InterVarsity Group is Organized

My RA friends, Sharon and Rachel, now jokingly insisted, whenever we referred to the dorms, that “They’re not dorms, they’re residence halls!”  Apparently this was some mantra the school tried to teach the RA’s.

Sometime probably in December, when Pearl connected our Bible study group with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, we began organizing it and making rules.  A bunch of us who were interested in the group got together in Pearl’s room for a meeting.

We began talking about the politics of it, such as officers and how officers are chosen.  I don’t remember who suggested that officers should follow Christian beliefs.  This may have been when a questionnaire was suggested, asking what an aspiring officer believed.

The beliefs seemed to go a bit beyond the Apostle’s Creed and trespassed into denominational dogma territory.

I said that some people of other denominations might not be able to serve with a questionnaire like that, and that it excluded people who were going through a period of questioning and searching but were still Christians.

But Pearl said the officers of the group needed to be held to a high standard because they were the leaders of the group.

A vote was taken, and the majority agreed with Pearl.

I knew, however, that even I couldn’t stand up to such standards.  I had lots of questions about my religion, and when I heard the questionnaire questions one day, I knew that even though Pearl and Sharon and maybe others kept saying I should be an officer on the executive board, they probably wouldn’t actually let me be one after seeing my answers.

InterVarsity meetings, based on a slip I found, were: Bible study, Mondays at 9pm in Old Main (room 22, it says, but we also did room 14, same time, during Winterim and Spring Semester).  Spring Semester, we often used the Phi-Delt room as well.

When we met in room 14, Pearl and other discussion leaders liked to leave on the board whatever they had written there for our meeting, hoping to amuse or witness to the first class to use it the next morning.  We left some pretty strange messages up there at times.  We had a lot of fun with this.

We had some cool people show up that year, even a few guys.  Unfortunately, two left for UW-Madison, one may have left the school, and we were left with only one guy most of the time.  This was Mike, the brother of the pledge master.  But more about him later.

We discovered in Bible study meetings that Dori, my fellow pledge, was quite a flirt.  She was engaged, yet still flirted with all the guys just like she did when she was single.  She told of being a big heartbreaker in high school.

One day after a snowfall, Rachel built a cute little snowman on Pearl’s scooter, in the basket.

One week in December, I got the flu and had to spend at least a couple of days in my room.  I didn’t even go out for meals; my wonderful roommate went out and got me sick trays, or rather styrofoam boxes, from the cafeteria.

Besides homework and MTV, I passed the time by reading about 100 pages of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson.  I mentioned this book before; I had seen the movie on Masterpiece Theatre, and now I found the abridged book in the Roanoke library.

Shawn said once that, rather than sitting there feeling bad about his criticisms, I should turn it around and say, “I don’t care what you think, I don’t want to do my hair/wear my clothes that way.”

I began doing this, telling him to let me be the way I wanted to be and not always try to change me.  But you see, until then, it just hadn’t occurred to me.  I didn’t realize that just because he thought I didn’t look right or act right, didn’t make it true.

Shawn told me once that Cinemax came in quite well in Grossh Lounge, even though it was supposed to be blocked because we weren’t supposed to get it at RC (Roanoke).  The guys there often watched it.

After we had a maintenance guy come in and fix our heater knob, Clarissa and I kept our room nice and warm (often hot) during the winter.  This was a wonderful change from the year before.  Only extreme cold outside made the inside cold.

Some more things about Steve: He had Siouxsie and the Banshees posters plastered all over his dorm room walls.  He said he liked the band, but Catherine believed it was because Siouxsie didn’t wear much clothing in many of the posters.

Also, whenever someone would say, “You’re weird,” he would say, “Thank you!”  Pearl jokingly said, you truly are weird if you respond like that.

The Fire Burns Hotter; The Dreadful Night (Shawn Almost Goes Too Far)

On Sunday November 29, back at school, Shawn called me up when he got back from home.  Then he came over because he was tired of Calculus; before he left, he hugged me and gave me a kiss on the neck that made me curl up.  He was acting so much like a boyfriend that it was hard to believe he wasn’t one.

The next night, we had Bible study; Shawn was there, teasing me unmercifully for being late and a klutz.  He winked at me once.

He stopped in my room for a while, then called me up around midnight; we talked until almost 3:30.  Once, he said, “If there weren’t a curfew, I’d be over there in a minute.”  (Actually, there was no curfew in the suites.)

He said that someone told him a while ago, “Don’t you think you’re just leading her on by always going over there?”  He agreed, and stopped coming over so much.

But from the way he said it, I got the impression that he changed his mind since then.  I asked him to clarify; it seemed to confirm this.  I also told him, “I know I’m not in love with you.”

We had Music History the next morning, so we both were dead tired.  He told me to give him a wake-up call so he wouldn’t sleep in and be late yet again (which the teacher teased him unmercifully about).

That night, Tuesday December 1, even though I planned to get some sleep, he stopped over again, and didn’t leave until 2 or 2:30–even though we both had morning classes.

We began fooling around.  That was the night of the trouble.  Things happened.  I kissed him so long and well that he went into overdrive.  I’ll keep details out, out of respect for him.

Then the phone rang–a wrong number.  He did not do what I feared he would, but he felt terrible, and I was shaking.

He hurried into the lounge, put on his jacket, and I joined him, sitting on the floor.  We talked for a while.  He was afraid Clarissa saw him get the phone and would ask why he was there so late.  He asked what I’d say, and I said, “Only what I have to.”  She never did ask.  He said he’d stop and go home when I said stop.

I longed for him to hold me.  As if he read my mind, he put his arm around me, drew me near, and I put my head on his chest.  I felt like crying, but couldn’t.  I put my face in my hands once; he wanted me to look at him and answer a question he asked.  He thought maybe he should stop coming over, but I didn’t want him to.

“Then maybe I shouldn’t come over for a few days,” he said.

I felt this was wise, so agreed, but said this weekend would be all right.

He said, “I’m not sure how I feel about you, if there’s really something there or if it’s just lust.”

Later, after more fooling around, which he insisted on until I finally agreed, he said, “Now this is a goodnight kiss,” and gave me a much shorter and less intense, but still great kiss.  “Anything else is more than that.”  He also finally spun me around again.

In April he said he would not have taken my virginity that night, but it sure didn’t feel that way to me at the time.  For some time, I thought that was his intent, and referred to it in my diary as the “Dreadful Day.”

For all his talk of not wanting me as a girlfriend but as a “best friend,” we were drawn to each other like magnets.  And also like magnets, we would repel each other.

It was a strange dance, sometimes loving him, sometimes hating him, him sometimes persuading me into all he could get, and in the same evening ripping me to shreds with his words.

But when the words would cease, when we were no longer out and about around campus but alone together, heat filled the room, and it felt like he truly cared for me, somewhere deep inside.

This was one night when he did not scold or criticize.

As we kept skirting the actual “deed” over the many months of our friendship with benefits, he led me into all sorts of sensuality.  He stirred up passions in me that even Peter had not, things I intended to keep repressed until my wedding night.

But the more he stirred them up, the more I did not want him to stop–but felt I had to stop him.  Our bodies are made to keep going, after all, to perpetuate the species; this is not from the Devil, but from our own animal nature.  So when you stir it up when you’re supposed to be abstinent, it’s difficult to stop….

I found a Christmas card to him which I must not have sent, since it was unopened–probably because I wrote on the inside that he made me miserable much of the time.

I have no idea what all the rumor mill thought was going on, since from my diaries I see that even my own best friends had no idea how often he was coming over or what all we were doing.  (I’m keeping out details here, too, not from lack of record in the diaries, which are full of description, but from tact.)  It was just the sort of thing to set tongues wagging, too.

Clarissa was the only one who knew how often he came over or I went over there, though we were seen together or coming out of each other’s dorms on occasion:

I was supposedly still hung up on Peter, though people also knew I had a thing for Shawn; Shawn was the obnoxious and over-analytical engineering geek who told people he didn’t want me as a girlfriend; did the rumor mill have any idea just what was really going on?

It’s possible, since I–wanting to get people to stop thinking I was so “innocent”–made comments like, “I’m not a pop tart but still a frequent visitor at Grossheusch,” and “Sometimes I have to beat Shawn off with a stick.”

All I know for sure is that even Peter heard about it; maybe that’s why he eventually softened toward me, because there was another guy in my life now.

Accidents Will Happen

On Wednesday the 2nd, Shawn and I were both tired.  He told me to call him if I was awake at 7 or 8, but I didn’t get up until almost 8:30.  We both took naps; once he called and said, “Did I wake you up?  Are you napping?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“So am I,” he said.

At lunch he sat next to me; I felt glad but uncomfortable, because of what had happened the night before.

I wore shoes instead of boots to class because I looked out the window and saw no ice left on the sidewalks.  But the sidewalk outside the library, which was on a small hill, was one big sheet of ice, the only ice anywhere.  On the way to work from class later that afternoon, I slipped.

After I fell the first time, I was too scared to move over to the snow beside the sidewalk, since that would mean moving sideways and possibly falling again.  I took another step or two, then fell again.

Shawn later said with a smile that an intelligent person would have known to get off the ice, that slipping–twice!–is the mark of a klutz.  But hey, it was a big hill of ice and even non-klutzes could have fallen.  Getting off the ice was hard for a short person on a wide sidewalk.

Though the report says the hill was salted, and though Memadmin said she saw maintenance crews salting it all day, this is not what I saw.  From my close-up view of the ice, there was no salt on it at all.

A non-trad from one of my classes saw me and asked if I was okay.  She helped me up.

“I got so worried about you when I saw you fall twice,” she said.

At that time I felt little pain, though my left arm had been pulled down by my heavy bookbag and did hurt somewhat.  But I figured it was enough pain to make Food Service horrible.

I went on to the cafeteria and found Nancy.  I said I’d fallen and was too hurt to work.  She and Arthur were concerned, though I thought I was just bruised.

“Come see me if the pain gets any worse,” Nancy said.

I went back to my room.  As I sat on my bed studying, the pain grew worse and worse.  I either called or found Nancy, and told her what was going on.  She told Memadmin.  Memadmin found someone to drive me to a clinic in S–.  My arm hurt so bad now that my eyes teared up.

The doctor did the usual things, but I hated the X-rays because my arm was put into positions that hurt even more.  After he put the cast and sling on, however, it felt better.  It wasn’t a plaster cast; I just had a hairline fracture in my elbow.

I got back before 9pm, in time to get into a suite group-picture for the yearbook.  Daphne yelled out, “Nyssa, what happened to you?”  She and the guy at the information desk found out, and one said, “You can sue Roanoke for millions!”

So there it is, immortalized, a good picture of me because I remembered to take off my glasses, but with a sling.

The next day in Music class, Thursday the 3rd, Shawn walked in (15 minutes late) and I smiled at him, but he didn’t see my sling.

He sat down in his usual spot near me, looked at me and smiled, looked away again–then did a double take and looked at me again.

He looked me over and made a wry face, like “What happened to you??!!”

I smiled.  I took after my dad: When he came home with a broken arm one day, he snickered at Mom.

At one point, my arm swelled up because I didn’t know I was supposed to use ice and keep my arm elevated.  When Arthur and Nancy saw this, they grabbed some ice packs, and insisted I keep my arm packed with ice.  Arthur adjusted my sling so my arm pointed up like it was supposed to.

The swelling went down within probably a day or two.  Clarissa and I didn’t have an ice tray in our little fridge, so we got the ice from the kitchen.  We used a rubber ice pack, sometimes using cold water if nothing else was available.

The next year, I rented a fridge with an ice tray.  Though I never needed it, at least it was there.

I still took showers, but with difficulty.  I had to learn how to shampoo with only one hand, and wash my right arm with an arm that could barely move.  I could only wash my right hand one-handed.  Everything I used to take for granted, was now a chore.  At least it was not my dominant arm.

My contacts weren’t in, either, due to my funk over the night before, so I did not have to take them out and clean them one-handed.  (Contacts further irritate already-irritated eyes.)

I may have asked people to carry my meal trays at first, but I must have learned how to hold them myself.  At one meal, I balanced my tray so skillfully that Sharon said I would make a good waitress.


On Thursday, Shawn said to Pearl, “This week, I’ve been going to bed too late and getting up too early.”  Hmmm, just the same problem I had.  I wonder why….

Shawn tried to find me on Friday, but on a bad time.  Then I didn’t see him at all, except to wave at me as he passed the tray window.  I began to worry that something was wrong, but he was just swamped with homework for some time.  Considering how close it was to finals, and that he had Calculus, this was probably true.

Rachel came over on Saturday to help me carry my laundry, and told me that once, he said he didn’t like me that way, so she and some of my other friends said, “Don’t you think you’re just leading her on by always going over there?”

She said he said some nasty things about me (she didn’t say what), and they stood up for me.  It happened around the same time I got really ticked off at some things he said to me, until we talked them over and I saw he didn’t mean them the way they sounded.

I told Rachel that he isn’t so sure anymore that he doesn’t like me that way.

“He sat by me a couple of times this week,” I said–especially since Tuesday night.

“I noticed that,” she said.

See, we’d agreed weeks before that I could sit with him if I wanted, but he wouldn’t sit with me–to show other people that no, we are not going out.  He’d planned to do this if he ever got a girlfriend in college, just in case she wanted to talk girltalk about him with her friends.  So by sitting next to me at meals, he surprised both Rachel and me.

I showed her a hickey on my neck.  Her mouth fell open.

“Who?” she said.




“You’d better watch yourself, girl.  Don’t get yourself pregnant!–No, I’m just kidding.  No, I never noticed it.  If anyone else [in our group] had, they would’ve told everybody, and I never heard about it.”

“I covered it up and tried to hide it because I knew people would wonder, ‘Now, who in the world gave that to her?”

“That’s right, they would.”


On Sunday, Steve (Head Psycho) sat with us.  Get him and Demento Rachel together, and you get salt shaker wars, loudness and tug-of-war with one of Pearl’s crutches.  They flipped one salt shaker at each other by pushing two other salt and pepper shakers together at its small end.  A few times, it went as high as their heads.  We all rolled with laughter.

I joined in some of the craziness, and we made so much noise in that nearly-empty cafeteria that Shawn, Heidi and another guy kept looking at us like, “What are you guys doing?”  Once, when Heidi got up to go get something, she said to us, “A loud table!”

On Monday, December 7, I saw the school nurse.  She checked my arm and may have given me pain pills.  We talked about the incident, and she said, “Oh, yeah, the school’s gonna pay for your medical expenses.”  I even recorded this in a letter on that same day.

The cast was taken off a bit before Christmas Break.  This was my best Christmas present.  I still couldn’t do much, but I could do more than before.  I was glad to carry my tray more normally and–especially–shampoo my hair with two hands again.

My elbow was tender for some time even after the sling came off, and if the weather turned cold, my elbow hurt.  But it was set well, so within a year or two, even the cold-weather aches went away.  Today, you wouldn’t know I ever had a fracture.

I do, however, have a healthy respect for ice.  Though falls rarely hurt more than my pride and some muscles, I still wear boots for only a tiny bit of snow.  Ice frightened me for some time after the fall, even small patches.

I expected to get sick pay, since the fall wasn’t my fault; I thought everybody in every job got sick pay.  But when I asked Arthur about it, he said I’d only be paid for the hours I actually worked.

I’d have to ask my parents for money again!  Contrary to the student stereotype, I did not like asking my parents for money when I had a job, and when I called them each week it was merely to chat.  My arm needed rest all through Winterim, so that was two months without pay.

A hypnotist did a show on campus on December 8.  Actually, the students sitting onstage as volunteers did the show.

What I remember: One of the guys thought some monstrous thing made out of sausage-shaped balloons was important.  Another guy thought the microphone was the most gorgeous lady he had ever seen.  He caressed, kissed and even licked it.

Daphne, the RA of the suites, sitting in the audience, let herself go under hypnosis along with the students onstage.  (I didn’t because I wanted to watch people make fools of themselves.)  When she came out of her trance, whenever the hypnotist said a certain thing, she ran around and yelled, “The Indians are coming!  The Indians are coming!”

Afterwards, I went up to the hypnotist and asked if he knew anything about mental links.

(I saw James in line behind me, also waiting to ask him questions.  I wondered what James thought about my question about mental links: He watched me so intently that I wondered if he heard about my mental link with Peter.  In any case, Peter wanted me to stop talking about it, told Memadmin I made it up.  But he was a liar, and I did not stop talking about it.  So there!  Nyah!)

I was afraid he’d say they don’t exist, but no, he did know about them.  He said they’re rare, but do happen, and that a breakdown could be caused by a subconscious fear of it, wish for it to end, or several other things.  He said it may or may not be permanent.  If it wasn’t, I could get a professional to hypnotize me, help me find out what went wrong, and maybe set it up again.

I didn’t want to set it up again.  I had also read about them in an old book on ESP in the Roanoke library.  Now, Shawn told me it was probably all just an elaborate ruse of Peter’s.  He may have been right, but at the time I could not believe that Peter would lie to me about something like that.

One night, after a Bible study meeting in Old Main, Pearl, Sharon and I went to the head of the staircase.  I went down, But Sharon stayed up, leaning over the railing.  She said, “Do you ever feel like throwing yourself over?”

She wasn’t suicidal.  Pearl laughed and said no, but I knew exactly what she meant.

Somebody else felt that way!  Maybe I wasn’t so weird.  It wasn’t suicidal, just the thrill of danger, something you weren’t supposed to do–probably some primal urge, such as the Id.

In the midst of everything, the daily routine went on.  Our mailboxes usually held junk and campus circulars, not “real mail,” or letters from friends or family.  Catherine came up with the term “EMS,” or “Empty Mailbox Syndrome.”  But our group would send each other various holiday cards.

Confronting Shawn’s Psychological Abuse

On the 10th, I got up at 8:19 but had to lie down to not get overcome by nausea (the flu, you dirty-minded people), but Clarissa was probably at class by that time.

My first impulse was to call Shawn because we both had Music History that morning.  I could also have called Pearl, but Cindy might still be sleeping.  At least if I called Shawn, it would probably be a wake-up call, the only thing he’d found so far that got him up on time.

I brought the phone (just a receiver with a cord, no cradle) to my desk so I could lean against the backrest on my bed, and dialed his extension.  Two or three rings; then a weak, sleep-laden “Hello?”

“Shawn?” I said in a much stronger and more awake voice.


“Are you awake?”

“Just barely.  I only got three hours of sleep last night.  I didn’t get to bed until 5.”  (That was from studying, and had nothing to do with me.)

Five?  That’s even worse than four!”  (Referring to an earlier conversation.)

“That’s how long it took P– and me to get to bed.  I got my Calculus done!”

“Finally!”  That’s all I ever seemed to hear about–the Calculus homework he had to do.

“What time is it now?”


“So I have 36 minutes to get to class.  Thanks for waking me up.”

“Probably longer for you.” (This referred to his chronic lateness.)

“No, you’d be surprised what I can do when I have to.”  This is the same day that I later heard from Pearl: He got to class on time, highly unlike him, but some other kid was late.  He said, “I even got here on time.  Why didn’t you?”

He said, “My mom called me at 8 this morning.”  (I suppose he went back to sleep then.)  “Then you called.  I thought, ‘My alarm clock’s pretty loud this morning.  It’s never been that loud before.  Oh, it’s the phone.  Aw, man!'”

“What were we going to do in class today?”

“Turn in papers, maybe do some listening to music, etc.”

I said, “I hope it’s nothing too important for me to miss.”

“Why?  What’re you doing that’s so important that you’re skipping class?”

“That’s why I called you.–Probably barfing.”

“Oh!  Well, if you think barfing is more important than going to Music History and Appreciation….I only got three hours of sleep.  So, you see, there are people going to class in worse shape than you.”

“Could you tell him for me?”

“Yeah, I’ll tell him you’re going to be too busy barfing to go to class.”

“Don’t tell him that!  Tell him I feel sick and can’t go to class this morning.”

“Okay.  Anything else?”

“No.  I was going to keep the phone call short, just in case.

Clarissa was a good roommate, getting box lunches for me from the cafeteria.


That night, I wrote to a friend that I still hadn’t barfed yet, but sure felt like I would.  I wrote that Shawn kept talking about his old girlfriend all the time.  I wrote, “I feel like saying, ‘Quit bringing her up!  She’s engaged; she’s gone!  Start thinking about me!”

In another place I wrote that he was afraid we were on the rebound, but by then, we both should have been off the rebound.  It had been twice as long since the breakup than Peter and I had been together, and it was a year and a half for Shawn.

On the 11th, he said that, due to long and complicated reasons, “Let’s wait until after the break to talk about the things we have to talk about, because right now I just can’t handle that and finals.”

On the 13th, I noted that Shawn was overburdened and almost burned out.  This could have influenced what happened later.  It certainly meant that I was getting no visits from him; my arm and flu would also have affected that.

I prayed that he would figure out his true feelings for me, whatever they might be–though I also prayed that he would like me.

I played with him a lot when I saw him.  That day, when he walked up to my table, I said in a fake mean voice, “What do you want?”  He smiled at me.

On the 15th, I’d been studying for Music History finals with Clarissa, when Shawn called around 11 or 11:30.  Even though it was originally supposed to be about music, he asked me to tell him what I’d been wanting to say.  I began to say, “Why are you always criticizing me?  My friends don’t agree with you, and they like me just fine!”

This may have been referring to a time when Shawn told me things people had told him about me.  Since I didn’t record the things he said this time, I don’t remember them all now, but rather how they made me feel.  These things were nasty and untrue, yet he believed them!

Also, someone had asked Shawn why I was sad all the time.  He said, “She wants to be.”  What kind of crap was that?

I was no longer depressed about the breakup, not since probably mid-October or early November, but I had plenty of other things to be depressed about: Peter kept playing with my mind, pretending to be friendly and then biting my hand every time I extended it in friendship.  He spread lies about me and even used the administration to try to force me to shut up about what really happened.

Shawn’s actions did not match his words, and he kept criticizing me.  Shawn should have said, “She’s sad because she’s dealing with some difficult stuff in her life right now.”  Anyone would have understood and cut me some slack.

But instead, his reply made me sound maudlin or morose, like I was too stubborn to be happy, like I wanted attention or enjoyed sadness, like I was a negative person who would always be a downer.  In fact, I am an optimistic person who is usually content.  We can’t be expected to be happy all the time, no matter what, just to please others.

I needed Shawn’s support, not his criticism.  I was being cruelly treated by my ex and needed someone there to help me through it, not criticize me for being upset about it.  This is a common problem for people being abused or bullied in some way, being treated like there’s something wrong with them if they don’t blow it off and pretend it didn’t happen.

I told him now that I wanted him to defend me against the character assassinations of his friends.  Who were these people, anyway?  I didn’t know.  He refused to tell me who they were.

He didn’t even tell me details or dates or examples or anything that could’ve supported his claims; there was nothing to jog my memory so I could say, Oh, that’s what happened, that’s what I did.  They could be people who didn’t even really know me, people who had some axe to grind for some unknown reason.

All my life, from babyhood through high school, I had been bullied by other kids, made fun of and called weird and accused of nasty things I did not do or think, with no clue why they treated me so cruelly when I was nice and meek to everyone, and far too terrified of everyone to do the things they accused me of.  So it was hardly a stretch to believe it was happening all over again with new bullies.

These people were calling me “just Nyssa” to Shawn, like there was nothing about me worth bothering with.  Maybe it was Heidi; I never could figure out what she had against me.  I was just late on occasion to suite meetings; I wasn’t mean or anything to her.

Maybe it was a friend of Peter’s, such as Dave O’Hara, who–I discovered the following year–just listened to whatever Peter said and decided I was a horrible person without even knowing me or interacting with me in any way.

Shawn said things that I could not imagine even doing, could not remember doing.  The only people I could be close enough to, to do these things, would be my close friends–including Shawn.  My old suitemates seemed to like me just fine; my current suitemates, some I liked, some I didn’t like so much after the pledging fiasco, but I mostly did my own thing and didn’t interact with them often enough for there to be disputes with them.

But other than Shawn, my close friends insisted the complaints were not true.

Some of the things may have been true for a little while freshman year, but those issues were situational, had long since stopped, and I no longer did that (such as incessant talking about Peter, which I stopped early in the spring after Sharon complained).

I lived by a code of niceness, sweetness and kindness to everyone, so that others would not suffer from me what I had suffered from others.

And most of the time, this is how people described me, even Shawn freshman year: nice, sweet, innocent, kind, caring.  And usually I was too frightened of others I did not know well, to do any of these things.

Everyone has faults, but Shawn made me sound like this horrible, mean, aggressive person who went around hurting people.

But when I perceived that someone was dangerous for me, such as a bully, I would avoid that person, not antagonize them, since I did not have verbal sparring capabilities.

I don’t recall ever yelling or arguing with anyone, not even Heidi.  My problems with Ruth did not include yelling, just her criticizing all the time and me quietly seething, because she was my teacher and not my equal.

Outside of Shawn, my only dispute was with Peter, and I rarely spoke to him.  I rarely spoke to most people beyond a few simple pleasantries or class discussion, and when I spoke to friends, most of the time it was pleasant and fun.

None of his criticisms made any sense; they did not sound like me at all.  This is one reason why I identified with the description of people with NVLD being accused of all sorts of things they don’t actually do, because their disorder makes them appear to be acting deliberately when they are not:

Perceptual cues serve in the same capacity as traffic signals; they govern the flow, give-and-take, and fluctuations in our conversations.

The child who cannot “read” these nonverbal cues is frequently determined to be ill-mannered, discourteous, curt, immature, lacking in respect for others, self-centered, and/or even defiant.

This child is none of the above.

Like the color blind driver who cannot respond appropriately to traffic lights, this is a child who is utilizing all of the resources available to him in order to try and make sense of a world which is providing him with faulty cues and unreliable information. —Sue Thompson, Nonverbal Learning Disorders

As for him–What, was he upset that I would disagree with him and get angry at him for how he treated me?  Was this why he thought I had these faults?  Were these unnamed other people actually made up to validate his remarks?

Like, for example, he scolded me once for chasing him, but he kept letting me catch him, encouraged me by coming over and asking me over, then begging or encouraging me to do the things he wanted.

If he did not keep kissing and carrying on with me, I would have stopped “chasing” him and turned my attention to James.

Rather, I always let him take the lead, let him decide when to come over or ask me over, let him decide when he wanted to do more than talk, because I did not wish to force him into anything, to be blamed for any of it.  He could have stopped the physical relationship at any time.

When he used my body, led me on this way because every time he said he wouldn’t do it again so I thought this time he was doing it out of love, and then constantly criticized me afterwards, I had the right to be angry.

When he constantly analyzed our relationship, I felt I had the right to respond with my own perceptions, not just agree with his.

I also felt criticized, like I wasn’t worth dating, because some of my theological ideas were different from his.  He’d tell me he wasn’t so sure about dating me because I believed in ESP.

As if I had to agree with him on every doctrinal point or I wasn’t worth dating, no matter what my other qualities were.  Couldn’t I think for myself?

Yet even my Nazarene pastor, at my church back home in South Bend, believed in ESP.  I believe it was he who said we must have ESP for God to be able to speak to us.

Later, in March, Shawn kept asking me, “What else is going on?” so I kept thinking of something to say to answer his question, even though I was probably tired and wanted to go back to my room.  Then he complained that I was rude to keep him up so late that night.  !!!!!  Why did he keep asking me to keep talking if he wanted me to leave?

Was he actually projecting his own faults onto me still, as he once admitted to doing?  And all these supposed faults were his reasons for not making an honest woman of me, a legitimate girlfriend rather than a toy when he was bored.

He also kept comparing and contrasting me to his ex-girlfriend.  I was always found wanting for one reason or another, whether my appearance or the way I did things:

I was too reserved.  I didn’t do my hair like other girls.  I didn’t wear makeup.  I didn’t dress sexy enough.  I didn’t play around with friends enough (i.e., behave like an extrovert).  Everything I did was wrong.  Everything about me was wrong.

Even the first day we ever met, in September 1991, he scolded me for probably an hour, cutting down everything about the way I acted, saying I was too shy and needed to talk to complete strangers.  He’d say his ex was like this, making me think if he liked one girl like this, he could like another–but no, it became a fault he could not get past.

He screwed with my head so much that I wanted to scream.

I wanted him to see me as beautiful, sweet, smart, passionate, creative and pious.  I wanted him to know everything about me and like what he knew.

I wanted him to recognize what I did: that we both liked many of the same TV shows and music, had similar religious backgrounds; he had a nutty sense of humor which I could appreciate; and we could have a lot of fun together if only he would do what he kept admonishing me to do every time he got me to lie down next to him: relax!

But now I was having it all out with him in our phone call.  I didn’t record everything, not wanting to remember much of it, so I don’t remember what I said, what he said.

But there were tears on both sides (him about his past, me about something I did not record).  There were also things he did not want me to reveal to anyone, so I won’t.  He eventually told me I could forget everything he said before I began to cry.

Shawn asked, “Are you crying?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Tell me again what you want to say to me.  I’m listening.”

I told him that I’ve always been told I’m weird, that I’ve always believed it.  Probably from something he said, I said, “I didn’t realize it was more than a suspicion.”

“No, you are definitely not weird, no matter what you believe.  You’re one of the most normal people I know.  Now things you do and say make sense to me.  I’ve found out what it was I could never put my finger on.”

I told him how Peter had been making me feel.  I told him how an old admirer/crush in high school called me beautiful: He flirted with me all through Photography class.

When one day he finally asked me out, I had, unfortunately, discovered from my mom that I was not allowed to date till I turned 16.  This guy then put his hand to my face and said, “You are beautiful!”  Peter called me gorgeous and the most beautiful girl on campus.

But Shawn had torn that all down again, always saying he was not attracted to me, even after spending an evening acting as if he were, making me feel homely and undesirable, when my lack of dates and boyfriends back in high school had already made me feel this way.

Shawn said, “Maybe I’m shallower than Peter, then, since I couldn’t see your beauty.  A beautiful side to you is certainly coming out now.”

He realized how he’d harmed me by always criticizing me, due to my “demon,” the insecurity, the belief of being weird, and the not having found myself.  (I think the last is just psychobabble, frankly, but I had the idea I was supposed to do this.)

He told me to cry, get it all out, because he was there in my room with me, in spirit.  He’d finally broken down a barrier.  We talked until almost 4am!  (Test–Music History–9am, Tuesday!)

He said, “The phone is the best way for us to talk because it’s not physical.”  I agreed.  He said, “If I’d come over tonight, something else would’ve been happening instead.”

As for the “she wants to be sad” comment, he told me what he’d really meant, but that it didn’t come across the way he’d intended.  Unfortunately, I didn’t record the true meaning and have now forgotten it.

A Proposed Cool-Off

We spoke more after lunch on the 17th.  He gave me some brochures on self-esteem from a nearby table, since the campus kept various such brochures by Memadmin’s office.  He rolled them up together and handed them to me.

I tried to put them that way into my right coat pocket, so people wouldn’t see what they were about.  He said they weren’t going to fit, but they fit, and I buttoned them in.  I said, to use Shawn’s recent assessment of me, “I have a strong will.  I made them fit.”  He smiled.

I told him more things….

Then I had to type up “Bedlam Castle” for my final, and he had to finish some delinquent Physics homework.  (Geez–Physics and Calculus?  No wonder he was so swamped!)  But later on, we spoke again.

He said the physical things were going to stop because they felt wrong to him.  From that and other conversations later, it was clear that things were spinning way out of control; we were playing with fire.  I said, “You’ve said that before.”  He said, “Yeah, but this time it is going to stop.”

I felt relieved on one hand but depressed on the other.  It felt like a breakup because I enjoyed it so much.

I suggested we do more social things together, start getting to know each other, hobbies, likes, dislikes.  I hoped this would begin a new stage, that maybe he would eventually return my feelings.

He said, “I can’t be your boy friend, but I can be your best friend.”  Even that elated me, since I’d wanted him to be my best friend since February.

It felt we had turned a corner, that things would be different now.  He felt so sorry for the night that had scared me.  He recited the Epistle verse that we are to think on whatever is virtuous, whatever is pure (Philippians 4:8).  I said I no longer felt virtuous and pure; he said, “No, you are still virtuous and pure.”

The funny thing is, this whole weird twisted relationship lasted longer than the others I had before I met my husband: one year and two months.

Poems of Werewolves and Longing

On the 20th, during Christmas Break, I wrote in my diary,

I’m starting to wonder if I am in love with Shawn now.  I remember telling him, on only the Monday before the Tuesday he almost took what wasn’t his [my virginity], over the phone that ‘I know I’m not in love with you.’  But I think that, even then, I was starting to wonder….

I thought–remember this?–that I only thought of Shawn as a friend at summer’s end.  I badly wanted Peter to reform and return to me.  But, as soon as I got back to school, I didn’t want [what I erroneously thought was a word from God that he would] to come true, at least not very much, and Pearl called me ‘obsessed’ with Shawn.

I go up and down with him, all smiling and teasing with him one day, and irate at him for something the next [one of his many criticisms, blowing me off, snapping at me, that sort of thing].  Sometimes, especially in the past couple of weeks, it changes in the same hour….

I want to tell him, Forget about [your ex-girlfriend], as much as you can–I’m here.  What’s wrong with me?  Maybe the real problem is, he doesn’t know me well enough yet, or his mind’s been filled by too many negative things from those people that judge me so harshly.

I feel so hurt when he does something that hurts me, like Tuesday night almost three weeks ago, or his constant criticisms.  You’re never hurt so much as by the ones you love.  I don’t use that word lightly, ‘love,’ and I never have….

I keep wishing Shawn would return this, and it depressed me when he says he doesn’t….

I hope that love will grow out of friendship, now that Shawn and I have agreed to start learning about who each other is.  I’ve confided things in Shawn that I’ve never told anyone else but God.  Such trust, to tell him such a thing.

(I did not say “I love you” lightly, differentiating it from infatuation.)

For days after our conversation, I kept crying or feeling cranky.  And no, it was not my period: I was depressed about Shawn.

But on the 29th, I wrote a poem about a werewolf, the beast of character assassination.  I eventually used it in Advanced Poetry.

It shocked people; it drew praise.  Julie said she didn’t expect such a poem from me.  It was published in a new, campus literary magazine called Farrago.  I don’t remember if Shawn saw it.

This is the poem:

“The Beast of Backbiting”

They’re a werewolf.
Each lie’s a tooth
in a long mouth full.
Long fur of self-righteousness,
Pointed ears prick at the agreement
of others of its kind.
Watchful, red eyes.
Help me, help me,
it careers after me!
It roars, cracking the air–
Foul, hot breath of judgments.
You have the gun;
I grab your sleeve.
Shoot it!  Kill it!

Once it had you,
tearing with dagger-claws,
ripping for your heart,
to make you one of them.
I shot the gun,
scared it away.
I tended your wounds,
plucked out a broken claw,
an implant of perceptions.
Your hand flew up from pain,
knocking the claw to my chest,
scratching me, though no blood drawn.

Now shoot a silver bullet of truth–
The werewolf falls,
eyes fixed, in death, in surprise.
But it rises again,
snarls, fangs bared,
saliva oozing.
Its pride is hurt.
You shoot again, hit the shoulder.
The beast rages, lunges.
You shoot once more, hit the heart.
With a pitiful whimper and a gush of blood,
the beast dies.

I wasn’t the only one affected by rumors.  Once, a teacher told his class to beat the stress of finals week by starting a rumor.  They would see how far it got by noon.  So one of his students did just that.  I don’t know what the rumor was, but by lunchtime, it was all around the school.

I wrote another poem, a rant about the different meanings behind our actions.  How I did not regret what we did, how my motives were love while Shawn’s were cold and lustful.  The title came from Jane Austen’s juvenilia.  The poem was full of longing.  And no, this one did not get workshopped in Poetry class:

“Love and Freindship (sic)”

What shall I say?
That I regret?
What shall I do?
Mourn innocence lost?
Then I lie!
Longing fills like never before
(or maybe once).
Lust, but for kisses and caresses.
Tho’ a half-emerged wish for more.
No sin here,
but almost.
I’m virtuous?  I’m pure?
Maybe, but what are you?
Same hour, same acts
(tho’ none a sin)!
Float through the moat of motive:
One kiss–
I feel love;
What do you?
One caress–
I feel hope;
Where lies your heart?
Tho’ your heart’s cold, mine stays warm;
One desire–
Yours from below;
Mine from the heart.
I float, I float,
here in these cold waves,
wondering, wishing–
Will he yet be truly mine?

On the 31st, I copied a quote from Héloïse of Abelard and Héloïse: “I ought to groan at the sins which I have perpetrated yet I sigh for those which I am unable to commit.”  I wrote, “That’s how I feel, though I don’t know if I have sinned.  And not only do I long for Shawn to touch me in places that maybe should be forbidden, I wish I could do other things.”

I had felt the same way a month earlier.  (There were things we had not yet done, but did later.)  I copied another quote from Héloïse which reminded me of what I tried to get Shawn to understand: “The sensual delights which we enjoyed together were so dear to me that I cannot help loving the memory of them and am quite unable to erase them from my mind.”

(I have translated a racy passage of the letters of Abelard and Héloïse, here.)


Over break, I’d listen to dance music of various kinds on B96, especially late at night: mixes that went on for quite some time and got especially intense without words, techno, house.  I wrote on the 23rd,

This dance music seems to express, in its technological style, my deep feelings–love, resentment, fear, strength, resistance, resolve, anger–all in one, all at once.  Maybe that’s why I like it so much now.  Maybe that’s also why sometimes I have to turn it of and turn on something tamer–when it overwhelms me.

An hour later I wrote,

I don’t want people to think my beauty is artificial–a perm or painted face; I want them to say, ‘She’s beautiful, inside and out.’  Peter’s mom, remember, told me that I’m one of those girls who just don’t need makeup.

So why couldn’t Shawn see that?

Hmmm….On Christmas Eve, I wrote that I saw a skit on In Living Color that included a wedgie, and “it reminds me of Shawn trying to do the same to me.”  What?

I was glad to see the end of 1992.  I hoped that 1993 would be better.

Reading Clarissa; My Drawings of Her

In my diary and letters from this time, I gushed over the book Clarissa by Samuel Richardson, which I found in the Roanoke library.  I read some of it while sick with the flu, since I had nothing else to do.  Over Christmas Break, I had no homework and nothing else pressing (except lunch dishes).

This was a wonderful, wonderful book; since my massive version (1200 pages) was abridged, I didn’t yet know that there were even more wonderful parts to it which would explain parts of the plot even more.  I read 100 pages a day–which for me is a tremendous amount, since normally I probably would have gotten through 50 at the most, even reading all day long–and finished on New Year’s Eve.

I loved the Gothic feel of many scenes, such as Lovelace showing up in Clarissa’s hotel as a gouty old man.  I’m not sure if it’s called pre-Gothic or Gothic; it’s been described both ways.  On Masterpiece Theatre, which showed the movie version in the spring of 1992, it was called a Gothic.  It came out before the supernatural tales of the 18th and 19th centuries, but had the traditional elements of a Gothic: A young, virtuous virgin is abused and locked up by a dirty, usually old, man.

Richardson’s book Pamela, an earlier work, had a similar theme, except that the dirty man was young and handsome, and eventually “reformed.”  In Clarissa, the man was young and handsome, but did not reform.

The book was far more intense and intricate than the movie could possibly have depicted, with a remarkable understanding of psychology and the thoughts/motives of each character.

I laughed when Clarissa’s coffin arrived and she had it dragged up the stairs to her room.  She shocked everyone in the hotel, who said, how could she bring her coffin into her room?  She said, how could they be so surprised, since it was just a box to hold her earthly body?  She expected to die and go to Heaven, where everything would be beautiful and peaceful.

Two songs became associated in my mind with Clarissa.  The first was “Unchain” by Whiteheart, on a CD I got for Christmas.  I listened to it over and over during Christmas Break, and the beautiful melody seemed to fit somehow as I read.  Maybe it was the plea for God to “release my soul” and to “unchain.”  After all, Clarissa kept pleading for Lovelace to release her, and no longer keep her a prisoner in the brothel where he had taken her.

The second song was “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran, a song which came out over Christmas Break and was played over and over as I listened to the radio while reading.  I also taped it.  The melancholy music and lyrics fit Clarissa well.  The song may have been about a breakup, but Clarissa’s sadness was due to the rape, betrayal and abuse from someone who said he loved her.  When she died, all the pathos made my eyes mist and my nose tickle.

I drew pictures of the characters, to help me visualize them and their period clothing, since characters are often a blur of emotion and action as I read.  They rarely take on a concrete appearance unless I can look at a picture.  This may be because of NVLD.

I based the first picture of Clarissa on a plate in the “Fashion and Clothing” article from our 1960s Collier’s encyclopedias.  This was my masterpiece.  I somehow got her haircolor mixed up: I thought she was a brunette and her friend Anna a blonde, though it was the other way around.

But Clarissa’s features–based on beautiful British actresses I’d seen over the years–were lovely enough to fit her description.  I tried to draw Lovelace, but I preferred the one in the movie, Sean Bean.  I’ve never been good at drawing men, who end up looking effeminate.

I admired Clarissa, the paragon of virtue, and the ending brought me close to tears.  I admired her as my ideal, but did not act like her when Shawn got me alone.  Maybe I connected with her on a subconscious level, since I knew what it was like to be lied to, lied about, and emotionally abused by men, though I did not yet know just how bad it could get (Phil, a year and a half later).

I had no clue why this happened.  I suppose the natural gullibility caused by NVLD, and the ostracism I’d often experienced throughout my schooling for no reason I could see, made me an easy target.  Boyfriends were never easy to find, especially when my faith said they had to be Christians–and even the Christians could be jerks.

I wanted to stop the abuse, but had no idea how.  I couldn’t control Peter’s actions, and still hoped Shawn would stop criticizing me and fall in love with me.

Here are two of my best “Clarissa” pictures.  The bottom one was drawn in 1997.  When I showed the first one to my friend Becky in South Bend, she grabbed it with an “Ooh!”:


January 1993
Life at Roanoke: My College Memoirs–September 1991 through May 1995

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: