The Pump Blows Up
My pump poem, “5/7/93,” in one of the last Poetry packets, was written about something that actually happened that morning on campus. You can read the basic details in the poem:
The pump blew up
At 8 A.M. to boot
Whole campus is out
Till the afternoon, we’re told
We hate it when this happens
Water becomes gold
Hope you took your shower
Before it all went off
If not, no one’ll notice–
Their own hair’s bad enough
Fix our pump for us
And on the lake’s sand
We’ll bow down and worship you
And the magic wrench in your hand
No, I don’t remember the exact time the water came back on. I had taken my shower the night before, so I had good hair that morning. Clarissa still had her bottled water for handwashing and brushing teeth.
Shawn Breaks Our Friendship and Departs
Probably some time in May, when we all watched TV together in Krueger lounge, a news brief came on about a drug bust in Kenosha. Pearl laughed in chagrin. Apparently Kenosha was such a quiet town that such things were unheard-of.
My diary entry for 5/10 at 2:01am: “Something I just read in May 8th’s devotional [My Utmost for His Highest] made me realize, I don’t have to worry that I won’t ‘find someone.’ I just need to be patient and remember that the unforeseen often happens.” And I was right about that.
On May 13, a speaker for InterVarsity, Pastor Don, brought his two college-age sons, cute Matt and cuter Dan. I helped Pearl entertain them–a pleasant task. A group of us spent a fun evening in the Pub, with the guys playing pool.
Eventually, Rush Limbaugh came on the Pub TV. We sat there ripping on him, and Muskie Pat, who was working behind the bar, said, “If he says anything about femi-nazis, I’m gonna throw something at the screen.”
One of Don’s sons said, “The scary thing is, when you really listen to him, Rush is right.” That didn’t mean he liked Rush or the terms he had for groups or people or any of that.
(Muskie Pat is what we called a cool guy who had been at Roanoke for years getting several degrees, and who worked in the Muskie all the years I knew him. He made awesome burgers with toasted buns.)
Pastor Don spoke on relationships. This clip from a letter I wrote to Shawn gives a sample of what he said, and how it affected me:
Sure I’d had some serious thoughts in the past few weeks of just giving it all up [the friendship] because of all the trouble I had dealing with you and I didn’t know if the relationship was healthy for me.
But I’d decided I just couldn’t: we’d been through so much together, confided so many things in each other.
And then the Thursday before, when the speaker came up from Racine to speak at the Bible study, he talked about relationships of all kinds.
Friends stay there for friends, he said, even when being around them is currently making you feel bad.
Whether the person’s depressed or depressing or just in a bad mood, a friend doesn’t go away, a friend stays right there with them.
I took that as an answer from God to my prayers for help in deciding.
Shawn came back maybe a week before the end of the semester, and said we could talk in a little while. I expected a phone call at any time, and looked forward to it because, as a good friend, I was concerned about him and his brother.
I’d missed him; I wanted to spend time with him before he left, because I probably never would again, and I never liked saying good-bye to my best and closest friends.
But on Tuesday the 18th, Clarissa told me he didn’t want to associate with me. That angered me, but I tried to keep it under control until I found out if it was all a misunderstanding on her part.
He came over once for a back massage (really? weren’t we giving that all up? we knew where they always led), but I just wasn’t up to it, because I had to find out why he was avoiding me when we were about to part company for good. We sat at the picnic table beside the lake.
He told me that what Clarissa said was correct. I felt sick at heart and totally puzzled. He said we’d be going our separate ways, because of all the sexually intimate knowledge he now had of me.
So, after he had pushed so hard to get this knowledge, now I was to be punished because he had it?
He said he didn’t want me to think I had a boyfriend out there, and that he probably wouldn’t write back because of this, though I could write him.
My mind filled with all the things I could say, all at once, but the closest I could get to summing it all up was, “You can’t just let it go.”
I didn’t want to lose him as a friend, though I had accepted the loss of him as a lover. So he said he would write back, but ultimately, he didn’t.
We talked about a lot of things that day, including the memories we now had of each other. We walked around, sat in the cold and some rain, sat in the suite laundry room, went through the parking lot….
Our last conversation was much like our first on one of those first days of freshman orientation, when we also wandered from one place to another–like bookends of our relationship.
He said, “Let’s just put all that [physical stuff] behind us. Do you regret what we did?”
I said yes, for most of it, though some I just didn’t regret. But he seemed relieved. I still had feelings for him, but I told him I just wanted friendship now, so we weren’t at odds over that.
On the 20th, Just before we all left for home for the summer, I called him, to say good-bye.
I asked why he felt it would be awkward to just stop over for a minute and say the one, last good-bye that meant so much to me, but he told me I shouldn’t be curious about it, that it’s his life.
I felt like, ask an innocent question and get accused of prying! Didn’t I deserve some kind of explanation?
I didn’t know whether or not it had to do with me; I just wanted to say good-bye before he left Roanoke for good. I was upset and bewildered.
I was about to say I didn’t want to say good-bye on a bad note, when I heard a click. Clarissa was there as I hung up, I told her what was said, and sobbed my eyes out.
I had no idea that his brother had just died, because he didn’t tell me. I would have understood.
In fact, I didn’t find out until Julie told me in a letter that I got close to July; they were both staying on campus. Even then, I did not know when it happened.
I didn’t know he got the news right before I called, until December. I never expected to see him again, since he was only at Roanoke for two years to take general studies courses before going to UW-Madison for engineering. This was hardly the good-bye I had expected.
If only I had known, I would have understood. Why didn’t he tell me? Why would it take him 7 months to tell me?
I could have been there for him, given him a shoulder to cry on, been so good to him, comforted him. I still loved him and would have wanted to be there through his suffering.
But he never gave me the chance. Though I was told he seemed to be pushing everyone away.
Some things become clear after reviewing all the things that happened between Shawn and me:
He treated me like a prude for not wanting to watch sexy movies (which got my mind going on things I wasn’t supposed to do yet) or do the things he wanted to do.
Then when, over time, I gave in and did the things he wanted, I turned into a “slut.” Because I was now a “slut,” I was not worth even his friendship, because I put a wedge between him and God.
I was not supposed to have desires at all. I was supposed to deflect his every move, be stronger than he was. It was my fault. I was shamed for having my own desires after all.
No wonder I was so frickin’ screwed up by the end of sophomore year. I understand why people have trouble with Purity Culture.
I don’t think it’s the desire to save oneself for marriage that bothers critics. I think it’s the shame we girls end up with, the feeling of being “ruined” if you “slip up,” the expectation that only sluts would want sex, that bothers critics.
Now, of course, it goes both ways. If you are properly taught that purity applies to boys and not just girls, no double standard, then discovering your future husband is not a virgin, can be devastating. We can forgive someone after they repent for stealing, but even if they look on past sexual experiences with the proper remorse and disgust, they’re still “sullied.”
It is the reason why I was so psychologically affected by things I did in college, why it was so hard to forgive myself, why I looked on past deeds with Shawn and Phil with horror for so long, why certain first names from my future husband’s past made me recoil for years just seeing them printed on a page.
I felt guilty just remembering these deeds with pleasure years later. I felt guilty, like I was lying to myself, for deciding one day that what I did with Shawn, wasn’t so bad. I was warned that past sexual experiences would haunt me when I married, but the memories weren’t so horrible after all.
…Back to 1993. We went home on the 21st.
My home church now had early morning services at 8:00 as well as the regular, 10:45 service. My parents wanted to go to the early service, so I had to, as well. After all, I didn’t have a car.
They thought these would be the most popular services, but they weren’t, and soon were dropped. However, for the summer I had to endure them.
They were too early, and had too much singing. It was weird to sing lyrics projected on a wall; I preferred to read them from a hymnbook.
Just before the end of the school year, the Campus Shop had sold used textbooks which were no longer going to be used for classes. I took this opportunity to buy a Spanish textbook. Now, I used the Spanish textbook to teach myself Spanish.
I used index cards and a pencil to make flash cards for the vocabulary words, and I think I would erase them and write new words on them.
I also used a slate and slate pencil which I had gotten at a South Bend museum when I was a child. Just like the first ones I had bought, these were now broken.
When I got this slate, I also got another one, but it was now lost, so out of three slates and more than one slate pencil, I only had one of each left.
But they were useful for writing out the book’s exercises without using up a lot of paper. We also had a computer disc with a Spanish drill program on it, and I used it sometimes.
The problem, however, was that I had no one to tell me how to pronounce the words properly, and had nothing but the textbook to guide me.
I don’t think the book even mentioned that the X was pronounced differently than in English, though I already knew Mexico was pronounced “MEH-ee-koh” (or a reasonable equivalent).
In general, I enjoyed my summer and its pleasant routines. But every morning, at least after June, I agonized until the mail came.
I kept expecting a letter from Shawn: angry, apologetic, whatever, but something. A letter never came, which made me even more upset.
In June I’d sent him a letter to try to resolve the issue of our last conversation and the lack of a proper good-bye, but nothing had happened to move it along. I wanted closure, not this torture of waiting.
I wrote two letters to Shawn that summer. I let each of them sit, waiting until I was sure it was the right thing to do and rightly worded. The first one sat for a month before I mailed it in late June. It said I was fighting for his friendship. About the last one, sent on August 23, I wrote,
I wrote it late in the week, and for the next few days I kept hearing and reading things that said, Hurry, do it, send it, write it, do it now!
So I decided I’d send it by Monday, or else God might really be unhappy with me.
The messages were in songs, in my devotions [one devotional in My Utmost for His Highest even talked about sending that letter you want to send right away], and maybe other places.
So I thought, This can’t just be coincidence; this has got to be God talking to me! I almost felt like my excuses for waiting were just excuses.
I wrote things like, “Please, I miss you.” But I got no answer, and then Pearl told me (late in August) not to expect one because Shawn was just going to let things go.
I began to think about James again. I wondered if I would go out with him junior year. Getting back together with Peter was too uncertain to count on, and Shawn had now left RC as he had planned, so this was my one hope to find love again. So I thought at the time.
I would listen to the downstairs stereo while washing dishes each afternoon. I’d recently discovered Q101, a new alternative station from Chicago, and when the TV antenna was positioned just right, I could get it in quite well.
We had a powerful antenna with controls, to make up for losing cable, and it could be linked to the radio as well.
My mom now had an old trunk. It had been passed down from mother to daughter for several generations, and now that Grandma C– had died, it had been passed to Mom.
It was full of mementos, pictures, trinkets, and tools from the past generations, including hat pins, straight razors, newspaper clippings, and a stereoscope with pictures.
I didn’t understand how to use the stereoscope, that you’re supposed to adjust it to get a three-dimensional image, but I did love slipping in and looking at the 1870s pictures of a relationship from courtship to marriage.
(I looked through this same trunk with Pearl and Sharon on the night before my wedding, finding amusing newspaper clippings, and my future husband, Cugan, would one day show me how to use the stereoscope.)
Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)