December 1994–Moving On and Meeting the Vampire

No, I haven’t slipped and mixed up my college memoirs with my vampire fiction.  You’ll see what I mean later on.

Moving On

Though the residents of each apartment had been given a bucket with cleaning supplies in the fall, the supplies were woefully inadequate.  One of the many inadequacies: There was no drain stopper for the sink, making it hard to do dishes.

So after Thanksgiving, along with the other cleaning supplies I brought, I brought a plastic drain stopper.  Unfortunately, while making mac and cheese one Saturday morning, I thoughtlessly poured the hot water into the sink with the stopper in it.  It melted one side of the stopper and warped it, so we couldn’t use it anymore.

But after Christmas Break I brought back a new one, so our water wouldn’t drain out anymore.

After Thanksgiving Break, I also cleaned the bathroom before my roommies returned.  We heard rumors that the cleaning people would do that over Break.  But I, the first person back, saw they didn’t.

I turned on New Rock 102 as I used my newly-bought bottle of Lysol and washable bathroom rags.  Before, all we had were glass cleaner and sponges to clean the toilet and sinks, so horribly unsanitary!

When Tara and Pearl came back, I unpacked in my room and waited for them to notice the clean bathroom.  Tara soon cried, “It smells so clean!”  They thought the cleaning people did it, but I told them it was me, and showed them our wonderful new cleaning supplies.

One day, I tried to vacuum the apartment, but the vacuum just spit everything back out again.  None of us knew at the time that this just meant the bag was full and needed to be changed.  We thought the vacuum was broken, and stopped using it.  So forget the stereotype that housecleaning is genetically programmed into women.

In the weeks that followed, dust bunnies and hairballs collected and multiplied on the floor, until we were finally told what was wrong with the vacuum.

****

Mike kept playing classic/90s rock stations in his car as he drove us around, so I began to get a taste for that.  I liked it somewhat before, but not as much as I did now.  Some of it I still didn’t like much, but I got into songs by Ozzy Osbourne and others.  “No More Tears” kept playing, and I thought it was new, but later found it was actually from 1992.

I couldn’t stand WIXX anymore.  I had to play dance station Hot 102, or (its new name and format) New Rock 102.1, or Lazer 103 or 93Q, or my Christian tapes and CD’s.  I couldn’t stand what they called pop music in those days: It was so inane, dull, slow or strange (and not strange in a good way).

****

Sharon watched Babylon 5.  I saw my first episode of it with her, the one in which Lando wants to choose between his three wives and divorce two of them.  I thought it was funny.

I was also surprised, because when the show first started sophomore year, I looked at the promos and thought it was just a rip-off of both Dune and Deep Space 9.  I saw similarities in the concept, the name, Lando’s look, etc.

Clarissa watched it and tried to tell me it wasn’t like that, that it was actually very good and won awards, but I still didn’t want to watch it.  I don’t remember if I watched it again with Sharon, but I did start watching it later on with Cugan.  I loved it now.

Sharon and Tara kept having little “spats.”  One jokingly yelled at the other, and they got into a big, fake argument.  Or, as they sat on the couch, Sharon, who loved to put her head on people’s shoulders, put it on Tara’s.  Tara cried out and told her not to.  Sharon just laughed, and here came another “spat.”

Then there was Sharon herself.  She’d often hum, sing or sigh.  She had a funny sigh, which went from a high pitch down to a low pitch.  She said it often came while she was sad or deep in thought.  It was the Sharon sigh, a Sharon-ism, as we called it.

Every once in a while, Sharon got into giggle fits.  Though nothing particularly funny happened, she started giggling.  Sometimes it was infectious, and Pearl or someone else giggled with her.  She couldn’t explain it.

After one of our recent snows, Sharon started the habit of throwing snowballs at her roommates as we went to the Campus Center for meals.  Whether we all walked together or met each other on the way, the threat of getting hit with a snowball was imminent.  We often tried to retaliate.

I don’t know where it came from, but we took on a new catchphrase: “Rude, crude and socially unacceptable!”

Mike was now my major crush–and Sharon’s.  The girl he liked didn’t like him back, which made us both happy.  We were in a friendly rivalry, and if either of us won, the other would be happy for her.

At the beginning of the semester I wanted to live in S– after graduation, but now I decided to return home to South Bend instead.  I wanted to get away from Phil and Persephone for good, leave their memory in the dust, and go somewhere where they would never be.  Life would go on as if they’d never existed.  No South Benders would know them, and they would have no effect on anything.

Tara started calling Sharon “Aron-Shay,” her name in Pig Latin. She’d walk into the apartment and yell for Aron-Shay.  (It sounds even better with Sharon’s real name.)

Sometime that year, Sharon the Psych Major spoke of reinforcing a person’s behavior by rewarding the good things he does.  She said she would do this with her future husband: If he did something she liked, she’d reinforce his behavior with sex.

Ever after, whenever any of us spoke of “reinforcing his behavior,” it was a metaphor for sex, and we laughed.  If someone spoke of reinforcing the behavior of someone other than her future husband, even if she didn’t mean sex, our reaction was, “Eww!” or “Ooo!”

I already dressed nicely, but now I did it for Mike, to get his attention.  I was starting to want Phil back less and less, and want Mike instead.

Sometime in December, after driving our group somewhere, Mike drove us around H– so we could see the lovely Christmas lights on the houses.  He also showed us the house of a Roanoke teacher, who was his uncle.

Once, possibly after we stopped at the Buschwood Bar for a while (more on Buschwood later), he drove us on a lonely, country road.  We got lost.  It was great.

One day, we passed the cars in the parking lot, which were covered in snow.  Pearl drew a smiley face–her “signature”–in the snow on the window of one of the cars.

Sometime that year, the show Friends began playing on NBC.  Having no idea that it would be wildly popular the next year, I began watching it.  I thought it was funny and liked the theme song.  (Of course, a couple years later, when it became omnipresent on the radio, it began to annoy me.)

When Ross said how much he wished Rachel would realize he was the kind of guy she said she was looking for, I began hoping they would start dating.  I also liked the monkey.  It was several years yet before the show jumped the shark and started annoying me.

I’m not sure when exactly it jumped the shark, just that the jokes became forced, Ross became a dweeb, and even Phoebe turned mean.  I think it was some time around 2001.

We wanted to give Mike a nickname, and decided on “Flip” because he was always, well, flipping, falling over, things like that.  But his mom would have none of it.  She said, “We named you Mike after Michael in the Bible, and we want you called Mike.”

Mike danced like a muppet, and years later I saw on Facebook that he loves the Muppets, so it all fits.

****

On the Friday just before December 4, I went out shopping with Pearl, Mike and Tara.  After getting something to eat at Country Kitchen, we all went to Buschwood, a classy, yuppie bar.  I remember it as the Red Bar, because everything was red and new.

My friends were excited about being able to go to bars now (no, they never used fake ID).  I was curious, but I think they got more out of it than I did.

Mike (our driver) and I had Coke.  Pearl and I went to the bathroom, came back, I tasted my Coke–and it tasted sweeter than it should.  Mike, the future preacher, had gotten Tara to spike my Coke with her Blue Hawaii!

I liked it too much and didn’t want to start drinking, still being the Nazarene teetotaler, so I didn’t touch my Coke afterwards.

(As it turns out, I wouldn’t have liked drinking anyway.  I recently tried some Zinfandel and a wine cooler.  I can’t stand the taste of alcohol or the burn as it goes down.)

I think we went there at least one more time.  We were shocked to not get carded, especially with Mike wearing his high-school jacket.

At least one of the times, Mike tripped, fell and even broke a glass–and he was drinking only water.  It was as if he were drunk on water.  One time he even said, “Don’t worry, I’m driving.”  I think once my friends wanted me to drive instead, but I said they wouldn’t want that because I hadn’t driven in years.

****

Sharon and I took up the habit of “-ness”ing back and forth to each other when we walked to the Campus Center and it was cold.  That is, we’d say, “Coldness!”  “Freezingness!”  “Brrness!”

Randy, Mike and I had Intro to Christianity together.

I liked both of them, sometimes one more than another, and I kept hoping, back when I dated Charles, that they wouldn’t think I was “off-limits.”

Liking Mike was frustrating, so instead I asked him to set me up with Randy.  But he didn’t set me up, just gave me his number.  I felt like, “Yeah, right, just call Randy up and have him think I’m a crazy woman, calling him up when we don’t even know each other very well.”

I’d known Randy since freshman year, but not very well: He’d always been Peter’s friend or Cindy’s friend (and now, apparently, Phil’s friend), and we never had classes together until now.

One day, when Sharon and I worked at the circulation desk together, I told her I liked Randy.  He came in the library and talked with me about a class assignment, then said with a smile, “See you in class.”  Sharon saw all this and said after he left, “Ooh, I think he likes you!  Did you hear the way he said, ‘See you in class’?”

I sent him a Christmas card, not all gushy or mushy or anything or admitting my feelings, but a friendly card.  I hoped it would be a first step toward dating him.

Just look at this difference: After Peter, I was afraid to actually pursue anyone except Shawn.  But this time, after Phil, I pursued guys in various ways, rather than sitting around waiting for Phil to come back.

On the 5th, I wrote in the Journal,

I have been feeling better lately, but I do still have my down times.  My dreams sometimes oppress me, and there’s a sad undercurrent much of the time for me.

But the weird thing is, I’m often happy, or at least cheerful, at the same time.  It seems like I get rid of one guy-problem and then another one pops up.

I hope they stop popping up, one of these days.  I’m really sick of them.  My life here is such a soap opera, and just as twisted… I keep wishing P. would disappear from the face of the earth….

A paper I wrote for American Literature, “Richardson and Dickinson–Two ‘Feminist’ Writers,” shows the evolution of my thinking since marriage to an abusive husband: 

First I agreed with voluntary submission, but not forced obedience.  Now, I was turning more and more feminist, beginning to reject the idea of submission altogether, except when it’s mutual (the husband and wife submitting to each other). 

My teacher suggested I turn my paper into my Senior Honors Thesis, for which he would be my adviser.

Phil Spreads Lies About Me

This probably happened between December 5 and 12, though not the Friday before December 12: My choir friends went to a church to practice for their upcoming tour.  They would perform Handel’s Messiah in churches, including the Hallelujah chorus–most impressive of all.  They weren’t going to do it at Roanoke, so this was my only chance to hear them.

I came along to help Pearl with her wheelchair, because my friends said I should come and watch the practice.  I believe they first practiced in the sanctuary, but for some reason I wasn’t in there.

Instead, I stayed nearby and wandered around a bit.  It’s quite possible they went there just to do the Hallelujah chorus, and I wasn’t able to go in there, but went looking for the bathroom.

Later, they moved to a choir room.  Just as my friends suspected, the choir director didn’t mind me watching.  Somebody said she’d love it.

I felt a bit uncomfortable having to face the choir as I listened, the only place I could sit, and I flipped through a Life magazine while I listened to keep from looking at them and feeling weird.

But the singing was lovely.  I don’t think I’d ever heard the choir sing better.  The choir director asked me, and I told her how wonderful it sounded.

(Phil wasn’t in the choir this year, so I didn’t have to deal with him.  He had been trying to get away from the Singers and the choir, though the director wanted to keep him in.)

Remember Ned, the tall blond who flirted with every girl who moved, dated Catherine for a while, then dated Melissa, and did Virtual Reality shows with Darryl?  He was there, though he’d graduated, because he was in the S– Symphony Orchestra that accompanied the choir during the tour.  He came over once and hugged Pearl.

****

One day, Clarissa showed me a weird cartoon called Two Stupid Dogs.  I’m almost certain that’s where this line came from for Dolphin Philosophy: “I’m your friend.  You don’t eat your friends!”

****

We had InterVarsity meetings every Tuesday in the Muskie conference room.  We ate dinner there together.  On December 6, Persephone said at the meeting,

“I’m going to break up with Phil.  His parents have been harassing me.  They keep calling every half-hour looking for him when he’s not in my room.  I’ve had mono, but they act like I’m not really sick because I’m up and around now.”

Mike said at one Tuesday meeting that he got a totally unexpected letter from a high school friend he hadn’t heard from in years.  This made me think I should start writing letters to my old high school friends, just out of the blue, like that girl did.  So I wrote a few, though none of them wrote back.

****

Cindy wanted to set up Tara with Randy, but was afraid to because she also tried to set up two people back in freshman or sophomore year.  I didn’t know much about that, but heard it was a big fiasco, and the two people ended up hating each other.

To our surprise, Tara had never met Randy before.  One night during Winterim, Sharon and I tried to reassure her that he was cute and a nice guy.

I had all my Roanoke yearbooks there in my room, so Sharon and I went through them to find pictures of him to show to her.  We finally found his freshman year Cross Country and Track picture, the best we could find.

Tara and Randy decided to meet in the computer lab one night before going out on a date.

They liked each other, and Randy said to Cindy, “She’s so sweet!”  Cindy asked Tara for Randy, “Do you like Bryan Adams?”  Tara loved Bryan Adams.

They had a few other things in common, too.  I said with a smile, “Sounds like a perfect match!”

They decided to start dating, and Tara dressed up for her first date in great anxiety.  She still feared they wouldn’t like each other.  Pearl and Sharon went to her and Pearl said,

“Tara, we’ve decided to live vicariously through you.”  They, like me, had trouble getting dates, and wanted to know everything that happened on Tara and Randy’s date.

The first date must have gone well, because not only did they become a couple, they got married in 1997.  For the rest of senior year, Randy was a common guest in the apartment, which we welcomed–since, after all, Tara never had to kick her roommies out of her bedroom.

****

On the 10th, I wrote a paper for American Lit titled, Richardson and Dickinson–Two “Feminist” Writers.  I noted that both writers–though Samuel Richardson had a different idea of what a proper wife “should” do–depicted

women as capable on their own, and happiness in marriage does not necessarily occur.  Both portrayed women as quite able to be equal to men, if only given the chance.  Such concepts were quite unusual for the day.

Though Richardson’s view of a wife’s role was more traditional, he hardly expected women to be just ornamental or silly, unreasoning creatures.  His novel Clarissa depicted an intellectual and pious young woman, who often acted wisely, though at times she was trapped by her own piety.

For example, her friend Anna Howe noted that if she had not been such a dutiful and sweet-tempered daughter, her family would never have thought they could force her to marry “the odious Solmes.”  She said, in modern terms, that you teach people how to treat you.

Clarissa’s mother, though a perfectly submissive wife, was also trapped by her submission, because she became a doormat, depended on by the rest of the family to submit to anything her husband required her to do.

She felt obliged to go along with her husband when he decided, on his son’s advice, to force Clarissa to marry a contemptible man who offended all her sensibilities.  (Think Wormtail from the Harry Potter series, only with money and land.)

Clarissa agreed that she would have to submit to her husband–but she at least wanted a husband who was worth submitting to and trusting.  Richardson obviously felt women should decide whom to marry, and not just have it decided for them.

Dr. Nelson wrote on my paper, “I’m impressed by your reading–the amount you’ve read and your impassioned condemnation of standards women had to live up to in the 18th and 19th centuries.”

He also wrote that I needed to expand my analysis.  He wrote, “There’s definitely a senior honors thesis to be done here–‘Rebellious women in 18th and 19th century Anglo-American Literature’ or some such.”

****

On the 11th, Anna told me she was wrong about the guy she thought God planned for her to marry!  She had all these “proofs” that God was telling her to marry him, yet he was going out with other girls, not her.

Still, for the past couple of years, she believed he would one day be hers.  Then she found out in November that he was engaged–to someone else.

That’s when she realized it was the Devil’s lies and not God at all.  This also shook my faith in my own fleeces about Phil.

****

By December 15 I sent Mike the following note:

Querido Miguel,

¿Tienes mucho hambre?  ¿Tienes mucha cumtha?  Tienes muy guapos ojanaddiz.  No estas un dorcos pero un uchasosio.

Estrella

I signed it “Estrella” to hide who I was, since you don’t need a return address for on-campus mail.  The meaning was,

“Are you very hungry? Do you have a lot of (Nonsense word: food)?  You have very handsome (nonsense word: eyes + nose).  You are not a (nonsense word: dork) but a (nonsense word: U.C.C. member).”

Yes, it was a joke, something he couldn’t translate.  Pearl told me he went mad trying to translate it, and wondered why someone would send him that.  He soon found out who sent him the message.

I also sent this to Astrid around the same time, and signed it with the name I picked for myself in German class in high school:

Liebe Astrid,

Guten Tag, meine Freundin!  Bist du gut aufgelegt?  Hoffentlich hast du ein guten Tag.  Und hier ist ein gutes Lied:

Mein Hut, er hat drei Ecken,
Drei Ecken hat mein Hut.
Hat er nicht drei Ecken,
Er ist nicht mein Hut!

Jutta-Uschi

It meant, “Hello, my friend!  Are you in a good mood?  Hopefully you’re having a good day.  And here is a good song:”

The following is an actual, German drinking song, which Frau taught my German class:

“My hat, it has three corners, / Three corners has my hat. / If it doesn’t have three corners, / It is not my hat!”

I received many Christmas cards with wonderful messages.  My favorites:

From Sharon: “I really enjoy having you as a roomie.  You’re a great person–one of the most unique people I know.  I thank God for friends like you.”

From Mike: “Who hatched the egg that [our teacher] laid?  We did!”

****

Charles knew Phil, who kept trying to be friends with him, but Charles thought he was trying too hard.  Charles didn’t like people pushing to be his friend.

I talked with Pearl the night of the fifteenth, and she told me that Randy had started to be good friends with Phil now.

Randy used to be friends with Peter freshman year, before Peter started smoking weed and embarrassed Randy at a family function by bragging about it.

It seemed like some sort of requirement that my exes be friends with each other and with Randy at some point, and that they join the Zetas (which Charles did in the spring).  It was weird.

But then, I guess that’s small-college life for you.  Fortunately, Randy didn’t seem to like or stay friends with Phil for long.

I feared that Randy’s friendship with my exes explained why he didn’t want to date me, that they poisoned his mind against me with lies.  But Cindy set him up with Tara, and they eventually got married, so it no longer mattered anyway.

Cindy told Pearl that Randy told her that Phil said I forced him to go to Indiana and stay there for the summer, that my parents wanted to check him out and see if they wanted him to keep dating me.

This blatant lie shocked me.  I wanted to confront him about this as soon as possible.

I already wanted him to get out of my life and go far away where I would never see or hear of him again.  I did not want him back anymore.  But this was the last straw that sent me over the edge; I wanted the controlling and abuse to stop once and for all.

I didn’t see him, so I wrote a note.  Furious, I mailed it without letting it sit for long, which I shouldn’t have done, since I wrote some things that were mean, not just righteously angry.

I still regret them, and did later apologize for them, when I found him online years later.

But among the mean things, I wrote many things I never regretted, because they confronted him with the lies he kept spreading about me.  Sometimes such letters must be sent to get closure.

I told him what I just heard, that he knew it was a lie, and if he kept lying, I would report him to Memadmin.

I said I’d been trying to forgive him, but he wasn’t making it any easier.

I said I was sick of his abuse and being his scapegoat for what went wrong.  

I did give him a chance to tell me if the report I heard was wrong, but I also wrote, “Leave me and my life alone.”  Though I didn’t think of calling him a stalker, I probably could have justifiably.

Over Christmas Break, I worried whenever I thought of the note, whether it was really justified, and what would be the results.

When I got back to school, I kept expecting to open my mailbox to a scathing reply, but got nothing.  No defense, no cries of being unjustly accused.  Just complete and utter silence–not even to say hi or nod when we passed on the sidewalk.

I later learned that the school counselor (bless her heart) told him to stay away from me.  Finally, peace!

He told Pearl he didn’t say those things.

But I don’t believe him because, as I told you in the July & August 1994 chapter, one day over the summer he went on and on, reproaching me about the things he gave up to stay with me over the summer.  Though I never forced him to stay with me, he talked that day as if I had.  

And I’ve also shown you in the September 1994 chapter how he pretended to be depressed and lied to Dirk because he wanted Dirk and his roommates to feel a certain way.  He told his friends lies about me, lies which kept coming back to me, so why wouldn’t I believe he said this as well?  

I knew he used his acting ability to lie and manipulate.  Why wouldn’t he do the same to Pearl?

Once, right after I got back in January, I saw him sitting alone with Persephone, in a solitary part of the cafeteria.  He saw me.  He sat all hunched over and upset-like, his head down and his fists up to his shoulders.

Ever since then, he gave me weird looks when he saw me.  Like he felt guilty or was mad at me or just didn’t know what to say to me–I really don’t know which.

For a while, even Persephone seemed to look at me oddly, almost as if she feared to talk to me or something.  Then she talked to me sometimes, but I tried to avoid her.

I didn’t trust her.  I felt like she and certain others could be kind of like spies, whether they knew it or not: Anything I said or did around them could get reported to Phil, so I tried to guard myself around them and avoid them.

What College Kids Do With Snow

Sometime in December, possibly the weekend of Saturday, December 17 (during finals, which ended the next week), Mike’s family held a Christmas party.  They invited me, along with my friends and a lot of people I didn’t know.  Several international students were there.

At times I felt depressed because Phil was gone; at times I felt angry at Phil’s lies.  But this sorrow interlaced with joy at having fun with my friends.

When I walked into the party in the basement, Mike greeted me as “Estrella” in front of a bunch of people.  That’s when I knew he knew who was writing him “Estrella” letters in made-up Spanish.

He distorted the name in whatever way he could to find new nicknames for me, and settled on “Australia” and “Store.”  I finally had another nickname–and this one actually stuck, at least with him.  Years later, he still calls me “Store” in e-mails.

We all sang along with a player piano.  We sang Christmas songs, show tunes and popular songs, whatever people requested.

Now, normally I don’t like singing anything, especially show tunes.  But there was something about this player piano that lured even this metalhead/alternative fan.  I think Charles was there, and he was also a metalhead/alternative fan.  I think Persephone was there as well, and she never struck me as the show tune type.

I requested “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” thinking it was like the pop version done in the ’80s, but the words were all different and I had trouble keeping up.

Mike showed us his new alarm clock.  It was in the shape of a wolf dressed in jazzy clothes.

Every morning it woke him with “funky” background saxophone music and, “Hey, Hey, Don’cha know! It’s time to get up so you can get dowWWWWWWwwwwwnnnnnnnnn!!!”

Funny, yes–and potentially very annoying after the hundredth time it’s woken you out of blissful slumber.

****

Just before Christmas Break, on Sunday, December 18, Pearl invited us all to her hometown.  There we ate dinner at the Olive Garden Italian Restaurant and went to see her church’s Christmas cantata.

I finally got to meet her mother, who was very pretty: She looked just like Pearl, except older and with dark hair.  I also met her father.

I’d never been to the Olive Garden before, and this was the highlight of my evening.  The cantata sang beautifully.  Pearl’s mother was in the choir.

At the restaurant, all I could afford for the main dish was the pizza appetizer.  It was a small pizza, but enough for me.  Plus, we all shared the breadsticks that Mike bought.

I got a chocolate soda, a special Italian drink, not the typical American chocolate soda.  It had an odd taste, somewhat sour, but also sweet, and took a little getting used to.  Once you were used to it, though, it was good.

****

December 19, a Monday, was Astrid’s birthday, but that was finals week, and I left for home at 12pm.  Finals started late in the week of December 12 and ended in the middle of the week of December 19.  So the following may have happened on December 16, a Friday:

We “kidnapped” Astrid, and took her in Mike’s car to a local ice cream place (probably Culver’s).  However, there was a slight problem:

Before we removed her blindfold, and while we were in Mike’s car with her, Mike and Tara stopped their cars in a church parking lot.  Mike and Tara went outside and Mike said in a loud voice, “It’s Dr. P–‘s church!”  (Dr. P., a professor, was also a preacher.)

We all thought, Oh great, they’ve gone and given away where we are!  So we drove around in circles a little while longer to confuse Astrid.  Then we finally pulled into Culver’s parking lot and removed the blindfold.

I couldn’t get her much, having little money or opportunity to get into town, so I gave her a candy bar.  I was glad to have something to give so I wouldn’t look like a miser.

We had a fun time and the ice cream was yummy.  She seemed to enjoy herself.  Sharon’s birthday card to her had “Happy Birthday” on the front.  Inside were all these psychological questions about “Happy Birthday,” such as, “What do you really mean by that?”  It was probably the funniest of all our cards, since it was so-Sharon.

For Christmas, however, I had money to get gifts for my family and my Secret Santa recipient, Astrid.  I got her a teddy bear angel at Sonlight Books.  She named the bear Nyssa, and took her on choir tour with her that spring so she could say, “Nyssa went with us on choir tour!”

****

Sometime that school year, the movie Scarlett, made from Alexandra Ripley’s sequel to Gone With the Wind, finally came out.  I hated it.  It was awful, trite, and clichéd, and not at all like the book.

They even stuck a trial into it, after Scarlett killed some guy–which was NOT in the book.  I thought that was the ultimate stupidity and sell-out to what was popular in TV-movies at the time.

The book was a lot better, and better suited the characters created by Margaret Mitchell.  Someone in the bookstore said the book was stupid, but I disagreed.  I especially loved the section in which Scarlett went to Ireland and the experience changed her into a better human being.

I didn’t watch the last night of the miniseries, which showed the trial.

****

On December 16, Mike came over and brought some kiddie Christmas movies, such as Jack Frost and Frosty the Snowman.  My roommies and I and probably Astrid watched.

There’s something about watching a kiddie movie or even Sesame Street (as we did once or twice) with your college buddies.  I guess if you do it alone at age 21 you’re just weird, but if you do it with friends, that’s fun.

A little later, something began banging against the outside walls.  We looked out the windows: Several people were throwing snowballs at Morland House from the courtyard between the two buildings.

I believe they were aiming them at an upstairs apartment where their friends lived.  It was somehow surreal.

Mike and I went outside and threw a few snowballs at them.  Then our friends joined us, we went around the other side of the building, and we all had our own snowball fight.

Since Mike was the only man in our group, the rest of us chased him and pelted him with snowballs.  Yet we felt sorry for him at the same time.

In a wide, grassy space between the sidewalk and the trees of the lagoon, now covered with snow, someone had built a large ape’s face out of snow the night before.  We built a snowman nearby.

I remembered that Lucy Van Pelt of “Peanuts” cartoons liked making snow bunnies.  I made little snow bunnies and a snow kitty near the snowman.  Two Asian girls came by and saw us.  I’m not sure what country they were from.  Excited, they joined in.  I don’t think any of us knew them.

Meeting the Vampire

On the 21st, I wrote in my diary that “the thought of that psycho [Phil] often repulses me.”  A couple of days later, I wrote about still desiring him, and wanting God to take that away.

So I didn’t know what I wanted, was still vacillating between hating him and wanting him back.  Over Christmas Break, I wrote down all sorts of dreams about him, bizarre situations as my dreams usually are, where sometimes he was good and sometimes he was evil.

Christmas Break began.  As always, I spent a lot of time on the computer late at night after my parents had gone to bed.  I played games, and went on America Online (AOL) and local BBS’s.  (BBS’s, or Bulletin Board Systems, were the online playground of choice before the Internet, which, sadly, has caused their demise.)

I always found this time therapeutic, especially after a breakup.  Books, music and the computer–those were my counselors, and they did an excellent job.

They were better than the TV, which I often couldn’t watch at home anyway, since I didn’t have my TV and didn’t want to wake up my parents by watching the one in the living room.  When I could watch TV, I often had fun finding faraway channels on the antenna.

I believe part of my Christmas Break was also spent finishing up my typed copy of Jerisland for Counselor Dude.

I also had two outings: one with Becky and the other with The Vampire.  Vampire, you say?  You shall see.  This is quite a story, and not a bit of it is made up.  (Of course, nothing else in here is made up, either.)

On Thursday, December 22, my high school friend Becky and I went to see Addams Family Values in the Scottsdale Cinema, which was in the Scottsdale Mall.  It was at 2:30pm, and only $3.75, which was half-price.

It quickly became one of my favorite movies.  The part with the summer camp and the screwed-up play was surreal, unexpected and wonderful.  When the kids dressed up as ninjas, I whispered to Becky, “They look like Peter!”

We stopped at Becky’s grandmother’s house, which had a huge Christmas tree in the living room.  We watched Rudy and Plymouth Adventure, the one with Spencer Tracy.  I’ve told you in the September 1993 chapter that one of my high school classmates was the stand-in for Sean Astin in Rudy.

I saw Plymouth my junior year of high school, and kept watching for it around Thanksgiving each year, but after that none of the stations played Thanksgiving movies anymore.  Nowadays, it’s all Christmas stuff.  I’d always liked Thanksgiving pilgrim movies better than Christmas movies and looked forward to Thanksgiving.

Anyway, young people were in and out all night–cousins, friends, etc.  One guy came over during Rudy, stood there in his Notre Dame jacket, and said, “Good movie!”

Rudy, since it was a Notre Dame movie, was extremely popular in South Bend when it came out.  My dad even remembered the game in which the fans chanted “Rudy, Rudy, Rudy,” though he didn’t know then why they were chanting.

That night, Becky showed me AOL, as she flirted with some guy in a chat room.  After I went back home, I discovered that my dad had it on the computer.  So I logged in and became EstrellaRC, taking the handle from my letters to Mike.  That’s Estrella, Roanoke College, because there were other Estrellas before me.

People thought I was Spanish.  It was better than using Dad’s handle, which I used until I discovered I could put in my own screen name.  People kept asking why I had a masculine handle if I was female.  (My later screen names: Nyssa15273, and, even later, Nyssa and maybe Romana.)

I liked going into chat rooms, like Becky did, and joking around.  I liked the Star Trek one, “Starfleet Academy,” in which people talked about anything sci-fi, sometimes vampires, and usually spam.

We’d make jokes by adding “spam” to any word or phrase.  Then people would get mad about all the spam jokes.  It was fun.  Any chat room you went in on AOL, there was a good chance someone was going to start making spam jokes.

I didn’t know back then why spam was such a popular joke, that “spam” now meant junk e-mail.

Ever since 1985 or 1986, I had played on BBS’s.  First there was The Owl’s Nest, which was run by a friend of Dad’s who worked at Radio Shack.  We could play or download games for our Tandy (Radio Shack) computer, the CoCo2.

There were text-based games such as Hamurabi, in which you tried to run an ancient city, text- and graphics-based games such as The Sands of Egypt, and simple, graphics-based games.

I guess Dad and I were elites, since we were allowed into the section with pirated games.  Only text-based games could be played on the BBS.

In those days, a 300 baud modem was normal, but computers did so little in those days that you didn’t notice how slow they were.  When we got a new 1200 baud modem, that was lightning-fast.

When you logged into The Owl’s Nest, a figure something like this– ^/ –would fly down the screen, like an owl.

You could post messages in the forums, which were divided into different topics the same as now, get into the occasional flame war same as now, send e-mail to others who used the same BBS, and occasionally even chat with the sysop (system operator).

This was not the Internet, but a phone-based system, so you could only send e-mail to people who used the same BBS.  This also meant that people rarely used a BBS outside of their own phone area, because of long-distance charges, so you could easily meet fellow BBS users.

Until some BBS sysops started adding extra lines, only one person could use the BBS at a time.  For that reason, time on the BBS was limited per session or day, and if you left the system idle for too long, the BBS logged you off.  Most BBS’s were free, though in the 90s, some began charging if they had many phone lines.

Around 1986, when all BBS’s were still one-line only, I typed up a story based on BBS chats.  I used a word processor program which also was used for logging in, so the format looked just like a real BBS chat, rather than a narrative.

There were three characters, all logged in at once and chatting with each other, all teenagers, two girls and one boy (so there was also flirtation, maybe a love triangle).

This story was science fiction at the time; I imagined what it would be like if BBS’s began using party lines.  But soon it became science fact.

My handle on The Owl’s Nest was The Swatch.  I started out with the handle Princess Leia, since I’d just seen Star Wars for the first time on my brother’s laserdisc player, and was obsessed with it.  But that handle seemed cheesy, so I began wondering what other one to use.

I watched a game show on Nickelodeon one day, and one of the teams called themselves the Swatches.  (Swatches, a brand of Swiss watch, came in all sorts of designs and were popular with kids my age at the time.  I didn’t have one, though.)

When I logged into The Owl’s Nest and the owl flew down the screen, the screen read, “Hey, The!  How are you doing today?” (since it used first names).

Just as when I used my dad’s handle on AOL, people on the Owl’s Nest often thought I was a guy.  Once, I wrote, “I know the meaning of life!” (basing it on my religious beliefs).  Some guy wrote, “Yeah, and I bet you understand women, too.”  That’s when my gender was revealed.

All through high school I had played on The Owl’s Nest, The Pan-Optic Net, and various other BBS’s.

The Pan-Optic Net was based on Doctor Who.  The sysop (system operator) was called Rassilon, many people had Doctor Who handles, and a few sci-fi sub-forums were specifically for Doctor Who.

When you moved through the different menus and screens, you’d find Doctor Who-based language and themes.  This, of course, was my favorite BBS (or “board”), since I was a Doctor Who freak.

I kept changing my handle; once, I was Romanadvoratrelundar (the full name of the Doctor’s Time Lord assistant).  Some guy wrote to me in a forum that I shouldn’t be surprised if nobody writes to me, with a name like that.

I finally settled on Nyssa Of Traken, the name of my favorite Doctor Who assistant.

One site says the Pan-Optic Net started in 1990, but I don’t know if that’s correct.  Over the years, it got more sophisticated.  Fast baud rate was now about 14.4K.  And now, a few people could be online at the same time, talking in the chat room or sending each other private messages.

Because of college I hadn’t logged onto The Pan-Optic Net for years, but my handle and password were still effective.  We now could use taglines, which would show up at certain times, probably whenever someone checked to see who else was on the BBS.

Mine was worded similar to this: “Traken–where everyone is terribly nice to each other!”  (Yes, that was a significant characteristic of Nyssa’s home planet.)  At one point I playfully added “aack” or “ugh” or “shudder” or “puke” or some other such word.

One evening around Christmas, using my dad’s account, I carried on a flirtation in Starfleet Academy with some guy called VVlad, who was in Southern California.  I gave him my school address because I didn’t know much about Internet safety in those days.

He took on the role of Vlad the Impaler/Dracula, and was carrying on a spear battle in the chat room when he discovered this person with the masculine handle was female.  And legal, as one of the other guys so gallantly pointed out.

In the wee hours of the 27th, I was on Pan-Optic Net when a sub-op (suboperator), handle The Vampire, wanted to chat with me.

He ended up having the first “intellectually stimulating conversation” he’d had in a long time, with someone who didn’t care just about computer viruses and which hacker he could hook them up with.

He’d written a virus himself, you see, and he, at 24, was one of the top 10 hackers in the area.  (Yes, he used the word “hacker,” not “cracker,” though technically “cracker” is correct.)

But that wasn’t the weird thing: He also called himself a psychic vampire.  I’d never heard of such a thing.  They don’t go for blood, but for energy, he said.  He could leave people feeling very tired or with a bad headache.

Even though he was Methodist, he practiced white magic, and some other weird stuff, which I didn’t like.  But he really liked me, and made me promise to call up the board again soon and leave him my address at school.  He said if he was a stalker, Wisconsin would be a long way to drive.

Life began to take on more interest again.  I couldn’t just write him off as a friend because he practiced magic, but I did wish he wouldn’t.

****

On December 27, I dreamed that Phil, Pearl and I were in the same youth group.  We were supposed to play a game.  Phil stood at the door as I went into a house, and we began snapping at each other.

Pearl said after one bout, “Nyssa, that’s surprising, especially for you!”

I said, “Yeah, we argue about stupid stuff!”

I cried.

Phil pulled Pearl aside, and wanted to go upstairs to her room and talk.  I tried to pull Pearl aside first and find out why he wanted to do this, since he didn’t hang around with our group anymore, but instead I ended up working with Phil on one of the game’s questions.  We got along while we were working together.

Around the time I had this dream, in real life, Phil reportedly called up Pearl and asked, “What’s going on that Nyssa sent me this letter?”

****

The Vampire had lived in Germany, a place I wished I could visit, and he was fluent in more languages than I dabbled in (I have some knowledge of French, Spanish, and German).  He had picked up German coins, which he promised to send to me, though he never did.

The Vampire believed that he could be a Christian and still do white magic.  He wrote spells that called on angels for help, and he didn’t call on demons.  However, he didn’t convince me that what he was doing was okay.

The Vampire was a writer.  He spelled “writing” as “writting”–which I see a lot online.  The day after I first spoke to him, I found his love poems (about his girlfriend) in my e-mail.

He also left an urgent e-mail saying he needed to talk to me.  He may have come online and talked to me right after I read it.  He had an uncanny knack of logging on just minutes after I did, practically every time I logged on.  I logged on at various times throughout the day.  He said he could see my aura through the computer screen, even when he wasn’t online, and would watch for me and log on whenever I did.

I told him about my own troubles with Phil, that he was “borderline abusive,” and about the spiritual marriage.

When we said good-bye, the Vampire would type, “CU L8R” or “CU L8ter”.  I liked it and started using it, and would soon find other people in Wisconsin who liked to type that online.

For those of you who don’t remember the old-fashioned BBS’s, in chat, the screen cleared and all you saw were things you typed and things your friend typed.

You watched everything as it was written, which meant sometimes someone would try to interrupt the other if there was a misunderstanding.  Usually, though, when you finished typing, you hit <enter>, and your friend started typing.

The nature of chat was the same on BBS’s in Indiana and Wisconsin.  Outside of chat, however, Indiana BBS’ers communicated with OLMs, or Online Messages, and Wisconsin BBS’ers paged messages to each other.  (Of course, I discovered this later, having never used Wisconsin BBS’s before.)

OLMs gave a loud beep when they arrived, and the recipient had to type in whether or not he wanted to respond.  Pages had no such thing; you just ignored it or sent your own page in reply.

I forget the command for OLMs, but to send a page you typed “/p,” the handle of the recipient (or at least the first three letters), and then the message.  It was much easier to use.

Indiana BBS’s had dot commands for a time, which you used by typing a period and then a letter, and I liked these a lot.  Wisconsin boards didn’t have them, and I guess in time dot commands became obsolete.

One night, somewhere between Wednesday the 28th and Thursday the 29th, I went on Pan-Optic Net and found the Vampire in Teleconference with Vampette.

This BBS had three lines now (rather than the one line it used to have), so three people could be in Teleconference at one time.  You’d type in a message and push <enter>, and your message would show up onscreen.

You could also use action words, which ranged from innocent (clapping, blushing) to risqué.  You’d type in the action word, and “Nyssa Of Traken is blushing” or “The Vampire is clapping” showed up onscreen.

I joined the Vampire and Vampette, who named herself after him.  The Vampire was drunk, and acted very lecherous with Vampette and me.  I felt a little jealous of Vampette, probably not realizing she was only fourteen.

We both played along, flirting right back at him.  At least once, he “cyber french-kissed” Vampette, and I believe he did the same thing to me.

However, I had to rush to the bathroom.  I had to log off because, unlike Wisconsin boards, if you left an Indiana board idle for a few minutes, it logged you off.

I said I had to leave, but the Vampire begged me not to.  He thought I was mad at him, though I tried to explain that I wasn’t at all: I was too embarrassed to tell him what I had to do.

I logged off and took care of the emergency.  A little while later, I tried to log back on, but couldn’t: the line was busy.

The next day, I logged on and found a panicky letter from the Vampire, asking what he had done.  He thought he offended me by being drunk online.

I either left a reply or found him online and said he had done nothing, that this had absolutely nothing to do with him.  He said he told me not to go because Pan-Optic got very busy that time of night, when the schoolkids got online, and he knew I wouldn’t be able to get back on again.

Of course, staying online and making a puddle just was not an option….

The Vampire also frequented another BBS, ye olde connection.  Only real names were used there, but he had a female handle for an extra account he used.  He allowed me to use it one night so we could keep talking after I ran out of time on Pan-Optic (and didn’t have an account anywhere else).  I scratched out the password after using it.

One night, I went on ye olde connection to set up my own account.  However, it was the wee hours of the morning, so I couldn’t ask Dad what to type in for “Computer Phone Number.”

My dad had changed things and I had no idea there was a different number for the modem, so I typed in my parents’ home phone number, which it used to be.

I also didn’t understand what would happen when I told the BBS to verify my account immediately (done to screen out people who used fake information).  I don’t believe BBS’s used to do that.

The connection was terminated, and the BBS called back.  The phone started ringing.  I tried frantically to get the Procomm program to pick up the call.  (Procomm was used to connect the modem to BBS’s.)

It didn’t work.  Mom soon came out into the family room.

She was surprisingly understanding, and didn’t yell or scold when I explained what had happened.  Then she said there was a different number for the computer.  She looked like she was about to laugh.

I got back online, and the sysop, apparently a night owl, noticed what was going on.  The Vampire later told me, “The sysop called me up and said, ‘I think we’ve got a hacker here.’  I said, ‘Oh, no, she’s okay!'”

So I finally got my account set up and everything was fine.  That’s the only time I’ve ever been called a hacker.  🙂

I found an old friend, Josh, via another BBS, FlagNet.  I wasn’t even looking for him: I saw he’d logged onto the BBS just before I did one day, and was going to leave him an e-mail, but he’d already left me one.  (This BBS only allowed real names, not handles, so it was easy to identify each other.)

So we sent messages back and forth for the next few days, and I even got to chat with him on the BBS one day.  I loved talking to someone who was in my class in middle and high school and knew some of the same people I did.  I had dreams about those people sometimes, and wondered how they were doing.

FlagNet was a pay-to-use BBS, a rarity in those days, and I think it had several lines. It was popular and even had a flame war shortly before I checked it out.

I read in the forums that the war was nasty; I think some rules were put in place to prevent future ones.  I hadn’t heard of flame wars before; it’s netspeak for “nasty argument.”

During our online chat, Josh and I spoke of many things: where our lives had gone, my broken engagement, Josh’s own broken engagement.  We spoke to each other on the phone once during Spring Break; he sounded much older, with a deeper voice, but still had the lisp.

He remembered the talks we used to have in junior high, and that we seemed to understand each other, though all I could remember was that we used to love to talk with each other.

For months afterwards we wrote to each other on the Internet.  We both had access to AOL for the rest of the school year, and after that I wrote to him from my Online Fond du Lac BBS account.

One guy, Chris, whom I met online in a Christian chat room, wrote me at least two letters.  He’d asked for a Christian pen pal of about his age.  I wrote him at least twice.  The last letter he wrote said he would write again when he had time (I think he had become a youth pastor or something like that), but he never did.

More about the Vampire adventure is to come in the January 1995 chapter.

I told my mom, “Things have gotten so interesting I don’t want to go back to school.”

She said, “I don’t blame you.”

****

Charles would go on and on about Animaniacs, a Steven Spielberg cartoon, so one afternoon as I flipped through the channels, I found Animaniacs and decided to watch it.  I hadn’t watched cartoons since Peter used to watch them on my TV.

I saw the episode in which the Warner kids went to a celebrity party.  One guy kept talking and talking and talking, and the kids kept trying to get rid of him.  It was funny, but when I went back to school I didn’t see much more of it for a while.

Music could be healing, especially Christian music.  It took me away from the pain of losing Phil and the pain of the many cruel things he’d done to me, and helped me think about other things besides romantic love.

These are some of the songs and albums I loved in the fall, over Christmas, and after Christmas Break:

In the Name of the Father” by U2 and “You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart” by Sinead O’Connor.  In the Name of the Father was an excellent movie.  I got the soundtrack in a big music store, probably in Milwaukee, when the Group went there.  The 70s songs grew on me.

The newest tape by Iona, Beyond These Shores.  (Pearl would sing “Murlough Bay” at my wedding.)  This put me in the proper mood as I wrote a required story for Celtic class.

Celtic class, the tin whistle, and the studies and activities of this class helped me to forget Phil and think about the wonders of the world’s past.  It also led indirectly to me meeting my husband.  But more about that later.

Steve Taylor’s Squint.  It was new to me, though it was actually from 1993, and I believe Shawn had it.  But I think it was Taylor’s newest one.  I recognized “Bannerman” from a funny video I saw once, with a guy running around flashing a John 3:16 sign.

Doll Parts” by Hole.  Since Courtney Love is a lousy singer, this is the only Hole song I like.  At the time, the lyrics reminded me of Phil (“I love him so much it just turns to hate,” “Someday you will ache like I ache”).  Now, it reminds me of Charles, not because of lyrics but because we both liked it–and Charles hated Courtney Love.

Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star, which came out just after the breakup.  She told of her loneliness and desolation at being left by her boyfriend.

Zombie” by the Cranberries.

The Shape of Grace, a 1992 CD by Out of the Grey that I’d had since the summer after sophomore year.  I bought it because Pearl had it and I liked it.  Now it helped me escape, soothed me during the initial and subsequent pain, and reminded me of the summer after sophomore year.  Now, it reminds me of fall semester, senior year, because I played it so much then.

****

For Christmas, my parents gave me a beautiful necklace-watch with a colorful, tortoiseshell design on the face, with browns, greens, yellows, blues and reds.  There were no numbers, just diamond-like gems in the places of the 12, 3, 6, and 9.

On the back was a circular design with spirals, circles, and other curved shapes.  It wasn’t Celtic knotwork, but reminded me of it, making it appropriate for my Celtic Roots class.

****

On the evening of December 29, Mom got a call and then rushed off to the hospital: My sister-in-law Pam was in labor.  During Thanksgiving Break, November 20, we had a baby shower; during Christmas Break, the baby was born.

I don’t think Dad was there; he may have been away on business.  I guess Mom didn’t need me to come along, because I stayed at home and waited.  A healthy Jenna McCanmore was born.

The baby was probably in the hospital for a day or two, but she was brought home in time for me to see her before I left for school.  My parents took my other brother and me over to Jake and Pam’s house.

Dad took picture after picture of Jenna, his first grandchild.  Someone put Jenna in my arms, and as I sat there with her, Dad took pictures of the two of us together.  I felt a little silly, since I’ve always hated having my picture taken.

One day, either then or on Spring Break or after graduation, Jenna was brought over.  I was out in the family room and Mom put her in my arms.  Mom left the room for a few minutes, and I sat there, not sure what to do with Jenna.

Babytalk didn’t come naturally to me, and I may have been too timid to try stroking her.  I didn’t want to break or hurt her.  I just sat and lightly rocked her.

I don’t think she cried, though I don’t remember now.  I sometimes wondered if I’d make a good mother, since I was never a “baby person.”

The funny thing is, once I had a baby of my own, I became a “baby person.”  I didn’t feel like a natural, but I did finally pick up how to take care of a baby–and soon had no trouble playing with him.

January 1995
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:

 

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