Praying for the Buildings

Darryl and Julie had spent the last school year breaking up, getting back together, and being non-exclusive.  But now, Julie showed me a new diamond ring.  She had found her dorm door covered with balloons and the message, “Will you marry me?”

I told no one about it, thinking it was her job, and that maybe she didn’t want it spread around yet.  When Julie told my friends she was engaged, they wondered why I said nothing.  After I explained, they were impressed by my ability to keep a secret.  (You’d be amazed at what I haven’t told you in these memoirs because they’re secrets.)

(Julie and Darryl got married, converted to Catholicism, and then had a little girl.  Unfortunately, the marriage ended some years ago, but they are both remarried to others.)


My friends and I loved a certain article in the Mirror on December 7.  It described the various slang words young people were using across the country.

I apparently forgot all about the word “phat,” because in 1998 I thought it was a totally new, rap slang word.  Words we in the group actually used: probably “zone out,” “cheesy,” “verklempt,” “cool beans”; “bump” may have been used; probably “hook up” (as in start dating, not as in sleep with).

Other than that, we had our own words and phrases, which I record for you.


On the evening of December 8, Sharon, Astrid, Pearl, Clarissa and I went around to all the campus buildings (yes–you name it, we went to it, except the gazebo) praying for each one.  We started at about 6:30, and it took us three hours!  The prayers were for the people who used the buildings and for such things as the safety of the buildings.

I had the idea to have us pray for the campus, and Pearl figured out the application–In fact, she already had the idea before I mentioned it to her.  That made it seem like something God put in our heads.

It was dark and cold and took hours, but we did it, and were blessed for it, the few of us that there were.  I thought it made a difference, even if we couldn’t see it yet.

Pearl’s scooter, which would be plugged in each night, spent the whole evening dangerously close to running out of energy.  After we finished praying, we went to Krueger, where Ann would put it in the basement and plug it in.

It stopped just as Pearl pulled up!  God must have had a hand in that, making sure she could get all the way through our prayers and back to Krueger.

Also, when we prayed for the buildings, some were scary, such as Grossheusch and probably Old Main.  Awful things went on in Grossheusch, such as Pop Tarts and rapes and such, and everyone said Old Main had ghosts.

I got the idea of praying for the buildings after hearing of the séance held by Ruth and her students; if there really were ghosts or some kind of evil in that building, I wanted God to make sure they couldn’t harm anyone, and perhaps would go to their reward.  (I believe Pearl even prayed this at Old Main.)

This may have been the time we started doing popcorn prayers, in which there was no set order to who prayed, but anyone could speak up and pray a few lines after each person finished.  We would stand near a building and do this.

I don’t remember if we actually prayed for the smelly water treatment plant by Grossheusch, but we probably did, praying that it would work well and the pump would not blow up.  (We’d had quite enough of that!)

That Fateful First Date with Phil

One day, as Pearl and I walked across campus, we spotted Phil in his brown jacket, walking a short distance away.  I said how much I liked the way he walked, sort of a goofy rolling gait.

Pearl said, “You are obsessed!” and laughed.

Obsessed?  Huh?  Well–maybe a little.  But there was nothing wrong with that.  🙂

Pearl held another party somewhere around this time.  Phil and even Peter were there.  A whole bunch of people met down at the island on the lake at night and played games.

One game was Truth or Dare.  When my turn came up, Pearl said, “Tell us who you like.”  She, the rat, did this on purpose because Phil and Peter were both there.

I wish I could remember what happened, because it was very embarrassing and I think I managed to tell just enough to satisfy her and not too much.

It eventually got too cold on the island, so we went back to the Phi-Delt suite, though in the end the only people left were Phil, Pearl, a girl named Tammy from another college, Mike S, and me.

When I got inside, I took off my boots and sat on (yes, on) my stocking feet in a chair in the lounge.  Phil said to me, “That’s an interesting way to warm up,” but really, it was a much better way of warming up than keeping my cold, wet boots on.

We got into a discussion in the lounge on men and women.  Mike said he liked to hang around with Phil because they didn’t just talk about what stereotypical guys talked about, such as football.  He put his hands on Phil’s shoulder, and Phil grinned.

Pearl said to Phil, as his brother Dave had told her to do, “So tell us about your six girlfriends, Phil.”

Phil launched into a long narrative.  Some of the things here, he told me weeks later, but I put it all here anyway for clarity:

1–She broke up with him.  He says he never kissed her, though she claimed he did once.  (You really should know whom you’ve kissed.)

Much later, she came to a party where he was with his Vampire Friend Ivan (as he called a friend who liked vampires and dressed up like them for parties), and had to decide which one she wanted.  (Phil kept refusing to introduce to me to Ivan because he was always stealing his girlfriends.)

Phil handcuffed himself to a chair or table, made a fool of himself, and she went with Ivan.

She and Ivan later got engaged.  Once, when they went camping together, Phil could hear sounds of sex coming from their tent, even though they were both Christians and supposed to stay celibate until marriage.  Ivan was into weird stuff, like S&M.  Later on they broke up.

2–I forget how he met her, but he and Dave went to stay with her one night.  She took Phil onto a mattress on the floor, kissed him, and kept asking that he take his clothes off–his shirt, then pants, then underwear.

He went along with her at first, but finally refused at his underwear.  He’d gone from first kiss to almost going all the way, all in one evening, and thought this was way too fast.  Later, he found a sticky substance on the mattress, where Dave had slept, and wondered what exactly Dave did while he was there by himself.

The next morning, he’d already decided they didn’t belong together, but didn’t tell her.  They saw each other at school.

Now, when Phil described this situation at Pearl’s party, he said the girl didn’t accept the breakup, and for two months acted like they were still going out.  Pearl said, “oh- oh!”

But Phil told me later that he never told her they were over!  She didn’t know until they went to work at a summer camp and Phil met his third girlfriend.

He kissed girlfriend #2 while there, and got in trouble for it because he was a counselor and the camp didn’t want this behavior in front of the kids. (It’s a camp for the mentally disabled.  I believe Phil met Mike there, when Mike’s brother was there.)

He introduced #3 to #2 before #3 was #3, and #2 didn’t like #3.  Considering the breakup was news to her, this wasn’t surprising!  Phil wavered, wasn’t quite sure whom he wanted, but finally decided on #3.

3–This was a long-distance relationship, mostly by letter and/or phone, that lasted nine months, I believe.  It was a good one, probably because of the distance, but they both found other people.

4–Phil’s mom tried to fix him up with a friend’s daughter, but for some reason, he ended up with the friend’s other daughter, who, he said, wasn’t that nice.  He said he should’ve gone with the nicer sister in the first place.  They had tons of disagreements and broke up.

I guess Phil went to a friend’s house after a disagreement and/or breakup, and she called him up and said, “I bet I’ll find another boyfriend before you do!”  Of course she meant, before he found a girlfriend, but it didn’t come out this way.  He told his friends what she said, and they had a good laugh over it.

5–This was an older girl who already had a child, so Phil’s parents didn’t like her.  Eventually, #5 found someone else, and they broke up.

6–This girl was sixteen–and Phil was already eighteen or nineteen, and a freshman at college in Texas!  She was a S– girl, and I believe this was during a summer vacation.  I know it was right before he came to Roanoke, so it was probably the summer of 1993.

She also slept around before she ended up with Phil, dressed provocatively, and didn’t understand why guys kept treating her as a sex object.  Dave once tried to seduce her at a party, not to actually have sex with her, but to see how easy she was.  He told Phil how willing she would’ve been to go all the way.

Phil, who wasn’t dating her yet but liked her, felt bad.  When she and Phil began dating, she kept trying to get him to have sex with her, but he refused.

She thought he was the first guy to treat her well, and made this “I love you” sign that he still had on his door when I first came to his house as his girlfriend.  (After I saw it and, amused, asked what it was, he removed it.)

She also was into channeling; one night as they made out on the basement couch, she went rigid.  She was “channeling.”  Phil tried to carry her upstairs, but couldn’t, or else had a really hard time of it, because she was overweight and heavy.

I believe he broke up with her the next day because he couldn’t deal with this.  He’d also been told by a police officer friend that age 16 is not the Wisconsin age of consent any longer, eighteen is, so if he slipped up in any way, he’d risk jailtime.

Phil kept catching my eye all through his narrative.  I wanted to show him what a good girlfriend was like.  From the way he told it, it was rare for him to have a good girlfriend, and I knew I could be just that.

We all got into an engrossing conversation about men and women.  When we had to end because of the time, we agreed to pick it up again later.

It may have been at this party or another time when Phil and Mike tried to update Pearl and Sharon’s answering machine.  They did a Beavis and Butthead impression–I think Mike was Beavis–and said things like a surly “ho ho ho,” “Santa’s burned himself in the chimney,” “you suck” and “leave a message.”

It took them many, many tries to get it right because they kept either messing up or laughing.  Those of us who sat around listening could hardly keep from laughing, ourselves.  Finally, they got the message done, and that was that.  However, they forgot to say whose room it was.

In the days to come, the message caused problems: Some people thought they’d dialed up a room in Grossheusch instead of Pearl and Sharon’s, and some people were offended.  So Pearl and Sharon reluctantly changed the message.

After the party, Phil walked me back to Krueger.  He said I seemed pretty quiet; I said, “Yeah, usually, except when I get the chance to talk.”

He said, “Yeah, I did seem to talk a lot tonight.”


During Christmas at Roanoke, an annual celebration, I went to the Advent Candlelight Service in the Ley Chapel, after which was the Chapel Service Reception.  Phil, who sang in the Choir during the service, looked at me the same way he used to look at Pearl.  (Pearl didn’t want him, so that was no problem for her.)

He sat next to Tracy then, which may have made me a little nervous, but I thought little about it.  They were in Choir together, after all.  I knew Tracy from freshman year; she was the only other sophomore in the suites the previous year.  We knew some of the same people.

[This is NOT the Tracy described here.  Sociopath Tracy was only about 13 years old at this time and lived thousands of miles away.]

On the way downstairs with Astrid to get dessert and hot chocolate, I saw Phil by the stairs.  I had my hair up in a Victorian style: two braids wrapped around my head.  He said he liked it.  I said to Astrid at the bottom of the stairs, “And they say guys don’t notice that.”

Cindy had already told me in Krueger lounge that she loved my hair.  Phil’s compliment was even better, so I often wore it that way to please him after that.

While with Mike, Mike’s sister Wendy, and me, Astrid told us: “Phil did the Hanging of the Greens with me in the chapel.  He would hold up one of the pine branches in front of his face, then peek around it at me.”

During the reception, Phil sat with Tracy and some others in the Ley Chapel basement while Astrid and I sat with Mike and Wendy.  We drank hot chocolate.  Mike and Wendy left; Phil’s friends left; the chapel was mostly empty; Phil came over to sit with Astrid and me.

He sat beside me.  We all chatted, but had to stop because the Rev looked anxious to close up.  The Rev liked my hair and Astrid’s.  He held up Phil by talking to him, so we left alone.  I didn’t like that.


Pearl had another party before Christmas Break, but Sharon, me, maybe Astrid, and maybe Clarissa were stuck in the RC-CAB room for much of it, working on IV posters.  This may have been when we did the display case.

While we were still there, the people at her party called us at least once to joke around with us.  Mike and Phil spoke to us in German and Spanish.  We wished we could be there at the party.  I especially wished it because Phil was there.


On Tuesday night of finals week, when my first two finals were done and I had only one left (on Friday), we all got together again to finish our conversation about men and women.

I put up my hair the way it was for Christmas at Roanoke, and Phil noticed.  Mike couldn’t come; it was Phil, Pearl, Sharon, Tara, and me.  We talked only a little about the intended subject.

Then we went over to the Study Break in the cafeteria for some free food (probably ice cream), and met Astrid and her roommate Chloe.  I think Tara left.

We all played the cup game, as well as we could after teaching Phil.  He kept messing me up, since he was on my left and one chair over.

Derek, the young black man I met when eating pepper steak, the one who played a prince in Lion in Winter, heard us and yelled out, “No, Phil, don’t let ’em teach you the cup game!”  Once, after I came back from the bathroom, Phil was saying something about hair.

Study Breaks were popular on campus during finals week: The cafeteria held them on a designated evening and served ice cream.

We went back, the four of us, to continue our conversation.  (Sharon kept nudging me and saying, “Here’s your chance!  Go get him!”  I kept pushing back.)  Pearl asked us each to describe our ideal mate.  What Phil said matched me perfectly; he later told me that that was his intent, though at the time I thought it just meant I was what he was looking for.

Mine was incomplete because I had little time to think it all over, and because I didn’t want to be too obvious that I meant him.  I don’t remember what all I said, but I do remember saying, my ideal likes Doctor Who, doesn’t watch football, and has an interesting face.

To me, a cute face is not as important as an interesting one.  I have seen plenty of faces which are considered good-looking, but bore me just the same: mostly cookie-cutter or rugged looks.  I may also have said that I like weirdly funny guys.

During this party, we also listened to two of Pearl’s CD’s: Wide-Eyed Wonder and Circle Slide by the Choir (Christian alternative band).  I read the lyrics to their song “Robin Had a Dream.”  We used them to show Phil just how weird the Choir could get.

During our conversation, Phil said to us, as he and I sat on the floor by the closet doors, “Peter says Dave wants to get engaged to Pearl–” Dave’s girlfriend, not our Pearl–“at Christmas.  He’d better, or else I’m gonna steal her away from him.”

Though we laughed, I didn’t like this, and to tell the truth, it was both presumptuous and disloyal to his own brother (and did cause trouble later).  I didn’t think of this at the time, though.

Poor Pearl.  Phil and I kept rambling on together about Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (he had the whole beginning memorized), Dr. Who, Monty Python, and a little of Star Trek: TNG and Young Frankenstein.

We drove Pearl nuts, especially when Sharon was out of the room and she couldn’t talk to her.  She told us not to say Dr. Who around Sharon, or else all three of us would be talking about it.

Then she and Sharon started whispering to each other.  I suspected it was about Phil and me.  They did it as revenge because we left them out of our conversation.  We got kicked out when we stayed a little too long.

Phil didn’t even ask to walk me back: He just did it.  We had a little conversation about the whole evening, and once he said, “I feel attractive.”

“What?” I said.

“I just said ‘depends.'”  (It was a reference to a party-night joke about Depends: do you really trust an underthing called “Depends”?)  At the door, I hesitated, not wanting to go.  I would’ve asked him in, but there were people in the lounge.

When we were about to part, instead of saying good-bye he stomped his foot and saluted me.  This was because I told him I was descended from King Henry, who, incidentally, was the king depicted in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  Darryl and Melissa of the Octagon had saluted me once, too, possibly because of my ancestry (which included a whole line of kings).


Pearl told me on Wednesday that I should ask Phil out.  She said if I asked him that week, it should be for Thursday because he wasn’t worried about his Sophomore Honors final for Friday morning.

She gave me the number, and I borrowed Rachel’s phone book (we didn’t have one) to see what movie theaters there were in S–.  Sharon and Pearl thought I didn’t sound very motivated at dinner to do this, but I did want to do it.

There was only one theater, Marcus, in the whole phone book.  I called it and copied down some listings from a recording, then tried to motivate myself to call Phil.

Clarissa knew how nerve-wracked I was.  Calling up a guy at his home for a date!  Aaughh!  I told Clarissa to psyche me up, and she tried.

I discovered Pearl and Sharon were in Tara’s room next door, and said something to Pearl when she left.  She said to go ahead and call after 9 because “he’ll still be up.”  (But would his parents like someone calling that late?)

Clarissa started acting like I’d better call or she would be upset, and Pearl whispered to me as she walked away, “Call Phil!  Call Phil!  Call Phil!”

I had to, even though I didn’t know if he’d say yes or no.  I finally thought, “If I don’t call now I never will.”  I picked up the phone and dialed before I let myself think about it or chicken out again.

I called twice but he wasn’t there.  The second time I got cut off somehow before I could even leave my name: His dad answered the phone and said Phil wasn’t there.  I tried to leave a message asking Phil to call me back.  I said, “Do you want my number?”

But before I could give it, he said, “Hold on, I’ll get a pen.”

I waited.  And waited.  There was no beeping sound like you get when the other end has hung up and you take too long to hang up your own phone, and there was no dial tone, either.  It was just silence.

I sat there waiting and waiting–and waiting and waiting.  I sat there for what must have been at least five to fifteen minutes, waiting for Phil’s dad to pick up the phone and tell me he’d found a pen.

I kept looking at Clarissa in frustration.  I told her what had happened, and when still I didn’t hear him pick up the phone again, we were both mystified.

I finally hung up, figuring it was now hopeless.  (Maybe Phil’s dad put the phone down and forgot about it on his way to get a pen.)  I probably thought Phil would call Pearl, just in case she knew who called him.

So I was off the hook for the night, but my nerves weren’t.  I called Pearl to tell her he might call her instead.  Jennifer and her Mike were in the room, and Jennifer figured out whom I tried to call.

Pearl swore them to secrecy–Jennifer on her “little pinkie,” her Mike (at my request) on Jennifer’s toes (he was obsessed with them).  Pearl put a message on the board in Phil’s final exam room the next day, for him to call her.

I worked until 2pm the next day, when his test was.  It was December 16.  Pearl and Sharon had a Junior Honors study group at 1pm in their room.  The other students left a little bit after I arrived, since the studying was already done.

I started figuring out who and what to write my essays on, but didn’t get very far.  My nerves were a wreck because, when Phil called Pearl, she was supposed to act like she didn’t know what I wanted–without lying–and tell him I wanted to talk to him.  I thought, “It’s only a little after 2; would he be done with his test this early?”

The phone rang.  I jumped.  Sharon was right–and so was I–about who it was.  My stomach turned inside-out as I listened to Pearl talk to the caller.  Then she handed the phone to me.

I couldn’t believe how easy it was.  He said he finally got my Christmas card, which had been delayed.  (In the card, I wrote that he was a cool guy I wanted to get to know.)  I said I tried calling the night before, but got cut off.

Then I asked, rather calmly I thought, “Do you want to go to a movie tonight?”

Without hesitation, he said, “Okay.”

Here’s where the heart leaps and the stomach churns with joy.  We set up a time–6:50–and a movie, a 7:20 one according to Wednesday’s schedule, which I figured was Thursday’s too.

I said, “I can pay for the tickets.”

He said, “I can go along with that, if you have the money.”  He’d been Christmas shopping, but he wanted to pay anyway, at least for his.

We hung up; I reported to Pearl and Sharon; they were glad.  They asked if I’d kiss him; I said it was only the first date.  What if he wanted to kiss me?  I’d go along with it, I said.  After that, I was so happy and excited that it was easy to concentrate on Junior Honors and pick out characters and works.

Complication: A Rival

[Please note: The Tracy in these memoirs has absolutely nothing to do with the Richard and Tracy of my 2007-2013 abuse story.]

Pearl told me that Phil had been seen at the movies with Tracy earlier in the year, and that he wouldn’t tell Pearl where he spent the night on the Saturday in between the choir’s Christmas concerts. She thought he didn’t want to tell her. But we agreed there wasn’t necessarily anything to all that.

Before dinner, we saw Phil in the Campus Center lounge, about 4:30. I was shy and happy and probably smiled a bit. I could barely hear my own “See ya.”

Sharon said he turned to me when he said, “140 minutes!”–but I didn’t see him look at me, and had to do some figuring to be sure it was said to me. Yep, it was 140 minutes to 6:50.

Sharon said, “Ooh, he’s a hot one–he’s looking forward to it.” She looked in the Campus Shop window and said, mimicking me, “‘Is he getting something for me?’ No, he’s not in there, Nyssa, so don’t get excited.”

It didn’t click in Pearl’s mind, when we ate an early dinner, that Tracy was at the next table with a girl who worked in the library with me. I didn’t even see them.

Pearl told Jennifer to “ask Nyssa who she has a date with tonight.”

Somebody told her, or she guessed, who it was.

Later on, Pearl told Cindy, “Nyssa’s going out with Phil tonight.”

Tracy probably heard her.

Cindy said, “I thought he was seeing Tracy. But if he said yes….”

Later, I said to Pearl, “Whether or not he ever did see Tracy, I have him tonight.”

I sat on the stairs by the side door of Krueger, and checked the other doors two times. It was getting late, 10 past 7–Where was he? I prayed he’d come, and soon.

At 7:12, he came. I said with a smile, “You’re late.”

He’d gotten the time mixed up. He’d been there around 6, then figured out that he was too early. Then he figured it wrong again, and came too late. (Odd considering that he knew at 4:30 that he had 140 minutes.) We knew we’d never make the 7:20 movie (Three Musketeers) now.

We got to his minivan, a brown Dodge Caravan with wood paneling, and he opened my door for me. (He tried opening doors for me all night, even when I’d already done it.) When he got in the van, he saw an envelope taped to the windshield.

“When will people realize I have a mailbox?” he said, and took it off. At first, I thought it was a parking ticket. He pulled a bit of a yellow letter out of the envelope, put it back and said, “It’s from Tracy. I’ll read it later.” Tracy? Just a friend’s letter, I hoped; not a girlfriend’s.

We got to the movie theater around 7:30 and looked for a movie on the posters outside. We chose Cool Runnings and loved it. Afterwards, we went to Pizza Hut.

There were no long-lasting, uncomfortable silences. I talked plenty, and figured the lack of uncomfortable silences was a good sign.

I said I liked to play chess sometimes, and played it on various computer games from the Coco Computer (Tandy brand, 1985) to my family’s present computer. Phil asked if I role-played.

Though The 700 Club had made Dungeons and Dragons sound evil, here was a Christian guy who played it; he’d mentioned it at one of the parties. I didn’t know what to think of it, and wanted to find out more. And I had always liked the idea of making up my own character for a game.

“No,” I said, “but it’s very intriguing.”

“Really?” he said, grinning. “I’ll have to roll you up a character.”

We talked about these things because, on Tuesday night, he said his ideal woman would like role-playing and/or chess, just so he would have someone to play with.

I didn’t want to go back to the dorm right away, so he drove me around part of S– and showed me a couple of landmarks. Past 10:30, we had to go back, to my dismay. But then, when he parked the van, he said,

“I want to ask you something, but don’t know how. How should I ask you this?” Pause…pause…. “So I won’t ask you–no, really–I know tonight was for us to get to know each other better. Do you want to be just friends, or do you want more, with the possibility of a relationship?”

I said, “The last.” Was I about to get the “You’re a nice person, but” speech? No, no! But we clicked! We’d be good together!–

But instead he said, “I’m available, and I’m interested. The only problem is this letter.” He explained what he thought it was about–Tracy explaining her feelings–and that he had to choose between the two of us. He hadn’t been interested in her before, but we both had good personalities and a good sense of humor.

Phil was not attracted to her, but he was to me–probably infatuated. The outcome of this dilemma seemed obvious.

“Most guys would choose you over Tracy because she’s overweight,” he said, “but I’m not most guys. Thanks for being so understanding. Of course, this letter could be different from what I thought. In that case, there won’t be a problem–so I’d better read it.”

He did, and I waited patiently. It was just what he thought. “This line is scary: ‘I know that a movie and a pizza a few times does not mean we’re playing the dating game’–and that’s just what we did tonight!” Tracy also said in the letter that when she saw him with us at the Study Break, she realized it bothered her.

“I almost wish no one were interested in me,” Phil said. “Yesterday, I didn’t have to choose between two people, and I was happy. Not that I mind having someone interested in me. It just always seems like either no one’s interested in me, or too many people are at the same time.”

I thought the whole thing was funny.

He walked me back, and said as we passed Verhulst (the music building), “My brother Dave asked me recently if I was going out with Tracy. This guy in the choir wanted to know. I said no.”

We walked pretty closely together now, I thought, and he definitely liked me.

At the door, I said, “So, should we do it again? After Break?” He said yes with an admiring look in his eye. I invited him into Krueger lounge, if he didn’t mind the people. Inside were Rachel, Ralph, Cindy and her boyfriend Luke, so I sat by them, and Phil sat by me. Cindy kept smiling at us.

Then it was just us and Cindy. Phil asked me if he could play the piano. I said okay, as long as he wasn’t too loud: It was dead hours.

(During dead hours, you must be quiet so no one is woken up. Otherwise, not only do you annoy people, but you get written up by the RA.)

So he played, and looked over at me a couple times with a silly smile that made me chuckle.

Cindy said to me, “I’m glad somebody’s amused by him.”

It got to be after 11, so I said I’d better go to my room. We said good-night.

It was late, but Pearl had specifically told me to call her afterwards. I tried to keep my report sketchy, not wanting to tell everything. Once, she gave the phone to Sharon and gave Jennifer the other line; they had me repeat the part about Tracy.

Sharon said, “Did he kiss you?”

I said, “Hey, that’s a personal question.”

She got all excited and thought he did.

I said, “No.”

She said, “Come on, tell the truth.”

“I did.”

Pearl told her something about Phil, so she seemed to believe me now. I tried not to paint Tracy in a bad light, but Pearl came back on and made an observation that made sense:

“That was impeccable timing on her part. I’ll tell Phil good things about you at my party on Saturday.”

It was almost Christmas Break. I had to miss Pearl’s party because she’d be in Kenosha and I’d be in South Bend, but Phil was close enough to go.

I began praying for Tracy, to keep from being resentful and unforgiving.

Call from Shawn!

On Friday the 17th, my Dad or brother didn’t come get me until after 7pm. As I waited, I got three double-ringers. Each time I thought it could be my parents.

The first call was–


My Christmas card to him probably inspired him to call. We talked things out, finally settled our differences. He said that on the night of our last phone call, his brother had died and he was upset.

(Until now, no one had told me when exactly his brother had died; for all I knew, it was after the phone call.)

Even though he’d left Roanoke to start his engineering degree at UW-Madison, he wasn’t there yet; he didn’t go there until a year later.

(And then he didn’t stay long. It took him a little while to get back to a different college, but he finally graduated and got a job as a mechanical engineer.)

I told Shawn that Peter and I were friends again. Shawn didn’t believe Peter’s assertions that he only got drunk twice, then gave it up, drinking only to get “a buzz.” Shawn said, “He’d come up to me at Zeta parties and say, ‘Hi, Shawn!’ with this goofy smile and voice.”

The following proved that he read my late September/early October letter, in which I wrote, “I’ll admit that I have feelings for you. I always have, and they got so strong last year that I’ll probably always feel something special for you”:

I told him about Phil. “Replacing me already!” Shawn cried. “I must not have been that special!”

I said nothing.

“You’re not denying it,” he said.

I laughed. “Don’t be so paranoid!” (I often called him paranoid during our underclassman years, because, well, he was.)

But he still was, and always would be special, even when years passed without our communicating with each other, even when at times I’d feel angry at things he once did.

Our relationship lasted longer than the ones with Peter or Phil; he was my first sexual lover; I had loved him deeply, even if he never seemed to fully return it. I could never forget that.

The second call was from Clarissa, asking about Phil, about meals over Winterim Break, and for my new home phone number.

After 6, as I listened to Program 4 of the radio version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (a gift from my youngest brother), I got another call. I thought it could be Shawn, Clarissa, or my parents.

“Hello?” I said.

“Boo,” said the caller.

“Okay, who is it now?”

Peter did his hyper-laugh into the phone and blasted my eardrum. No doubt now about who it was. He called to say Merry Christmas because he got my Christmas card. He would’ve asked me to go Christmas shopping, but I was leaving in less than an hour. It was a short call because, as usual, he was busy.

Another Meeting with Peter

Some songs from this time: The “Purple Haze” remake by the Cure was one more of the many reasons why Q101 played better music than any other station I knew of.

So was “White Love” by One Dove, a beautiful but elusive song; I saw the video maybe once on MTV, and only heard the song on Q101 while at home.

Big-Time Sensuality” by Björk was new; the Q101 DJ said it sounded like it belonged on B96, the Chicago dance station.

Other songs: “Low” by Cracker, “Love Train” by Hard Corey and Wray.

Clarissa and I thought we could read each others’ minds at times. We’d be thinking the same thing, or one of us would think of something she wanted to say to the other, the other one would ask, “Did you say something?” and the first would be freaked out and laugh. Now that happens to me with Cugan.

The Phi-Delts put a beautiful, live Christmas tree in their suite.

I wrote this in a letter on 12/23 to Mona S., whom I met at Anna’s Bible study freshman year:

After Thanksgiving Break I called Peter, and we got together for another talk at the Pub. It was easier to talk this time.

We spoke of a couple of his friends, who married at 18. I said, “I can’t imagine getting married at 18,” and he agreed.

He showed me his new Mustang and drove me to Krueger. Pearl and Sharon spied on us [in the Pub] for a while. I saw him at Pearl’s party a few days later.

I’ve talked to him for a few minutes on the phone a couple times since then. The second time was just a few hours after Shawn called, so that was a weird day.

I didn’t mention to him my date with Phil the night before; I think I was afraid of hurting his feelings. I still didn’t know if he just wanted to be friends, or something more.

He hasn’t said anything about getting back together, but other people…sometimes see the possibility that he will. There are certain things that are said or that happen that make people say, ‘hmm….’

I hope so, because that would give me a feeling of closure. That is, if I decide I don’t want him anymore.

See, there’s this other guy now, Phil. I really like him, and I just went out with him last week. If he chooses me over another girl that likes him, then Peter may have little chance. Especially since Phil’s a Christian and I don’t know what Peter is anymore.

Ah, the problems of the big city! [Referring to Mona’s previous letter. She lived in Milwaukee.] Cars towed, locking doors…But I miss it when I’m at school.

I have this disoriented feeling whenever I go home, though, like I don’t know what’s home or what’s the real world anymore. At school, I miss South Bend; at home, I miss school.

I don’t know where I’ll go after I graduate. I’m still trying to figure out if I’d want to be a librarian for more than a little while, or be a stay-at-home mom. But that’s a while off yet.

Anyway, as they say, Merry Christmas and Happy ’94! (’94? But wasn’t it just 1990?) Can you believe how close the year 2000 is?!

After the Pub meeting I described above, Peter drove me back to Krueger in his car, short though the walk was. The radio played I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) by the Proclaimers. Forever after, I would associate this song both with the summer of 1993 and with this event.

As I mentioned before, a football player named Bill would come in the library all the time while I was working, and chat with me. He was nice-looking, though not handsome, either heavyset or muscular, and seemed really sweet. He’d talk with the librarian Seymour as well.

I was almost certain he had a crush on me, and was just working up the nerve to ask me out. However, I hated football, and Seymour and Bill both said he wasn’t too serious about his classes.

I got the impression we had little in common, and didn’t want to lead him on. However, I did like seeing him every day, so if he asked me out, I might have gone.

Then he saw Peter and me in the Pub together. After that, I never saw him again. I felt bad, fearing he’d seen us, thought Peter was my boyfriend, and given up on me instead of finding out the truth.

At home for Christmas, I had two weeks of no homework. Mom put a catnip toy in the tree for Hazel as her Christmas present, and Hazel tried to climb the tree to get it, but failed.

Astrid and Catherine gave me homemade ornaments, and I put them in the tree. I still have and use those ornaments, which are some of my favorites.

On Christmas Eve, I wrote in a letter, “My parents are blasting Christmas music downstairs, so I’m upstairs in my room, and I can still hear it. And they talk about me turning my music up loud!”

Christmas Break was a good time for me, despite catching the flu from my family. I spent it anxiously waiting to go back to school and see Phil again.

I also wrote long, detailed descriptions in my diary of everything that had happened between Phil and me over the past few months. I finally found a guy who wanted to be with me.

Even a flu bug didn’t depress me, because I knew that Phil was waiting for me. I would do dishes and other things, and think of him.

Dad, my 27-year-old brother who lived at home, and I all had the flu that Christmas. I believe my older brother had his own house by this time. Mom, the only healthy one, jokingly complained about having to deal with all us “sickies.”

I saw one or two classic movies on a Chicago PBS station (24? 26?) which barely came in. I’d watch them in my room.

One was M in German with Peter Lorre. I could barely make out the subtitles through the static, and had to try to translate as well as I could; I did understand “der Kindermörder” (child murderer).

I had no idea at the time that my Winterim teacher would mention this movie in class, and that I would discuss it with him after class one day. I also had no idea that, according to Leonard Maltin’s 1997 Movie & Video Guide, the courtroom scene at the end was now hard to find.

But I saw Peter Lorre in the kangaroo courtroom crying for leniency, as the criminals cried for his death.

In another amazing coincidence, MTV, in the next couple of months, began playing a station promo: a cartoon of Peter Lorre walking around not with an “M” on his back, like in the movie, but an “MTV,” and hobbling along crying, “Mercy! Mercy!”

Another movie I saw on that station was Arsenic and Old Lace, which the S– High School put on as a play around that time.

I wrote this on December 27 in my writer’s journal:

“I have to write a novel about college, what it’s really like for the students of Roanoke. It’s a driving need.” Everything else I saw about college in those days was nothing like it. So you see one big reason why I wrote these college memoirs.

I got a VHS copy of Wayne’s World from my younger brother for Christmas. I didn’t watch it until senior year, however, because I feared watching it alone would take away half the fun, and that was the first chance I had to watch it with my friends. I wanted to see it with my friends, the ones who’d taken so many catchphrases from it.

When I saw it at the Zeta party it didn’t seem all that funny; I needed to be with people who would make it seem funny.

Q101 began playing the song “Loser” by Beck. I loved it. It was popular with the listeners. Popular music stations didn’t pick it up until maybe a month or two later, so at first I thought I’d never hear it except on Q101.

Probably now or during Thanksgiving Break, I began watching Red Green on PBS. Maybe sophomore year, I had checked it out, since it was on at the same time Red Dwarf used to be and I thought it was some sort of sequel or spin-off.

Back then, I saw what it really was, this strange show about a backwoods-lodge and the weird people who play in it, and found it moronic. Now, I gave it another chance and found it hilarious. I told Clarissa about it later. I don’t think Wisconsin PBS stations had it yet, however.

My youngest brother’s ex gave him trouble in many ways: She had a drug-dealing friend, was or used to be a prostitute, and did drugs herself.

Once, she came to see my brother; while he was out of the room, she stole Mom’s checkbook off the desk.

She kept calling our house at all hours of the day or night, until my parents finally had to change the number shortly before I went home for Christmas Break.

I think she and my brother kept getting back together and breaking up; I remember him taking off with her one afternoon during my break, and not getting back till much later, worrying us all.

Once, she borrowed his car and it got impounded.

The police knew her well. Fortunately, though, she left my brother alone eventually. But now I had to learn a new phone number.

January 1994
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: