He Can’t Decide Between the Girl he Wants and the Girl he Doesn’t–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–January 1994, Part 1

[Please note: This is NOT the “Tracy” of my other memoir, The Darkness Engulfs Me.  The Tracy of “Darkness” lived in a far different region, far away from mine, and was probably in middle school when I was in college.]

Sometime that year, the Phi-Delts discovered that their sorority was nicknamed the Bible Beaters.  They couldn’t figure out why, considering they weren’t Bible beaters, and only a few of the members were even in InterVarsity.  Is it so wrong for a few sorority girls to be in a Christian group?  I mean, come on!

I probably returned from home on the fourth, since Winterim classes started on the fifth.  Pearl soon told me awful and unexpected news.  Why would I expect it, when I knew I was the object of Phil’s crush?

First, during Christmas Break, Tracy had asked out Phil.  Pearl didn’t throw a party after all, but Phil still saw her.

He sighed and said he had to choose between two women, then said, “I have another problem: What would you do if I asked you out?”

“I’m not ready for this,” she said.  She said something about not going out with him because she liked another guy, I believe it was.  (This was to be nice; she didn’t want to go out with him, period.)

But she and Phil went on a friendship-date to see Mrs. Doubtfire.

The second piece of bad news was, Tracy asked if he wanted a relationship with her, and he said OK.


He said it was because she asked him first, even though I had already asked him on a date and had had no chance to go out with him again before Christmas Break.

Why would I ask him for a relationship when we’d only been on one date?  It was supposed to grow naturally out of dating, not be forced like that.

It was unfair that he chose Tracy, and so quickly, especially when he’d already told me he was interested in me, not her.  So he had three dates with three different people over one weekend and, without giving me a chance to fight for him, chose Tracy.

Not only that, but he was indifferent about Tracy: He didn’t care if it worked out with her or not.  He only chose her because he knew her better and got along with her.

I called him up that night to ask him out, and get the whole story from him.  He said he’d see me at lunch the next day and tell me if he could afford to go out with me on Saturday.

He also sounded embarrassed; he had a bit of trouble explaining what had happened.

I don’t remember if his call gave me hope for him or not, but somehow the conversation got to our mutual friend Peter.  I might have spoken of our meetings after such a long enmity, and being friends again.

Phil said, “From what I’ve been hearing from Peter, friendship isn’t all he has in mind.  Peter says he still cares about you.”

I got so excited that Phil had to ask if I still wanted to see him on Saturday.  I hung up in shock, thinking that after I’d long since given up on them, the “words” were coming true after all.

I saw Phil the next day, and we picked a time.  He said he’d talk to Peter for me and tell him I wasn’t just interested in Phil; Peter could meet me in Old Main after my Winterim class the following afternoon.

I told some people, including Jennifer, in Pearl and Sharon’s room that things had turned out the way I had originally expected with Peter and me.  I said I would tell Phil about Shawn and me, since it paralleled his situation in some ways.  I would warn him not to lead Tracy on like that, not to be like Shawn.

I didn’t know at the time that he would never kiss Tracy even once, and thought he would kiss her and hold her and such and make her think he cared more than he really did.

I told my friends how great it was that I could tell him this now.  Before, I couldn’t, because I feared he would think I told him just so he would break up with Tracy.  Now, since I was about to get back together with Peter, there would be no self-serving reason, and he could take my warning seriously.

On the night of April 21, 1999, I would tell a fifteen-year-old male friend (J–) and an eighteen-year-old female friend (C–) on the Online Fond du Lac BBS about the love triangle.  (J– wanted some advice because a girl had told him she liked him, then gotten another boyfriend.)

Just on that little bit of information, J– called Phil a jerk!  I wrote that he could tell just from that little bit, when I was too blind to see it myself at the time.  C– said that it is hard to see these things when you’re involved with someone.

Anyway, back to the timeline.  The next day, Thursday, I was in the clouds after having been so depressed.  I guess I forgot how scuzzy Peter had gotten.  Peter was staying in Dirk’s room, and had the perfect chance to come see me.  My fun Winterim class, American Film Survey, began.

The first day was mostly an introduction; it was probably the next day when Dr. Nelson showed us D.W. Griffith’s racist Birth of a Nation.

Our classes generally started with a discussion about the movie we saw the day before, and then the rest of it was a movie.  However long our class was depended on the length of the movie, so we often got out long before 3:30 (the time was 12:30 to 3:30).

(I set up a morning schedule in the library–9:45 to 11:45–so I could see more sun than if I didn’t get up until 10 or 11.  It was January in Wisconsin, so the sun would set around 4:30.)

The movies went in order from oldest to newest, and were significant in one way or another.

The class was mostly made up of guys, and some of them seemed to be the type who either were “cool” or didn’t care if other people thought they were “cool” or not.  I was glad to be in a class with guys like that.  They weren’t the kind of “cool” that knows it and gets snobbish.

But for now, I spent the whole class thinking, “I have a boyfriend again!  At long last, I have a boyfriend again–and it’s the one I was hung up on for so long and once expected to marry, Peter!”

I walked out of class with my heart thumping.  I probably dressed cute for this, too: boots, maybe the purple shirt I bought with his recommendation one day freshman year, nice pants.

I couldn’t wait to see him again and mend everything that had been broken in the past.  I felt a resurgence of the love I had long since forgotten.  I was happy and excited.

The class ended.  I looked around for Peter in the spot I had told Phil about.  He wasn’t there, so I moved to the second floor (class was in room 31 on the third floor).

Still no Peter.

I went downstairs to the first floor, probably getting concerned by now.

Still no Peter.

I went outside.

Still no Peter.

Disappointed, confused, and upset, I went back to my room.  Was Peter working and unable to come see me?

I waited both for Peter and for some explanation.  I wondered if Phil had forgotten to talk to him.

On Saturday the 8th, Phil and I met around 2pm.  As we walked out to his brother’s car, I asked Phil if he talked to Peter.

“Yes,” he said, “and it seems I misunderstood what he said.  There’s a difference between ‘care about’ and ‘care for.'”

It meant that Peter still cared about me as a special person, his first girlfriend, but was not in love with me or interested in a relationship.

My worst dread realized.  I couldn’t believe it, and felt sick.  When we started off for S–, I was quiet and upset.

I didn’t want to guilt-trip Phil with what I did say, but I might have.  I was expecting a mere friendship-date, and to advise him to not see Tracy, without him thinking I was just trying to eliminate the competition.

Everyone agreed that he made a bad choice, since she would probably want to be far more serious than he would.

I’d even asked him as we passed the suites, “Will we have to watch out for Tracy?” and he’d said, “She’s not taking a Winterim.  And, at least according to my understanding of it, it’s not exclusive.”

But now I had to figure out whether or not I could say anything about the wisdom of his dating her.

Only two weeks ago I had someone (Phil), only yesterday I had someone else (Peter), and now I had no one at all.

For a shy, quiet, socially awkward (probably NVLD/Asperger’s) person who kept getting overlooked, in an era when girls asking out guys was a bold move and still often frowned upon, and in a religion which expected you to only date others who were committed to that religion, just finding a date was a major event.

It wasn’t as if I could expect to meet somebody else next week.  (This is also why it was so hard for me to get over exes, and why it’s still hard to get over losing a friendship or a friend moving away.)

We got to Marcus Cinema in S–, not knowing what was playing or when, and everything had already started.  So we went to the S– Mall across the street, where I got some pants with my credit card, which Mom had told me I could do.  (She paid my credit card bill while I was in college, so I used it only when necessary and only with her permission.)

Neither one of us wanted to see if Peter was working at the time in the Radio Shack there, because we were both too embarrassed to face him.

We went to Phil’s house for a while because the movie we wanted to see wouldn’t start until later in the afternoon.  I met his parents a lot earlier than I’d expected to.

Phil had me wait as he went into his room, and his mom called to him, “I hope you’re not going to take her into your room.  You can’t get it cleaned up that quick.  You’d be better off taking her into the family room.”  So he did.

The tiny ranch house had a living room and a family room.  There was a couch here, a Packard or Dell computer, bookcases, a chair or two, and for some reason I remember light blue.  Maybe the couch was blue, and/or the walls.

Phil and I sat on the couch and he showed me a new card game related to Dungeons and Dragons, Magik.  I had no idea that this would become extremely popular among roleplayers.

We played one game, with him coaching me, and I won.  He shook my hand and congratulated me for winning my first game ever of Magik.  However, the game bored me, despite the pretty pictures on the cards.

The movie was Sister Act 2, and played at 4:30pm.  We had dinner at Burger King, came back and played chess and some computer games, such as Solitaire and the new game “Lemmings.”

I had no idea at the time just how entranced I one day would be by the cute little creatures, who went where and did what you told them, died horribly if you led them wrong, and made funny little noises in high-pitched squeaks.  (On some computers, you could tell the noises were actually words, such as “Let’s go” and “Oh, no!”)

They wandered across various scenes as various tunes played, and when you got them home, they cried out, “Yippee!” and jumped into the doorway home.

Before we knew it, it was 10:00.  I had some things to do, such as laundry and taking out my contacts, so Phil brought me back to Roanoke.  For hours I’d been wishing he’d break up with Tracy, rather than wishing Peter wanted me.

We sat on the heater inside the doorway to warm up, started talking about the hypnotist I saw on Thursday and the one he saw at a senior dinner, and ended up talking about more serious things.  We eventually sat on the two chairs next to the heater.

Cindy came in and out, and Catherine saw us once and said, “It’s still visiting hours, Nyssa.  Take him to your room and share him with your roommate.”  I didn’t think she was serious.

I know we got there around 10:20 because, as I later discovered, Pearl and Sharon had been around and left a couple of messages on my door, such as: “It’s 10:20PM.  It must be past curfew!” and “Where are you?  I’m sure you’re acting lady-like.”

We saw them when they left Krueger, and they kept smiling at us and at each other.

Anyway, Phil told me some things about Peter–such as, that he was more of an atheist now, due to his ninja training (astral projection, even!).  He had stopped smoking marijuana not because he believed it was bad for him, but because it no longer had any effects on him.

We both agreed this was a bad reason, since pot-smoking was just plain wrong, and we may have both agreed that when it stops having an effect on you, that’s a bad sign for your body.

I told Phil, “I hope you’ll be a good influence on Peter,” since they had become good friends.  Phil gave his embarrassed little choking-laugh, and smiled.

(Pearl once pointed out this laugh to the rest of us, that when he laughed that way it sounded like he was embarrassed.  He seemed sort of shy in those days.)

I said, “Even if you’d been right about what he said–” here he acted embarrassed, and crouched down– “after a couple days I would’ve had to say, ‘I can’t deal with this.  See ya.'”

We talked about other things, too, like religion.  He was Catholic, but didn’t believe in going to confession, because he thought it was a matter between him and God only.

I dealt with my laundry, and we ended up moving to the lounge, where it was warmer.  We sat next to each other on a couch.

I did still tell him about Shawn, because Phil said Peter said I wouldn’t go past certain limits.  “He doesn’t know about last year,” I said.

I didn’t tell him exactly what Shawn and I had done, but I said we’d gone farther than we should have, and that I wouldn’t do it again without some kind of ring.

I also told him the parallels between that situation and his with Tracy.  He saw my point, and said everyone else was also telling him it was a bad idea.

We moved to the lounge, which was empty and warmer.  We ran out of topics, so turned to silly stuff.

He sang They Might be Giants songs, such as “Birdhouse in Your Soul,” “Istanbul,” “Particle Man,” “Someone Keeps Moving My Chair,” and possibly “Whistling in the Dark” (for which his deep bass was perfect).  I’d never heard the last three before.

He knew these songs from a tape a friend had made for him of a Giants CD.  I found them amusing.  He also recited some Monty Python routines.

Once, I took off my glasses to show him my prescription, and said, “Right now your face is blurry.”

He said, “I could change that, but I won’t.”  I wished he would.

Earlier, he’d also said, “If it doesn’t work out with Tracy, I’ll be back on the horse again.  I’m giving you fair warning.  That is, if you’re still interested after some of the things I told you” [about himself].

These things drove me nuts, that he’d be telling me them yet seeing another girl “officially.”

We talked until about 2:05AM!  He wanted to see me again and have another conversation, but he had to talk to Tracy first, and see if she’d allow it.

When we stood up and were about to say good-night, he said, “What should it be, a handshake?”  But he put his arms out for a hug.  I gave him a funny look, but loved the idea, so we hugged each other good-night and said good-bye.

Phil soon told me that he’d talked to Tracy, and she said she never expected them to be an exclusive couple.

That January was bitterly cold at times, more so than usual.  We had subzero temperatures–and an inefficient heating system.  Krueger had rooms that were only maybe fifty degrees or colder during the cold snap!

Some rooms were warmer, some colder; Clarissa and I borrowed Pearl’s space heater because the suites weren’t as cold as Krueger.  Even then, it was cold in our room.  I don’t think our room got down to fifty degrees, however.

The school began to take care of the problem by putting up plastic to hold the heat inside the rooms; they may have planned to eventually replace the windows, but I’m not sure about this.

As for the Phi-Delt suite, it wasn’t as cold as ours, but it was still cold when the weather turned cold, probably in the sixties during the worst of it.

I wrote this poem on a slip of paper, which also had a note about the movie M, information probably received from Dr. Nelson.  It probably had to do with my waiting around for Phil to make up his mind:

The days got so boring
One ran into another
Nothing, all nothing

I decided it would be best to include Tracy in my list of prayers for blessing.  Maybe this way, I could forgive her for snatching up Phil when I was so close to finally having a real boyfriend again, someone who really did like me and was attracted to me, not some quasi-boyfriend like Shawn.

Urbana, a Christian conference for young people, was from December 27 to 31 in Urbana, IL that year.  Pearl and Sharon went there.  Sharon, who worked with me in the library over Winterim, told me about the fun they had.

We talked quite a bit in the library, when I was supposed to be reading my Film class textbook.  We often spoke of Phil.

Once, I said I couldn’t let him get me into Dungeons and Dragons: In those days, I still believed it was demonic (a common belief among conservative Christians who did not understand the game and were whipped into hysteria by Pat Robertson).  Sharon said it was scary.

In January or thereabouts, a new song by a new band came out: “Linger” by the Cranberries.  This beautiful song and the Irish lead singer’s accent entranced me.  The video was lovely, too.  The lyrics were wonderful, and probably reminded me first of Shawn and then of Phil.  I would discover later on that Phil liked it, too.

In December or probably January, I went to see a choir performance with an athletic girl named Tara P.  She’s the one who occasionally drove Pearl and me to her church.

Phil was in the choir, with his bass singing voice; Mike was also in it, with his tenor voice.  A certain young blond man was also there, as were, of course, our other friends.

Tara pointed out the blond to me and said, “I can see you with him.”  He was cute and Christian, but I secretly thought, “Actually, I can see myself with Phil.”

It seemed she always tried to be a matchmaker.  I believe that in the fall, when I’d mentioned the blond guy (a different one) at her Evangelical Free church, she said she could see us together.

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: