Friendship with Peter?–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–September 1992, Part 4

Sara loved fish.  Though fish were not allowed on campus, along with any other pets, she had contraband fish in her room.  Poor Sara graduated just before fish were finally allowed in the dorms, my senior year.  She loved to talk about “fishies” and suck up her mouth into a fish-face.

Rachel began going out with a guy named Ralph.  They seemed to fit: both were zany people, I believe they were about the same height, and they had similar, twisted senses of humor.  They made the perfect couple–we thought.

Catherine had two characteristic voices: In one, she seemed to happily swallow the words “Happy, happy!”  The other one was like the doodlebugs on Sesame Street.  She also liked to sing, “Ta-ra-ra-BOOM-de-ay, did you get yours today?  I got mine yesterday; that’s why I walk this way.”

When she saw flies in her room, she would wait until two of them were mating on a wall, then swat them.  They wouldn’t fly away, and, as she said, “At least they die happy!”

She loved to call herself the Goddess of Salt.  We were supposed to ask her permission to use the salt.  No, she was not a control freak; she was kidding.  She also called herself the Goddess Venus.

We all had fun with Pearl’s new crutches.  We called them “crunches,” which a child had called them.  We used them as rifles, weapons, something to lean on, or whatever.  Pearl would just laugh.  We also played with her scooter.  We longed to have our own scooters, and would drive Pearl’s whenever possible.

Catherine, who was short and light, would often get up and stand on a little ledge on the back of the scooter while Pearl drove.

Like the rest of us, Pearl had brought stuffed animals to college: One was Pingo, her favorite teddy bear from babyhood, now all beaten up.  Another was Mona, a yellow dinosaur with a big body and long neck.  Pearl called her Mona because, when squeezed, she let out a moan that was supposed to be a growl or roar.

One of Mona’s pals was a stegosaurus named Spike.  Mona sometimes called people on the phone and roared at them.  Spike had a girlfriend, Sara’s dinosaur Peg.

Since I usually found people in Pearl’s room, I called it Party Central.  When her friends weren’t over, roommate Cindy’s were.  Cindy’s friends were a mix of Band people and high school friends (she lived in S–).  So these friends were often from other colleges.  One was Ralph Z., who loved to make “manly grunts” like Tim on the sitcom Home Improvement.

Amoebas became Rachel’s symbol, because she would say not “me” but “amoeba.”  Someone cut out a cartoon of an amoeba, probably from “The Far Side,” and Rachel taped it to her door.

Since Rachel was the youngest of sixteen children in a Catholic farm family, she had a common phrase: “We never had those.”  This was applied to nearly any toy we had as kids, such as Barbies.

Rachel’s family must have been as macabre as she was.  After a break, she told us about her niece, who was maybe a few years old.  Some of Rachel’s brothers and/or sisters had gone hunting, and came back with a deer.  Rachel’s niece came up and said, sweetly and innocently, “Can I cut off the head?”

Darryl, Marc, Steve, Julie, and their friends soon noticed that I didn’t cuss.  I never said anything about it, but they saw it bothered me.  So in place of cuss words, they said “bunnies.”

This was a lot funnier than cuss words, so they often ended up laughing instead of feeling bad.  Just imagine hearing a manly guy like Marc say, “What the bunnies are they doing?” or “It really made me feel like bunnies.”  Pearl said it showed they respected me.

This group soon became secretly known in our group as the Octagon.  Somebody noticed all the little love affairs and crushes going on in the group, and made a diagram showing who liked whom.  It ended up having eight lines, so it was called the Octagon.

I call them that here because it’s far more convenient than saying, “Darryl, Julie, Marc, Steve, etc.” all the time.  I thought it included Marc and Steve, though Pearl said in 1999 that the original octagon diagram included Darryl, Julie, Melissa, Ned and two other people.

The diagram was put in Pearl and Cindy’s room, but Darryl once came in their room and didn’t even notice it.

Samuel was a good friend of Anna’s.  They were both black Pentecostals, and both very vocal about their faith.  They were also both greatly respected, even by non-Christians, perhaps because of their integrity and sincerity.

I loved to listen to the two of them, sitting together at lunch on Sundays after church, talking about faith-related things.  They’d give each other advice, or talk about what they’d learned.

Grossheusch still smelled.  It was said to be from drunk guys peeing in the halls and stairwells.  The guys also didn’t seem to know how to clean up after themselves, so the place smelled like a trash bin.

Shawn’s older brother looked Latino, and his younger sister was blonde.  Shawn joked that somebody once saw them together and said, “You guys all look nothing alike!”  They both had cystic fibrosis (CF).

Shawn had been in a mental hospital for a time for a breakdown.  The whole school knew about this; he did not keep it a secret. I know the reason why he had his breakdown, but won’t post it: that was a secret, which he only told me.

Peter and Shawn acted civil around each other, but hated each other.  I was never quite sure why this was.  Back before the breakup, Shawn already thought a lot of Peter’s ideas were, as he put it to me later, “in left field.”

I’m not quite sure what Peter didn’t like about him, unless it was the same things other people didn’t like.  Shawn annoyed a lot of people, probably because he over-analyzed everything (as you’ll see), said things nobody agreed with, made jokes people didn’t like, stuff like that.  Even Heidi told him he was too analytical.

Lunch was usually a bit more hectic, with people coming and going all the time because of classes.  But some of the Group would go to dinner around 4:30, the rest around 5 or later, and we would all sit there until long past 6.

We often stayed longer than anyone else.  Thanks to frequent outbursts of loud, raucous laughter and the Cup Game, we called ourselves the Loudest Table.  We were obnoxious, yes, but it was fun.

Once when I wasn’t there, a hall director came over and asked the Group to please not play their Cup Game because it was too loud.  But that didn’t stop us from playing it at other times, probably usually late into dinner or weekend lunch when we were practically alone.

Pearl learned the Cup Game from a high school friend and passed it on to us.  This is how she described it to me: “The cup game had a clapping/slapping-the-table rhythm you had to follow [in time to Rich Mullins’ song “Screen Door on a Submarine”], and you had to turn the cup over and pass it (to the right?) at the right time.  It was loud, and confusing if you didn’t concentrate.”

One night, as Rachel, Pearl, Carol and I left the cafeteria, the moon was full and beautiful, with a star beside it.  Rachel looked at it and said, “Oh, wow, look at the moon!”

Somehow, this became a recitation, each of us with a part.  I don’t remember my part; maybe I made a weird noise from my childhood repertoire, since as a kid I liked to make all sorts of weird noises.  It went like this:

Rachel: “Oh, wow, look at the moon!”
Pearl (serious tone): “Tiddly pom, tiddly pom.”
Carol: “Huh, huh, hoy-yuh!”
Then me.

Rachel: “Oh, wow, look at the star beside the moon!”
Pearl: “Tiddly pom, tiddly pom.”
Carol: “Huh, huh, hoy-yuh!”
Then me.

There may have been more verses to it.

Pearl sometimes got us to all balance spoons on our noses in the cafeteria, like Gonzo from The Muppet Show.

A soap opera club met in the Campus Center lounge to watch, I believe, Days of Our Lives.

Starting this year, no alcohol was allowed in the dorms, just the suites, which were mostly for upperclassmen.

College dorm doors usually had dry-erase message boards, along with various decorations.  Some had muscle-men pin-ups; some had feminine decorations; some had paper animals; some had sayings such as “Drink till he’s cute”; one had a picture of a glowering Calvin (from “Calvin and Hobbes”) peeing.

My friends liked to write witty sayings and draw symbol-signatures (an amoeba for Rachel, a beetle for me) on each others’ boards.

Everyone had a signature, or something associated with them.  Pearl had a smiley face, Sharon had Ziggy, I had a beetle, Sara had fish, Rachel had amoebas, and Catherine had origami.

The Group, the Octagon, and Shawn liked to spill salt onto the table and draw pictures in it with our fingers.  We also used an ID card like a razorblade to cut lines out of the salt as if it were cocaine.  (None of us ever did cocaine, by the way.)

We also liked to stack salt and pepper shakers into pyramids or other formations.  I played Dalek wars with Darryl, using salt shakers.  After all, they looked just like Daleks.

At breakfast I’d sit with two girls and a very cute, funny, weird guy.  One day, he asked if one of us wanted to go see Bram Stoker’s Dracula with him.  I kick myself even now for not speaking up.  Considering the sexual energy in that movie, I could’ve gotten a kiss or two if I went there alone with him, dang it.

One guy became a fixture in the Krueger lounge, watching TV at all hours.  This made the residents uncomfortable, and annoyed them because they weren’t always able to watch what they wanted to.  Some people said he watched porno.  Sara began privately calling him “LF,” or “Lounge Fixture.”

The S– Nazarene Church began meeting on Sunday mornings in an elementary school.  We had two new members, Lenny and his wife.  Lenny had dark hair and a leather jacket, reminding me of Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley.  The Williamses picked me up every week.

Pearl and I and some others formed a Bible study group.  Eventually, Pearl hooked us up with a national organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  Shawn and I were in this group together: studying our Bibles in public, fooling around in private.

Sharon, the second-floor RA of Krueger, said her room was haunted.  Things moved, walls shook.

Shawn gave me a bit of social advice which sounded like a good idea, so I adopted it: He said when people told him about bad or embarrassing experiences they’d been through, he gave a story of his own, so they wouldn’t feel stupid or like the only person who went through that.

Clarissa took “Church, Sect and Cult” during fall semester.  One section of the textbook mentioned Nazarenes.

(I discovered through this book that there were actually two denominations calling themselves Nazarenes.  Mine was officially the Church of the Nazarene.  The other one I’ve never encountered; I believe it was simply, Nazarene.  Their views were very different from ours, not mainstream.  A page about them is here.)

One day, the teacher lectured on my denomination.  He said he knew a Nazarene, and that they weren’t supposed to wear makeup, shorts, pants or short hair on women, etc. etc.–making us sound more like the Pentecostals I’d known in high school.

Clarissa said her roommate was Nazarene and not at all like that.  When she told me, I was glad.

In fact, the only Nazarenes like this I had ever heard of, lived in Southern Indiana and the South.  West Coast Nazarene preachers preached in their shirt sleeves, while East Coast preachers were more conservative–but only the Southern ones had Pentecostal-like restrictions.

My mom wore makeup and short hair; most of the women in my church had fashionable hair and clothes.  Shorts were common in summer.

My decision to wear long hair and no makeup had absolutely nothing to do with religion, but with my love of long hair, dislike for short hair, and dislike for makeup.

In the warmer months of the year, I sometimes sat in a certain tree by the lagoon to get away from everything.  I had to do more leaning than sitting in the little nook where the branches started, and hold myself in place with my feet, since it wasn’t much of a seat.

But it was a good place to read, a private place out of sight of nearby Muehlmeier.  No geese hissed at me there because they preferred to stay near the water.  I privately called it My Tree.

Sometimes I read Lit class assignments there, and sometimes I read novels, such as Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian.

Kids used to tease me for being weird.  Now, I realized that “normal” could be boring.  I did not want to be like anyone else in personality or in style.  I didn’t even like jeans or sweatshirts, which most people consider comfortable.  I liked weird people, such as Steve and Rachel, so why should I try to be normal?


On Saturday the 26th, the day started out with drudgery as I had to work Food Service at an unusual time, and an hour longer than it was supposed to be–so three hours.  I was working at the tray window, so my friends wrote “HI NM” in their fries on a tray.

Cindy took it up, but she bumped the tray, and I didn’t understand what she tried to tell me. I did finally see the message in the fries, though.  She also wrote “Hi” in mayonnaise on her sub sandwich.

For my classes, I had to go to campus events, such as the Fine Arts series.  That night at 8pm was the Talismen, an a capella group of six men, like barber shop singers.

My friends and I all got tickets in row C, but we didn’t know what seat numbers everybody had, so we were split up.  Catherine told me to at least wear a skirt, so I was all dolled up.  I went over to the Bradley building, saw Pearl’s scooter, and went in.

At the ticket window I saw an Asian student I knew, and told her, “These other people make me feel overdressed!  But I was told to wear a skirt.”  Every other female I saw, wore pants.  I made sure my hair was in place, then put my ticket on the sill when my turn came.  “You can just go right over there,” the woman told me, waving toward the right entrance to the auditorium.

So I went over there–and spotted Peter!  He was taking the tickets!  Next to him stood some guy.  For a moment, we both just stood there, stunned.  He was all dressed up as well.  Then he smiled and said, “Tickets?”

I pulled my ticket out of my pocket, and gave it to him.  I contemplated saying something, as he tore the ticket and gave me the stub.  I was just about to say “Hello” when he said, “How ya doin’?”  I looked up at him, made myself smile, and said, “Pretty good.”

(That’s what I always say.  As a teen, “fine” sounded too boring and common, so I switched to “pretty good.”  Some people interpret it as “not so good,” but I haven’t a clue why, because it basically means “fine.”)

Then I went into the auditorium.

I found a seat next to Catherine, and told her what happened, of course.  She thought it good, and seemed surprised, that he asked me how I was doing.  This was proof that our friendship was finally being restored!

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: