Campus, People, First College Boyfriend–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–September 1991, part 4

On campus, a sea of grass–or, often, snow–surrounded Old Main on the way to Krueger.  An old, grass-overgrown stone path cut across this sea to Old Main.  It was popular for Krueger- and suite-dwellers going to classes in Old Main, being much quicker than the sidewalk, which took the long way around.

The view on the way to the Campus Center and to Chase was absolutely gorgeous and serene, especially when everything was green.  My favorite view was the trees beyond the Campus Center, in a swampy area with rushes.  The sky was huge, since it didn’t have a neighborhood of houses blocking out most of it.

I was amazed at the beauty I could see every day just walking to meals, and that even in winter, when South Bend skies were always white or gray, the skies here were often blue.

Ever since at least as far back as my teens, I loved to look at the clouds.  I noted that the prettiest sky was so blue that white clouds showed in sharp relief against it.  But I also loved that the sky nearer the horizon was lighter by shades, and that one of these shades looked just like the Crayola sky-blue crayon.

My room had windows along the wall by which Candice slept, which was opposite the door.  They faced the Wehr Center, suites parking lot, and football field.

In the woods in the distance, beyond the Wehr Center, was a lone evergreen which stuck out like a beautiful, green, sore thumb while the leaves on the trees all around it turned colors and died.

I could also see the tennis court, which was right there beside the suites, and Candice practicing there with the tennis team.  Peter usually parked below my window.

Even though we were out in the country and far away from the nearest store, the campus bookstore did not carry milk or various other essentials.  It had some things, such as a few kinds of pads or razors or shampoo or soap, but not enough to get you through without stocking up during each vacation at home.  You either had to ride the campus van to town or hitch a ride with a friend.

(The college finally installed a mini-mart in the Campus Center–after I graduated.  I believe it took over at least part of the Muskie Inn, unfortunately.)

I heard once that, though the speed bumps in the drives were high, they were nowhere near as high as they used to be.  The story went that they had been so high they ruined the bottom of your car, until one night the football players came along and fixed the situation.  I forget if they shaved them off or removed them, but the school apparently got the message.

The guys on campus had all sorts of odd names: There was Paco and Taco, Derf, Wheels, and this guy in my orientation group who said, “Call me Doc.”

Roanoke did not just provide an intellectual education.  With all the international students, we could learn something about cultures as well.  For example, some of the international students, including Stefan and probably Heidi, put mayonnaise on their fries instead of ketchup.  Also, many Asians complained that the cafeteria desserts were too sweet.

Not that the food was bad.  We had a real chef in charge of the cafeteria, and the food, though not home-cooking, was far better than public school food.  Even the pizza and hamburgers were delicious, not pieces of bread with unpalatable smears of dead-white stuff and tasteless sausages on the top, or vile soyburger laxatives on bread (instead of a bun).

Until now, the idea of “school-made pizza,” always written on meal boards in large letters or special punctuation as if it were a student favorite, had filled me with horror.  Now, it was almost as good as Pizza Hut pizza.  We even got garlic bread along with it.

We also had steak and crab leg nights, and perfect baked potatoes.  The college would even cater banquets held in the cafeteria, and the food would be good–though we noted that the food got better on event days when large numbers of guests came to campus.

Ecumenical services were held in tiny Ley Chapel on Wednesdays at 11am.  The sanctuary was beautiful, in its wooden, A-shaped room with a glass wall that looked out over pine trees and the lake.  The wall was behind the podium and a stand with an open Bible on it, so you could look out during the service and see the beauty and serenity of God’s creation.  It did help get you in the mood to worship.

There were three frats: Zeta Chi (Zetas), Mu Lamda Sigma (Sigmas), and Beta Sigma Omega (Betas).  There were two sororities: Phi Delta Omega (Phi-Delts) and Pi Kappa Gamma (Pi-Kapps).

The Zetas were sometimes known as the “geek” frat, Sigmas as the “jock” frat, and Betas as the minority frat (since the Beta frat was specifically for minorities).

The sororities didn’t really have such titles, though junior year the Phi-Delts were known as the “Bible beaters” even though that was not at all true.  They partied, too.  But Pi-Kapps partied hard and made their pledges do worse things than Phi-Delt pledges had to do.  Phi-Delts didn’t like Pi-Kapps.

I had my Radio Shack digital alarm clock which allowed me to use military time.  So, since I never did want to be exactly like everybody else, and since I had done this during high school, I kept it on military time.  Other people would see the turquoise-blue readout saying “20:05” or whatever and do a double-take.  But I was used to it, and could tell at a glance what time it was.

On weekday mornings, I set my clock for 8:00, then pushed the snooze button.  Since the snooze button was for nine minutes, the alarm would go off again at 8:09.  I figured that was as late as I could sleep without being late, so that’s when I got up.  So when Peter asked me what time I got up in the morning, I told him 8:09.

At first, he thought it funny that I said “8:09” instead of “8:10” or “8:00.”  Later on, he started getting annoyed with me for giving the exact time whenever he asked me what time it was.  I could not understand why: He asked the time, and I answered.  I didn’t say “quarter till 4,” I said “3:46.”  I never saw any reason to do it differently.

I couldn’t tell you if this was me being overly precise, Peter being overly critical, or my nonverbal learning disability making me look at things literally.  But it made me happy, and no one else ever complained about it, so I saw no reason to change it.

I also alphabetized my tapes and, later, my CDs and videotapes.  Once, when Peter accidentally messed up the order of my tapes, he thought my dismay was funny.  But alphabetizing was time-consuming, and gave me some order, something I could control in a confusing and often hostile world.


Now for some descriptions of people:

Roanoke was a good experience in that it taught me to be more comfortable around the disabled, and that they were just the same as everybody else.  There was Paul with his hearing aid and Maizie, my sophomore year roommate with her hearing problems, Pearl with her scooter and crutches, and the blind girl, Jean.

Jean didn’t even use a guide dog, just a cane, which she always swung in front of her as she walked.  (Once, Peter had to leap into the air to avoid getting whacked by her cane.)  She got around without anyone’s help.  She just needed help with her tray, and the cafeteria ladies provided it, sitting her down with various people whom they thought were nice, such as my group of friends.

I was shy around her, rarely speaking unless spoken to, but I was the exact same way around everybody else I barely knew, too, so I hope she didn’t think I was being prejudiced.  Sure I feel bad about it, since I should have said something, but I froze up the same way I still freeze up around strangers.

The cafeteria ladies used to help my friend Pearl with her tray as well, but by the next semester, Pearl’s friends started doing this instead.  Pearl didn’t complain about her rheumatoid arthritis; she had strength to go about life as normally as possible.  She also got better grades than I did, had lots more friends, was a beautiful blonde, and seemed outgoing.

I began saying that her room was “Party Central,” because whenever I went there, there’d be people.  (She’d call herself shy and introverted, but to me, she was a social butterfly.)  Every time I went somewhere and saw her scooter sitting outside the building, I’d get excited because she was there.

The best way to describe Anna is as a black Pentecostal.  She loved to praise God and do it loud.  She was fun to talk to, especially about spiritual things.  She was greatly respected, even by non-Christians, and people seemed to let her talk about God even when they weren’t interested.

Latosha once said that whenever she had a problem, she had Anna pray about it because she seemed to have a direct line to God.

Even though Anna knew God didn’t require it, and apparently even her church didn’t require it even though it was Pentecostal, she wore only skirts, no pants, because she believed it helped keep her focused on God.  She did have short hair, which was always curled under–not a pageboy, exactly, because it was curled all around her face.

When I missed the birds from home, she said she had only one: the Milwaukee pigeon.

Paul, who I believe was a year or two ahead of me, had a hearing guide dog named Maizie, as I’ve mentioned before.  Maizie was sweet and a mooch, always wanting attention, petting, and tidbits.

Paul stopped taking her to meals as much because she would get soft from all the attention, and not be as good of a guide dog for him.  But we loved to have her around, especially with the ban on pets in the dorms.


For the first few months of college, news of the outside world seemed to go into a black hole.  Without a newspaper, and with dating and studies, world news seemed unimportant; I didn’t even keep up through TV news or CNN.  College life seemed much more interesting.

Though people keep telling freshmen to get involved in organizations on campus to help them feel more at home and interested in college life, I didn’t feel this way.  I was never much of a joiner, except for Christian groups, preferring instead to do my own thing and read and write.

What I really wanted was something to take the place of the groups I was in back in high school: Campus Life and a prayer group.  But to my shock, there were no such groups at this Christian college.

I’m not referring to the charity-based groups such as Habitat for Humanity (which I didn’t even know was affiliated with the Church until sometime after 2000), but to Bible studies, Campus Life outreach, prayer groups, InterVarsity, and the like–groups specifically meant to get Christian students and interested non-Christians together for fellowship and Bible study.


All students took some sort of Studies class: Freshman Studies for most students, Freshman Honors for the extra smart, Sophomore Studies or Sophomore Honors, a choice of Junior Studies classes in various topics (such as the Holocaust), Junior Honors, Senior Studies, or, for the Honors students, the Senior Honors Thesis.  These classes studied and discussed various aspects of life, such as Communism, sociology, philosophy, feminism, theology, or psychological theories.

All the freshman classes read the Biblical book of Job.  I was in the only Freshman Honors class that year, which met Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 10:30.  The Rev (the campus minister) taught my class.

We met in the Honors room, room 24 on the second floor of Old Main.  The room was supposedly meant for the Honors classes, but other classes met there as well.  It was the nicest room in the whole building.

It had a big table in the middle of it; cushioned chairs all around it; bookcases full of various intellectual books; a strange painting of orange and yellow, modern art with no obvious meaning, and which people didn’t like much; steam-heat radiators; and nooks and crannies along the walls.

My Freshman Honors and Junior Honors classes met here, but Sophomore Honors met in the music building.  Room 24 was warm in winter, while the rest of the building was generally cold or cool.  I had a class in there each following year except senior year, and after freshman year it was often as cool as the other rooms in the building.  Many of the people in Freshman Honors continued on through the Honors series, while others left.

Freshman year, all the students were women.  Besides me, they were Pearl, Sharon, Jennifer, Cindy, Mona V., and a few others whom I don’t talk about in these memoirs.

The Rev often tried to let us out of class early, since it went until 12:05, like many other classes did, and if we went until 12:05, we got caught right in the middle of the lunch crowd.  Lines at that time were so long they’d curl back into the Muskie and then back out again.  If you had a class until 12:05 and then a class at 12:45 or even 12:30, you may not even have time to get through the line and eat lunch.

On Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:15 to 10:20am, I had Expository Writing (Expos), taught by Thea, in Old Main room 4, a basement room.  This was an introductory writing course that nearly everyone had to take, not just Writing majors; without it, you would have an extremely difficult time trying to write the papers that most classes required.

As an aspiring writer, I was glad to be in college, because even my AP English classes never taught me many of the things I now learned.

For example, dashes were supposed to be two hyphens, not one, when typed; I learned when it was okay to use a semi-colon in a series; double-spacing was between lines, not words, and you were only supposed to put one space between a word; and I had never heard of comma splices before.  In fact, if you had just one comma splice on a paper you wrote for Thea, she would give the whole thing an F!

(Counselor Dude later joked in Poetry class that he kept having to make students unlearn many of the punctuation rules they learned in Thea’s class.  By the way, I believe he and Thea were good friends.)

Expos was usually taken freshman year.  To get out of the class at the end of the semester, you had to take a pass/fail Exit Exam.  Even if you got A’s on all your papers in this class, if you failed the Exit Exam, you had to take the class again.  This Exit Exam put fear in the hearts of all freshmen.

I believe Peter’s Expos teacher didn’t require his students to write papers all the time.  However, Thea did.  Peter thought Thea was too tough, especially with the comma-splice rule.

But her paper requirement was probably a good thing, because it gave us enough practice to pass the dreaded Exit Exam.  No matter how well you did in Expos, if you got a “fail” on this exam, which was an in-class paper graded pass or fail, you would flunk the whole class and have to take it all over again.  No exceptions.

In the next class session after we finished the exam at the end of the semester, Thea came in and announced to us, “I just want you to know that you all passed the Exit Exam.”  The wave of relief through that room was audible.

Our final exam, which covered grammar and punctuation, came after the Exit Exam.  Though I studied hard for it, it seemed like a breeze after passing the Exit Exam.

When I first started at college, a three-page paper seemed a daunting task.  We rarely did papers in my high school classes, just in English class occasionally, and now I was doing one for Thea every few weeks, and the occasional paper for The Rev in Freshman Honors and Old Testament.

But after a year or two of doing papers for all sorts of classes, two-to-three-page papers would seem like nothing.  I would write them all at once on my word processor so as not to interrupt the flow of my thoughts once they began, and it took maybe half an hour per page.

Thea had a revolutionary idea: You can–and should–write in books!  After all the years that my mother had told me not to write in my books, and all the years when I was afraid to even make a small mark in a textbook for fear the teacher would get mad when we turned in our books at the end of the year, now Thea was telling us to “unlearn what you have learned” (Yoda quote; no, she didn’t actually say this) and go ahead and write in books.

She said it was like carrying on a running dialogue with the writer.  She even wrote in library books, but had to be careful to write in pencil, of course, and erase it all before returning it.  Her daughter got annoyed with her for this.  And my mother used to get upset with me for writing in my own books!

What a concept, that it was okay after all.  I would do this, too, now, without guilt.  If Thea had been my mother, it’s quite possible that, when I scribbled in my books, she would have called this participating in the full experience of the book, and using my imagination to put myself or my own characters into the story.

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 12:45 to 1:50pm, I had Old Testament class with the Rev in room 25 of Old Main.  I came into that class looking for answers to my many questions about the Old Testament, and left with even more questions.

The problem was, the Bible we used, the Oxford Annotated Bible, had notes which seemed to have a liberal bent, and the textbook, Understanding the Old Testament, was also very liberal.

For example, the textbook said that Moses probably was not the writer of the Pentateuch, but various writers down through the ages.  I was from a conservative tradition which believed that Moses was the writer of everything in that section of the Bible.

I didn’t like what the textbook said about various parts of the Old Testament, and wished we had a more conservative textbook which would make more sense, or at least one with a more neutral viewpoint.

(My own thoughts became more moderate as the years passed, not wanting to declare everything in the Bible fiction, but willing to admit the occasional factual or scientific error.)

I wanted to know what drove people to do things and what the theology and customs behind a scene were and what we can learn from it, not that some scholars think the scene never even happened.

I also didn’t understand why this book would think Genesis had two Creation accounts, when it only had one.  In the beginning of the book was an outline of what happened, and then it went into more detail on the creation of man.  It wasn’t two different stories at all.  Ever since I began reading Genesis as a child, I had seen it this way.

But through the lectures and even through the book and Oxford Bible, I did learn some things, such as that covenants with a ruler were very serious things which you were not supposed to break, explaining the seriousness Yahweh placed on His covenant with Israel, and that “Yahweh” was the proper name, not “Jehovah.”

When some of my friends took the class with Rev later on, we got some fun little catchphrases: tov (good), tohu wa boho (chaos).  (Tohuvabohu is also the name of an industrial song by KMFDM.)

I just found these intriguing statements in my lecture notes:

“The Exodus wasn’t the most important event in the world to the rest of it, but to the Israelites it was.–Compare the Revolutionary War.”

“Slaves being set free would never appear in the records of any king in the ancient world.  No failures would be recorded.  No pharaohs would let slaves go–that’s why it was so difficult for the Israelites to go.”

“You could count on Egypt being fertile during famine; however, you could come in, but you couldn’t go out–this is where they got their slaves.”

“The lakes and the gulfs of the Red Sea were then also called the Red Sea.”

“Israel’s not overwhelmed by anything that happens and doesn’t expect things to get better; it expects them to get worse; even the Israelites had trouble believing in the miracles–they had to be shown something (a miracle) every day.”

The first four days of class were spent watching The Ten Commandments, the Cecil B. De Mille production with Charlton Heston.  Of course it wasn’t much at all like the biblical account, but it was fun to watch, especially the part with the Egyptian princess who wanted to marry Moses.  I loved the fabric she looked at for the wedding night.  We did a lot of Bible reading, of course.

The following year, some of my new friends had the same class.  One, Tara, could never remember the name of the class, so she kept referring to it as “Thing.”

My Intermediate German class was the equivalent of going through high school German 3 all over again, since first-year German at Roanoke covered what we had learned in German 1 and 2 in high school, so I was often bored.  The teacher, a Swiss woman named Ruth, knew this.

Another student knew a lot of what we were covering, a high-school senior who was getting college credit for this course.  There were only two other people in the class, who had taken their first year of German at Roanoke the year before.  So for them, Intermediate German covered new stuff.

Ruth was far more critical of me than most teachers–so I dropped my plans for a German minor after freshman year.  Once, while Ruth was talking to me and I listened, she shocked me by bursting out with (not an exact quote but as close as I can get), “Why do you never show any signs that you’re listening, like other people do?  There’s no ‘OK’ or a nod of the head or anything.”

I had no idea other people did this, and I thought she was crazy or too easily offended.  I tried to smile it off, but I was offended, since no other person had ever, ever said this to me before.

I always knew I was “different” because all my life, other kids had called me weird.  But I never knew why they called me weird.  Everything I did, felt normal to me, even though the other kids did not do them.

I had no idea why Ruth would get upset with me for not showing signs of listening–or that other people did show signs of listening.  I had no idea that this was a possible sign of a learning disorder.

Class was held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2:00 to 3:05 in a room in Jubilee room 306, which was set up with a long table, chairs, and a blackboard.  I had done some of my SEED testing in this room.

One student, a non-traditional student (non-trad) in her 30s, was pregnant.  Ruth told us how to say “pregnant” in German: “ein Kind erwarten” or “guter Hoffnung sein.”  It meant “expecting,” rather than saying “pregnant” directly, because of German societal taboos.

In high school, we started with a Dutch substitute teacher (while Frau was sick).  Then Frau returned and taught us the German she’d learned in Nazi schools in Poland during the Occupation.  When she retired, the American Herr became our teacher.  I believe all three pronounced the umlauts the same way.  But Ruth pronounced them differently.

Once, we were all having a class discussion in German about popular music, and one student said she, at about 19 or 20, was “finding I don’t like all that noise on the radio anymore.”

I couldn’t understand that, since she was still very young, and a lot of the “noise” on the radio was still good.  I didn’t feel that way myself when I hit 19 and 20; though I had to sort through fluff, there was still good stuff on the popular and rock stations.

Not only did my musical tastes never mellow out, they got harder and harder.  I discovered techno, then alternative, then the new mix of alternative and metal called nu-metal, then on and on–until nowadays, when my tastes range from Enya to Sisters of Mercy to Disturbed to White Zombie to gothic metal and industrial.


I hadn’t seen Peter since the dance, and since he was a commuter and I didn’t have his phone number, I couldn’t just find him.  He knew where I lived, so I wondered why he never stopped by (he did once, but I didn’t know it).

On Tuesday, September 17, he finally stopped over and asked me to a movie.  Being asked out was an unfamiliar sensation for me.  Though I had many crushes in my teens, and at least two guys actually liked me back, none of my crushes ever became a boyfriend. (Keep in mind, this was the 80s, when girls weren’t supposed to ask out guys, so I had to sit and wait to be noticed.)

Peter and I chose Problem Child 2 because he wanted to go to this little theater in Chilton, and the other movie playing was some action film.  He suggested that first, but I said I didn’t like action films–which certainly aren’t good for a date movie, I thought–so he got nervous, afraid I would turn him down, and suggested Problem Child 2 instead.  The movie started at 7, and because it was in a small town some distance away, he picked me up at 6.

When we got to the little theater and sat down, at first some Woody Woodpecker cartoon began playing and we asked, “What’s this?  Where’s the movie?”  But to our great relief, this was just a pre-show.  I think it was a holdover from old practices, back before TV showed all the cartoons.

After seeing this movie, in which the problem child sold his own urine as lemonade, a running gag for us became, “Want some lemonade?”  Sometimes we would hold up a glass cup of Mountain Dew while saying this, and just burst out laughing.  Yes, my taste in movies was still–unrefined.

We talked a lot on the way to and from the movie, and a little bit in between.  He said at one point, “I wasn’t confirmed–” which worried me, because I knew confirmation is a public declaration of faith for believers baptized at birth, but then he went on to say– “until eighth grade.”

This was such a relief.  He was a Christian after all!  Until now I didn’t know what future we actually had, because I didn’t know if this cusser was a Christian.  I did not know that, whenever he cussed, he noticed I got very quiet.  He felt like an idiot.

Other than this, we both were talkative, though it was often hard for me to get a word in edgewise.  Though I said nothing to him about his cussing, he stopped doing it.  He told me maybe a few days or weeks later that, a few days after our first date, his mom woke him up in the morning and talked to him a bit.  She said, “I haven’t heard you cuss at all the last few days, not since–hey, your date with Nyssa!”  Then she teased him a bit.

But back to our date night.  We later talked in the suite lounge.  I began to fall head-over-heels in like with him.  Tom was also there for a bit; I looked at the two of them and realized Peter had now supplanted Tom in my heart.

We were supposed to go check out the campus lagoon the next day, but it rained hard Tuesday night and Wednesday was cold and windy.  We had dinner in the cafeteria together instead and watched the season premiere of Quantum Leap in the German suite lounge.

Though I figured all along that our first date was a date-date, not just a friendship date, he had made no move to kiss me yet, nor had he talked about “us.”  So I began to wonder if we were just going out as friends.

It took several days before he finally referred to us as “dating,” and a few weeks before he got up the courage to kiss me.  I began to wonder, What’s taking so long?  Ever since a tornado had nearly hit my high school, I had prayed that I would not die before my first kiss.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991: Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?

April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign

May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: