Deadly Nightshade and Pressure to Love–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–October 1991, part 2

Peter used the computer lab in Chase a lot for his assignments, including papers, and we liked to spend that time together.  We still hated to spend time apart: We were in that honeymoon stage of relationships.  (My friend Pearl said she’d heard that in the first two months, couples don’t like to be apart at all.)  I would sit on a chair or stool next to Peter as he worked on a computer.

He introduced me to computer Solitaire, that omnipresent Windows game, and to Windows itself, a wondrous new operating system.  (He later loaned his Windows discs to my Dad, who used them to load Windows onto the computer at home.)

Once, while I was playing Solitaire, Shawn came in and said to us, “If you’re ever lost and in the middle of nowhere, just start playing Solitaire.  Pretty soon somebody will come along and say, ‘You should move that card here,’ and ‘You should move that card there.'”

Unfortunately, we soon discovered that we weren’t supposed to play games in the computer lab.  It was for schoolwork, and though the room was full of computers (Apples and IBMs I believe), they needed to be kept free for the many students who didn’t have word processors, computers or typewriters in their rooms.

(I think the college students of today would consider that to be living in the Dark Ages.  Now, not only do dorms have computers, at least at Roanoke, but some colleges apparently will lease computers to all the students who need them during the school year.  It seems computers are now as much a part of one’s school supplies as a notebook and pencils.)

Peter got angry and talked back when the lab aide told him this rule in a near-empty computer lab one night.  The aide told the teacher in charge of the lab.  The next day, Peter saw the aide in line and apologized, but whispered to me that he didn’t really mean it, just didn’t want to get into trouble.

One evening, Peter wanted to go with me from his house back to campus, but his parents (who hadn’t quite realized that he was almost 19 and a legal adult who could do whatever he wanted) didn’t want him to stay there for very long.

I heard him lie to them; I think he told them he had to study in the Roanoke library or do some other thing, which they okayed.  In reality, he just wanted to spend some alone time with me.

On the one hand, they should’ve loosened their reins once he turned 18.  On the other hand, he shouldn’t have been lying to them.

This bothered me.  It also should have been a red flag that he could lie to me as well, but I foolishly believed he would never do that.

I would either watch as Peter worked on the computer, or I would do homework.  Sometimes, Peter was allowed in to a certain office which had a modem, the only modem on campus (again, today’s college students would call this the Dark Ages), and he would download things from BBS’s as I watched.

Through January, it became standard procedure many days for me to sit beside Peter in the computer lab.  Strange how, with college boyfriends, I kept watching them play on the computer.  Even now, a computer geek friend might come over to my house and start playing on the computer as I watch.  But no, I don’t do that with my hubby.  I’ve got too many other things to do!

***

On the 23rd, I wrote in my day planner,

The weirdest things happened–Once, when I came back to the room from the bathroom, Peter had turned on the TV with Candice’s remote and was pointing it at it at arm’s length in his sleep!

Another time, I think before this, he opened his eyes several times, first wide, then half-closed (when I moved my finger and he didn’t see it) several times, then wide again, when I tested his senses by seeing what he’d do if I held my hand over his eyes and caused a shadow and then moved it closer to him–then he woke up.

My sophomore-year roommate would also open her eyes in her sleep.

***

For a while, the International students and whoever else was interested could watch a foreign film in the Muskie every Thursday night at 7:30.

For American and British students it meant reading subtitles, but the subtitled, rather than dubbed, versions were probably chosen on purpose because there were students who spoke the original languages as native tongues and would prefer to watch them with subtitles.

It was probably wonderful for them, after being immersed in English for so long and often struggling to understand it.

On the evening of the 24th, Peter and his parents went with me to see Das Boot, the movie about a German U-boat in World War II.

Before we went, Peter’s mom presented me with an apple cake; I put it in Candice’s little fridge in the lounge.

Unfortunately, we only got to see the first half of the movie.  Peter’s parents had to leave for something, or he had to go to work, so we left.

When we got back to the German suite, one of us went to get the apple cake, only to find it missing.  Naturally, we first thought of Tom, who was sleeping.  Peter asked him if he knew what happened to the apple cake, but he didn’t.  So finally Peter and his parents left.

They returned a few minutes later to tell me: On passing by the Japanese suite, they happened to look in the window and see a whole bunch of people–many from other suites–all sitting around and eating my apple cake!  They were partying with my apple cake.

Heidi had found it in the fridge and taken it down there to serve at the party.  I’m not sure why she thought she could do this, since it wasn’t hers.

Anyway, I think Peter and his parents stayed a bit longer so we could all go down and have some of my apple cake.  At least I had one piece before it all disappeared.  We all thought it was pretty funny.

***

Around this time, I met Julie’s boyfriend, Darryl, in the Mirror suite while helping Peter in the dark room.  He was tall, fair-haired and handsome, though he always wore a Batman baseball hat that year.

This is the movie version of Batman which came out in 1989; the hat was black and had a picture of a bat signal.  He wore it forwards: College boys at our school did not start wearing baseball caps backwards until a year or two later.

Darryl knew Shakespeare, which impressed me because I loved what little Shakespeare I had read in school.  My real name is not “Nyssa,” but the name of a book in the Bible; I will not tell you which one.  Darryl said it was his favorite biblical book.

On the way to the K– Haunted House, I told Peter, “He likes the book of —-.  That really gives him good standing in my eyes.”

Peter acted upset and uneasy.

I said, “I mean friendship-wise!”

***

Just before 2pm on Friday the 25th, Peter and I went to the annual Writer’s Festival in the Bradley building.  We listened to Mark Strand, that year’s featured poet, but didn’t care for the sexually explicit poetry he read.  We stayed anyway because Counselor Dude told me to be there.

At one point, the recipients of the Fessler Writing Scholarship (which included me) were honored: We all stood and were applauded.

I received the scholarship in my senior year of high school.  Counselor Dude sent me guidelines; I could send poetry or prose, but my stories didn’t seem to be in a good form for sending, so I sent these poems, written while we studied Japanese haiku in Advanced Placement English class:

9/18/90
The Coconut Palm

As green feathers flutter in breezes,
And ovals hide monkey-faces,
A snake opens its jaws
And brown eels shoot out in places.

Okay, so that one wasn’t a haiku; perhaps a nature-poem assignment.

10/2/90

Fresh, fragrant breezes
Abolish musty odors
Blow through the window

This was written because of a smelly pile of something I thought was dirty laundry (wasn’t, but I forget what it really was) sitting by the cedar chest, as warm breezes blew in the window beside it.

Now melancholy
Lively greens become golds, reds
Cold overpowers

We weren’t going by the 7-5-7 syllable count, just simplicity, because the translations in the English book weren’t going by that form, or by rhyming because it’s easier to rhyme in Japanese than in English.

I sent these poems probably during the winter or spring.  They impressed Counselor Dude, and were good enough to receive the scholarship.

I told my English teacher, who got teary-eyed and told the whole class.  Since the poems came from her assignments, she said this sort of thing made her teaching worthwhile.

Deadly Nightshade

That evening, Peter drove Latosha and me to the nearby large city of Appleton to buy music for WVRC, the campus radio station.

In the back of the car was deadly nightshade, a “gift” to Frank from Peter’s mom.  Frank didn’t know what it was, so she wanted to show him.  (No, she didn’t want to kill him.)

The plants were in some sort of container, maybe a sack, in the backseat, where Latosha also sat.  She kept saying she didn’t want to be back there with it, but once the car was on the highway she didn’t seem to have much choice.

The next day, Peter and I went looking for Latosha, but couldn’t find her anywhere.  We checked the suite, the WVRC room and other places, but she wasn’t there.

“Oh, Latosha!” Peter cried.  He began to panic, fearing that the deadly nightshade had somehow killed her just by being in the backseat.

But to his (and my) great relief, she was very much alive, and finally showed up–just late.

***

On October 26, I experienced my very first Daylight Savings time change.  Before, time changes were temporary, such as when I visited my grandma for a week in the summer and Michigan was an hour ahead of Indiana.  (Going to bed at her 9pm and my 8pm was no fun, especially since the sun was still up.)  Now, I had to actually live with one for six months!

It was hard to adjust at first, especially when the sun would go down at 4pm instead of 5pm on the shortest days of the year, making the night seem extra-long.  And for maybe a week, my body kept saying it was time to eat when it wasn’t.

But the good part about the fall time change was for one night, I could get an extra hour of sleep, and for a while it would seem like I was staying up or getting up an hour later than usual.  (In reality I was, but the clock didn’t say so.)

I was a bit confused at first about the 2am change, wondering why they’d make people get up in the middle of the night to change clocks, but soon discovered that people just set their clocks before going to bed.

I keep wishing that one of these days, time changes will be abolished as a waste of time, since they disrupt daily routines and make the sun set even earlier in winter, with no tangible benefit that I’ve ever seen.  I would love to see the sun go down at 5pm in the winter rather than 4pm, since I grew up with 5pm winter sunsets.

But now I hear that South Bend–one of the few sensible cities regarding time changes–has fallen onto the Daylight Savings bandwagon.  They change clocks twice a year and now match up with Michigan, so I never know what time it is when I want to call my parents.

***

On October 26, Peter and I dressed in my princess and his ninja costume again, and went to a Halloween party at Muehlmeier Hall in the lounge.  We went there because we were DJ’s for WVRC, and Peter was chief engineer (even though the station still hadn’t gotten going yet and we never had a chance to DJ yet).  A couple of the other DJs played the music.

Latosha was one of the party DJ’s.  Peter did his chief engineer stuff, and I was given nothing to do except to help pick songs and dance.

Latosha tried to put more variety into the night’s selection of music, but every time she played something besides rap, she got loud complaints.  For Peter and me, she played “Everything I Do” by Bryan Adams, but it was practically booed.

I forget what derogatory thing some guy said about it, but it upset both Peter and me.  This was our song, and they were saying such things about it!

Latosha tried to play another song which sounded really good, but they told her to turn it off and play rap.  “This is house!” she cried in disbelief.  It was very frustrating, not only to Peter and me but also to Latosha.

I don’t remember other details, but I do remember Peter and I standing in a large circle; we females were supposed to show off our costumes.  When it came to be my turn, I walked out into the middle of the circle and did a little spin.  The guys made approving whistles and noises.

I was nervous and self-conscious but didn’t screw up, and it felt good to get such favorable attention.  My costume was properly zipped up, by the way, so I felt a bit bound up.

Since the only music allowed was rap, Peter and I hardly danced at all, and left early.

On October 31, Peter and I went to the campus Halloween party in Bossard Hall, but the music there was bad, too.

At the Halloween dance in Bossard, we had fun seeing our friends dressed up in costume.  A guy named Steve dressed as Satan, and went around with a sign-up sheet for people’s souls.  I think somebody was dressed as a mummy, head to toe in toilet paper.  Pearl was a bee.

Peter took me aside, pointed to Steve and said, “You see that guy there?”  I didn’t know Steve at that time.  “He’s a Satanist!”

A Satanist at a Christian college??!!  For the rest of the semester, Peter didn’t want to be around him.

Of course, Steve wasn’t actually a Satanist but a Pagan or Wiccan, but I didn’t know this at the time.  Eventually, Peter and I even became friends with him (though separately).  He was a fun, goofy guy.  More about him later.

***

Latosha liked to mother me.  One day while I had the flu–the first I could remember ever having it–I got some ice cream in the cafeteria, and she said, “You shouldn’t be eating that ice cream.”  But we didn’t get ice cream every day, and it looked so good!

One evening, Peter’s parents drove the two of us around little K– and other heavily German areas, showing me the German-style buildings there: houses with outside staircases leading up to a second floor door, buildings with split timbers, churches with spires.  I loved it.  One bar, House of Spirits, had a little ghost painted near the roof.

Sometime early in the semester, Peter, his mom, and I sat and watched a story on the news about a girl who got pregnant, didn’t realize it, and thought she had gas pains when she was actually going into labor.  So she sat on the toilet to get rid of the gas, and a baby came out instead, hitting its head on the toilet seat.  The blow to its head killed it.  If I remember correctly, she tried to throw it away, and her dad found it.  Now, she was being tried for throwing her baby away.

I believe this was the first I had ever heard of people throwing babies away, instead of contacting the proper authorities.  Soon began a disturbing trend throughout the 90s of teen mothers throwing their babies–even live ones–in the trash.

The real twist to this case: she was a Roanoke freshman.  I believe she was in one of Peter’s classes.  She looked a little familiar to me as well.

****

Peter ripped on Shawn whenever he was out of the room, and I later discovered that Shawn also ripped on Peter when he was out of the room.  But whenever we were all together, Peter and I told Shawn we were eternally grateful to him for getting us together with his diarrhea of the mouth.

Much later, Shawn told me that this made him feel uncomfortable, because he didn’t want to be held responsible if we broke up.

Pressure to Love

Peter and I made out all the time, but never got past “first base” because we were Christians.  I felt weak, but reassured by Peter’s ninja self-control.

One day, maybe a month into the relationship, Peter said to me, “Now I can finally say it: I love you.”

However, I was reluctant at first to tell him I loved him: I wanted to mean it.  He insisted on a reply, so eventually I began saying “ditto” or “ich liebe dich.”

In those days, I believed there was One person for everyone, a soulmate ordained by God.  If you loved someone, it meant your spirit recognized your soulmate; if you truly loved someone, it would last forever, and you would marry.  Everything else was merely infatuation, which is hot but quickly burns itself out.

(Some would argue that I wasn’t naive here, but right: that the one I truly loved is the one I married.  Or that I may have loved before, but if the others had truly loved me back, they would never have broken up with me for good.

(Me, I’m not entirely sure what to think, but I’m inclined to agree with one of these two possibilities.

(But I also recognize now that until you’ve been with someone with for quite some time, and the infatuation has a chance to wear off, you don’t really know if you have “love” which lasts through daily work/home drudgery and childrearing, or are only “infatuated,” in love with love.)

So when I told Peter I loved him, I’d be sealing my fate.  He did get upset that I replied “ditto” or “ich liebe dich” instead of “I love you.”  One day, probably in October, I finally did say “I love you” in English, and I meant it.

Now we knew we loved each other, and we had so many things in common and matched each others’ ideals so well that marriage seemed the logical conclusion–though not until we graduated.

One day, I said, “When I was a kid, my teacher said I’d end up marrying someone who makes me laugh.”  I realized–just in time–that if I said “She’s right,” it would scare Peter: We had not yet spoken of marriage.  So I said, “She’s probably right.”  (Which she was, by the way: To this day, my hubby still makes me laugh.)

To my bewilderment, Peter just got quiet and said, “Umm.”  I asked him if he meant something by that, and he said no.

So even if he did misunderstand me, I had no way of knowing if I needed to clear things up.  But how could he, when I did not say I would marry him–just someone who would make me laugh?

Talk did soon turn to marriage, however.  I wrote in my pen pal letter on the 22nd,

The way Peter and I talk sometimes, you’d think we were practically engaged.  We probably will be [engaged] in four years when we finish college, we’re such a perfect match….

We have so many things in common…you’d think we were made for each other–which we probably were.  We even soon noticed a mental link, which his mom says means that.

We believed her.

One evening, Peter and I sat with his parents at their dinner table, joking around.  I forget what I said–maybe I asked about some family secret or favorite story–but Peter smiled and said, “You’re not part of this family yet.”  I joked back, “What do you mean, ‘yet’?”

We all laughed, and Peter blushed.  His dad said to him, “You’d better watch what you say.”

Peter’s class ring was a star sapphire, an expensive stone, so I believe his mother didn’t even let him wear it.  Even if she did let him wear it, him letting a girlfriend wear it was out of the question.  So he got a silver bracelet to stand in for it.

This bracelet he now gave to me.  The clasp didn’t work right, which was surprising because it was only maybe a year or two since he bought it, and the bracelet was a bit tight, but I wore it with pride.  He also gave me a small, cute snowflake necklace.

***

During deer hunting season, WIXX introduced me to two popular songs that were played every deer season: “Turdy Point Buck” by Bananas at Large and “Second Week of Deer Camp” by Da Yoopers.

This group of guys, Da Yoopers, from the UP of Michigan had the same accent I heard in S–.  Bananas at Large, a Wisconsin group, raved about “Da Packers.”

Da Yoopers also did “Rusty Chevrolet,” to the tune of “Dashing Through the Snow,” which was played every Christmas.  After that winter, and maybe even before it, I even heard that song on U93.

Until now, however, I had never heard of Da Yoopers.  Peter cried, “Even my aunt who lives in Alaska has heard of Da Yoopers!”  Well, maybe that’s because her family lived in Wisconsin.

Heidi complained one day that she was picking up Roanoke’s “bad table manners.”  I’m not quite sure what all she meant by this, since I rarely noticed it myself, but I believe it was things like putting one’s elbows on the table while eating.

I knew about that rule, but I got so used to people doing this at Roanoke that it didn’t seem rude to me at all.  I began doing it, myself; it was comfortable, after all, and when I was, like, eating fries and had one hand in my lap, I felt too fastidious.

A friend later told me that it’s a very German thing to have elbows on the table.

***

One day after lunch, as we sat in the Campus Center lounge next to the TV, Peter said I needed to find friends to hang around with when he wasn’t there.  I said, “I have friends!”

Which I did.  Though I had little social life outside of Peter, which I hear often happens to new couples, he was wrong to assume that I had no friends.  If he hadn’t come along and taken up much of my time (as we both wanted), I would still have been floating around to various groups at meals, going to school events with my friends, and hanging out in their rooms whenever I had time.

This is what I did before Peter, and it was what I would do after Peter.  I had many people I considered friends, though they weren’t yet close friends.  Peter often chose where we sat at meals, and many of these people were often included.

I did, however, feel the lack of a best friend outside of Peter.  I considered saying to one person, “I think we could be good friends.”  But I wasn’t sure if that would come out the way I intended, or just sound like a pathetic loser: “Will you be my frieeeend?”

In those days, I was still used to what I had known in high school: seeing my friends mostly in classes or at lunch, and, except for Campus Life or church activities, not generally anywhere else.  I socialized, but I also had my own private life.

It was the only way I had ever known, especially since I rarely passed anyone on the way to or from school.  My friend Becky, met in my senior year of high school, was the exception, so I called her my “bosom friend” (yes, as in Anne of Green Gables), the one I had always wanted to find.

This was probably a combination of shyness/introversion, nonverbal learning disorder, and circumstances: Since I was a Nazarene, I hadn’t gone to movies or dances with friends, which were not allowed until the past couple of years.

Few of my friends lived near me, and for most of my life, my school-friends didn’t drive.  Few people invited me to events, except through church or Campus Life.

So at college, even when I saw people mostly at meals or in class, I considered them friends.  So Peter’s comment made me feel like a friendless loser on one hand, and on the other, helpless to change anything.

***

During the rainy seasons, which were fall and spring, worms collected on the big, concrete sidewalk outside the lower level of the Campus Center.  They died and turned black, then covered the slab for months before finally disappearing.

This was gross, and I took great pains to avoid them, along with the many worms along the other sidewalks.  Peter and I still occasionally stepped on them, and said, “Squish squish!”

***

On the evening of Sunday the 27th, we attended the Nazarene house church in S–.  As I later wrote in my day planner/diary, there were refreshments afterwards, which kept us around long enough to have a long, deep discussion with Jim, Sharon and another member.

We talked about occultic things and the Nazarene church, especially of interest to Peter and me, considering his claimed ESP and the psychic element of his ninja training.

At one point, Jim said, “–give the Devil two black eyes.”

Peter suddenly froze.  I also felt cold, despite the warm room.  Peter put his arm around me and pulled me close.

Later, Peter told me he picked up weird things with his ESP.  Unfortunately, I did not describe these things in the day planner, and no longer remember them.  He saw red, and had to put up a mental block because he was too tired to deal with it.

These events freaked me out so much that I even started to imagine there was some sort of evil entity in the suite bathroom.

Looking back, it was quite silly.  I don’t know if Peter truly saw “weird things” or red, or not.

I can say that I probably just got a chill, which normally happens when I hear about something scary, and Peter got me thinking there was more to it than that.

But it’s so easy to scare yourself with imagined ghosts that people often imagine they’re there when they’re not.

Just witness the group hysteria that often occurs in such shows as Most Haunted, when the group has no real hard evidence that anything paranormal has happened, but still everyone begins screaming and running as if a ghost had truly manifested itself.

(Ghost Hunters is better if you prefer actual camera footage and audio of a paranormal event, no fake mediums, and investigators who love finding ghosts and don’t go running like jackrabbits at every little bump in the night.)

One evening, in one of our after-church discussions, Jim talked about how most people probably didn’t read the chapters in the Bible (such as Numbers and Leviticus) about the dimensions of the temple, the laws, genealogies, census numbers, etc.

I had always trudged through those chapters whenever I read through the Old Testament, thinking how terribly dull they were.  When Jim said this, I thought, You mean I don’t have to read those?!  I had thought that when you read the Bible, you were supposed to read every verse.  This was quite a relief!

 

Index 
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:

 

 

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