Lorre in the kangaroo courtroom crying for leniency, as the criminals cried for his death.
In another amazing coincidence, MTV, in the next couple of months, began playing a station promo: a cartoon of Peter Lorre walking around not with an “M” on his back, like in the movie, but an “MTV,” and hobbling along crying, “Mercy! Mercy!”
Another movie I saw on that station was Arsenic and Old Lace, which the S– High School put on as a play around that time.
I wrote this on December 27 in my writer’s journal:
“I have to write a novel about college, what it’s really like for the students of Roanoke. It’s a driving need.” Everything else I saw about college in those days was nothing like it. So you see one big reason why I wrote these college memoirs.
I got a VHS copy of Wayne’s World from my younger brother for Christmas. I didn’t watch it until senior year, however, because I feared watching it alone would take away half the fun, and that was the first chance I had to watch it with my friends. I wanted to see it with my friends, the ones who’d taken so many catchphrases from it.
When I saw it at the Zeta party it didn’t seem all that funny; I needed to be with people who would make it seem funny.
Q101 began playing the song “Loser” by Beck. I loved it. It was popular with the listeners. Popular music stations didn’t pick it up until maybe a month or two later, so at first I thought I’d never hear it except on Q101.
Probably now or during Thanksgiving Break, I began watching Red Green on PBS. Maybe sophomore year, I had checked it out, since it was on at the same time Red Dwarf used to be and I thought it was some sort of sequel or spin-off.
Back then, I saw what it really was, this strange show about a backwoods-lodge and the weird people who play in it, and found it moronic. Now, I gave it another chance and found it hilarious. I told Clarissa about it later. I don’t think Wisconsin PBS stations had it yet, however.
My youngest brother’s ex gave him trouble in many ways: She had a drug-dealing friend, was or used to be a prostitute, and did drugs herself.
Once, she came to see my brother; while he was out of the room, she stole Mom’s checkbook off the desk.
She kept calling our house at all hours of the day or night, until my parents finally had to change the number shortly before I went home for Christmas Break.
I think she and my brother kept getting back together and breaking up; I remember him taking off with her one afternoon during my break, and not getting back till much later, worrying us all.
Once, she borrowed his car and it got impounded.
The police knew her well. Fortunately, though, she left my brother alone eventually. But now I had to learn a new phone number.
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: