Spring Classes

My spring classes now began.  There was World Civ II with Dr. Williams.  Advanced Composition, a requirement for Writing majors, was with Counselor Dude.  General Botany was with Mrs. Rev, the Rev’s wife.  Botany Lab was on Monday.  American Lit II was with Dr. Nelson, my Film teacher.

Phil changed his World Civ II class so he’d be in mine.  I think we both had a class in Chase next, so he would rush over from Old Main to Chase with me after World Civ.

Phil and I studied for World Civ tests together, going through study guides and writing down answers to the questions or definitions, and, from what I can tell from my folder, reviewing lecture notes Williams gave us.

I still kept to my reading schedule.  I also still sat in roughly the same seat, in the third row or back, and Phil sat next to me.  Two of the girls sitting near us sometimes joked with us before class.  One was Barb, who was briefly one of my coworkers in about 1996 or 1997.

My test scores got worse now that I was there with Phil, and, amused, I always wondered if it had something to do with him being in the class with me.  Considering “worse” meant high B’s, no wonder I was merely amused.  Even Williams noticed, writing on my test paper when I got a B+, “good but you can do better.”


Dr. Nelson was a young man with black hair and thick-rimmed, black glasses.  He had a New York accent, which Phil would imitate.  Dr. Nelson would say “ill-yoo-strate” for “illustrate.”  Once, he said “illustrate,” then corrected himself and said, “ill-yoo-strate.”  Phil had him for some other class, I forget which.

This may have been the class which made me think American literature was boring, or the one that showed me it wasn’t all boring after all.  It introduced me to Allen Ginsberg and Beat literature, for one thing.

On the Road, the bible of the Beatnik generation and by Jack Kerouac, was a favorite of mine that year.  When I read it at Phil’s house while waiting for him to come back from Choir Tour, I listened to “Shine” by Collective Soul, a song which had only just come out, and thought the sound fit the book well.

The travels of the characters of the book reminded me of my own travels around America with my family, and made me long to be on the road again, myself.

On page 120 I underlined, “‘[T]hat even you, as you drive, fearful of the wheel’ (I hated to drive and drove carefully),” and wrote, “I knew there had to be someone else like that in the world!”  I was to find after graduation that I knew people who hated driving.

On page 122 I underlined, “My aunt once said the world would never find peace until men fell at their women’s feet and asked for forgiveness.”  I wrote beside it, “Phil does that.”

Yet another line, on page 126, reminded me of Phil: “He’s six foot four, mild, affable, agreeable, bland, and delightful.  He helps women on with their coats.”  Phil was six foot five, and except for the “bland” bit, was the same.

The line on page 128, “before he became cool and commercial,” reminded me of what people say about popular bands in modern times as well.  Apparently some things never change.

The line on page 138, “We’re in the South!  We’ve left the winter!” reminded me of how my family and I felt when we got to the South in December on trips in my elementary school years.

On page 175 I underlined, “In a dead silence the salesman gathered up his sad pots and left.”  I wrote, “The pots are sad?  In some ways Sal thinks like me!”  I have this odd tendency to think of inanimate objects as having feelings.  If one is thrown across the room or somebody grumbles about its ugliness or uselessness, I imagine it feeling hurt.

On page 231, my hometown South Bend was mentioned.  Sal seemed to feel the same excitement about crossing the country that I felt while traveling with my family.

Eventually, our class moved out of Old Main to a conference room in Jubilee.

Helene and I agreed to work together on one of the presentations (everyone had to get into a group of two or more and do a presentation on one of the stories), and ended up doing a story called “Cathedral” by Raymond Carver.

When we read Jazz by Toni Morrison (which I liked), a non-trad woman said, “We read Toni Morrison’s Beloved in my last Lit class, and we all hated it.  I was afraid this book would be like that, but it wasn’t.  I’m surprised.  I actually liked this one.”  But I read Beloved in 1999, and loved it!

I first got to know Helene in Lit class.  She was in her early 30s, a widow with two children.  She had met Phil in Sophomore Honors in the fall semester; they and Helene’s friend Kay often sat together at lunch spring semester.

I got to know Helene one day after class, after we’d been told about the class presentations we had to do.  She turned to me and asked if I wanted to do one with her on Jane Austen, because we both loved her work.

This year’s Sophomore Honors class was big enough for two classes, and had guys in it as well. Ours only had a couple, and none freshman year.  I wonder if they also had minorities in the other class?  We had no minorities in my Honors classes.  I don’t know why.


Advanced Composition was required for all writing majors, had Persuasive as a prerequisite, and was only offered every other spring, so I had to take it junior year.  There was no other time in my whole college career that I could have taken it.

We learned how to write various things that would come in useful in the real world, such as letters of recommendation, reviews, and opinion papers.  I did an interview of Seymour from the library.  Counselor Dude taught the class in the Honors room.

On March 17 we watched a documentary called Vernon, Florida, with Ned Burgess as director of photography, Brad Fuller as editor, David Loxton as executive producer, and Errol Morris as producer and director.  (Here it is, until Youtube yanks it.)

We were directed to watch, take notes, not say a word about it to each other right away, write a reaction paper, and then talk about it afterwards.  These are some of my notes:

That red-clay road reminds me of my uncle’s ranch in Texas!…I haven’t seen any women or young people yet….Finally!  A wife!…

Several guys, varying ages; one with a wife, who we only see once; quiet, peaceful town–officer says the worst that happens there is shoplifting….

Interesting movie–strange–the people don’t seem to change our stereotypes much.  [I meant stereotypes about backwater, southern towns and their people.]

No one of another race–are there any?  And are there any young people?  I did hear some kids playing, once….

Seems like you’re really there–colorful; like you’re standing there watching the scenery and the birds; could be someone’s farm or back road….

Are these people really the norm there?  They seem strange to us–the turkey hunter, the old man with his turtle and possum….

Tiny town, is the impression; the name sounds familiar….One old man, originally from Chicago, says ‘they think this is the real world, and it’s not–they’ve never even touched/seen the real world,’ but he seems to fit in pretty well with the others–laid-back, knows the land, seems strange to us….

The preacher seems ‘normal’ until we hear his sermon–all the emphasis on ‘therefore’–don’t quite understand the importance because we don’t hear enough of what he means to point out about it.

[He gave a whole sermon about the use of the word “therefore” in the Bible.  Just because it was used a lot, he thought it had some significance.  He had a southern accent, so he’d say it really funny, and he emphasized it like this: “THERE-forrrrre!”]

The officer seems ‘normal.’…What is ‘normal,’ anyway?…Here’s a new catchphrase–‘And that’s him, right over there’–(hunter pointing out turkey feet and ‘beards’)….

We get to see that religion does play an important role in these people’s lives, after wondering for a while if it does….

Sand grows?  Must be true, if the sand is growing upwards in her jar, and if they can quote stats on it.  The older couple–yep, they were wearing clothes from the 60s or 70s–are striped pants a staple for men?–odd thing is, those bellbottoms or straight-legs (her) are back in style….

Opens with the sound of a harmonica and a guy humming–sounds like he’s gargling–and a shot of a truck driving along.

As for the growing sand:

Well, as they say, the joke was on me. I was giving a lecture at Brandeis University. I was in the middle of my spiel. Sand doesn’t grow, but they think it does.

Someone in the audience – a professor of geology or something like that – said that sand from the White Sands Proving Grounds is not beach-sand. It’s gypsum, and gypsum absorbs moisture.

When the Martins took the sand from New Mexico to Florida, they took the sand from an extremely arid climate to a climate with high humidity. Maybe the sand was growing.  –Errol Morris, from his website article, “The Errol Morris DVD Collection


Botany was in the same room I’d once used to take my registration tests, back in February of 1991.  It was so weird to be in there again, since I hadn’t set foot in it again until now, so it had seemed to only exist in dreams.

It was a wide-open room with many chairs set up in raised rows, each one higher than the one in front.  The chairs had tiny desks attached, which you would lift up and click in place.

In the front of the room, which was opposite the door, there was a podium and a movie screen.  I was to be in this room at least twice more my senior year, but not for classes.

Mrs. Rev spoke of her husband as her “lover” one day after Valentine’s Day, when he gave her flowers, I think left on the doorstep or by her office door.  She and Phil’s mother became friends.  She was a sweet person who loved plants.  She was also the Phi Delt faculty adviser.

One reason I took this class, besides needing the credits, was to hopefully identify those elusive plants in Collier Encyclopedia’s “Atoll” article.  Back in high school, I wrote several versions of a desert island novel named Jerisland, and used that article to describe the island.

The article listed the various plants an atoll would have, but unfortunately, it only listed the scientific names–and most of them were obscure.  I looked in all sorts of books to find out what they were, but still could not find them.

Eventually I found a book on trees which helped, but it still didn’t explain all of the trees and plants.  How could I describe the trees of the island–what they looked like, what their shade was like, what fruit they bore, what could be made from them or their bark or fruit or fronds–if I couldn’t even find out what kinds of trees they were?

I used my Botany textbook to find a few answers, and also asked Mrs. Rev if she had a book on tropical plants.  She didn’t and couldn’t find one, to my disappointment.

It seemed that if you lived in the Midwest, finding a comprehensive book on tropical trees could only happen in your dreams.  Nearly all the books I found in bookstores or libraries were about North American trees and plants.

I believe I started searching for these trees back in around 1990, because I began writing Jerisland in 1988 or 1989.  So this had been a long search.

I gave Mrs. Rev a list of the trees on March 14th, but she couldn’t find out what they were.

I tried looking on the Net several years later, but still didn’t find a whole lot.  I believe it was 2007 when I looked again, and found all the information I needed, right there on the Net, describing every last one of those plants!

Unfortunately, I stopped writing that book in 1995, and don’t know if I’ll take it up again.  But now I can if I want to!

But back to Botany class.  Our labs were in a different room in the Chase center.  It was set up typically, with sinks and those black-topped tables you generally find in high school science rooms.

Botany was a fun class, with its sporangia and gametophytes and angiosperms and all those other fun words.  I found parts of it amusing; for example, I wrote on my notes one day when the teacher spoke of lettuce: “I was glad when they said unto me, Lettuce go into the house of the Lord.”  I drew a pig next to the word “unpigmented,” and a squirrel next to notes about the food chain.

Big Red Flag: Phil’s Dysfunctional Family Life

Eventually, Phil and I got into a rhythm of eating Kentucky Fried Chicken and Dairy Queen on Wednesdays.  We stopped at the S– KFC, which had no drive-through, and got one chicken dinner, which we divided between us.  Then we got Peanut Buster Parfaits in the Dairy Queen closest to his house, which may also have not had a drive-through.

This Dairy Queen closed an hour earlier than it claimed on the sign.  One night when we went to see if it was open, Phil thought the workers inside were laughing at him.

Whenever I ate a meal with him, which was a lot because I spent weekends with him, we went to a fast food place such as Burger King.  Nobody seemed to cook all that much around his house.

Sometimes people would make something, but there was no dinnertime.  They didn’t eat together; they made their own separate meals and sometimes other people shared them.

This was incredibly strange to me.  Instead of eating together at the dining table, they used it for laundry folding, homework, and other things: It was always covered.

I knew very little about cooking, while Phil was so incredibly picky that he only ate a few different kinds of food–mostly mac and cheese, fast food and frozen pizzas.

He wouldn’t make much else besides mac and cheese, which basically forced me to eat fast food more often than I wanted.  I gained about five pounds before I went home that summer (in just a few months), which was unusual for me: I was usually 120 when I went home, not 125!

One thing they did have in the house was pop, and several different kinds of it, often cheaper, generic brands.  So at night I didn’t have to go thirsty.

Phil’s parents slept on the living room chairs and couches with the TV on all night, rather than actually going to bed.

I don’t remember why, but I was told Mrs. O. started it, and Mr. O. would sleep out there to be with her.  She may have moved out there because of health problems that made it hard to lie down.

What with the TV and arguments, it was a very noisy house.

Mr. O’Hara, who was almost 60, had already raised a whole family to adulthood with a previous wife, who died.  Then he raised a second family to adulthood with a new wife.  (He must have started having kids around 20 years old!)

I don’t know what the home life was like for the first brood, but for the second, it was awful.  There were always loud, yelling arguments–or the little nephew/grandson Taylor having a temper tantrum.

Any time of day, arguments among any members of the family were common.  (Daughter Maura didn’t live at home anymore.)  I used to think it was funny, but eventually it annoyed me.

Phil’s mom told him she only stayed with his dad because of Phil and Dave, who still lived in the house.

She didn’t like the things that went on; I’ve always assumed that she saw Mr. O’Hara as verbally abusive, and I think I based this on the reasons she gave.  I don’t remember what the reasons were, but this is probably pretty close.

I saw some romantic board game sitting on the tiny, junk-covered kitchen table, yet Phil didn’t think they loved each other anymore.

Phil assured me, “I’ve spent my whole life trying not to be like my parents.”  This statement gave me a false sense of security: I didn’t realize yet that Phil knew no other way than to be just like his argumentative parents.

One good thing was that they did seem to put a big emphasis on the family.

Phil’s mom used to be Baptist, but converted for Mr. O’Hara.  According to Phil, who wanted me to convert for him, she threw herself into the conversion, trying to mean it.  Her influence and effort, in turn, got Phil to take it seriously.  He wasn’t just baptized in the faith: He really believed in it.

But Mr. O’Hara no longer went to church, and Mrs. O’Hara told me she always felt fake in the Catholic church.  She was thinking about going back to a Baptist church.

Phil and his mom were the most religious ones left in the family, yet they didn’t even go to church.  It made me wonder what use it was to convert for a spouse, if you just felt fake anyway.

Phil and Dave argued all the time.  According to Phil, Dave could not reason well, using circular arguments.  I heard Dave argue about things that made no sense, but act like Phil was being the stupid one.  Phil joked that Dave was like that because their mom smoked while pregnant with him.

Phil thought that Dave’s Pearl was the best thing to ever happen to him, that she helped him be a better person.  Yet later on that semester, they argued quite a bit.

For example, Pearl would want to do something, yet Dave would sleep late instead of doing it with her.  She’d get upset, of course, but he would treat her like a nag.  (This sounds a lot like the arguments Phil and I had in the summer.)

Phil noted in the fall of 1995 that they were starting to get like his parents.  I didn’t know it until late 1995, but they eventually broke up.  So much for being engaged, for her being the best thing to ever happen to Dave.

I didn’t know who she was back then, of course, but daughter Maura had been in my Persuasive class.  I remembered her red hair, slanted eyes, and gorgeous face.

Mrs. O’Hara had also been in a class with me.  When she heard about Phil’s dilemma between Tracy and me, she said I was a beautiful girl.  When Phil chose Tracy, she said “Phil!” in a scolding tone for this reason.

When he broke up with Tracy and chose me, she said, “Phil!  Don’t choose based on looks.”  So she could be inconsistent.

Mrs. O. and Dave both had Botany class with me.  Mrs. O. answered and asked a lot of questions, and sat right in the front row with a non-trad friend.

Dave sat behind Pearl and me and griped all through class about it, saying how he didn’t need to know any of the material after he graduated and he just needed the credits.  Tests were deliberate inconveniences for him.

During labs, Mrs. O. wanted him and me to work in her group.  (This was weird for me, being in a lab with the mother and brother of my boyfriend, but at least I knew she liked me.)  Pearl was in the other lab class.

Dave would complain to the other person in our group that his mother slowed us all down–all the other labs would be finished and we’d only be half done–and often complained about her behind her back about various things.

Mrs. O., in the meantime, worked hard to try to understand things and do them right–and still be cheerful.

Phil sometimes came into the labs to be with me, but not too often, probably because I had too much work to do and couldn’t chat with him.

Soon, Mrs. O. didn’t like Tracy anymore: Tracy told her that Phil had treated her badly.  Phil couldn’t figure out why she’d say this, since he still opened doors for her and such.

Neither of us could figure it out, or why Tracy would go from accepting the breakup to being so angry about it.  Upset, we could understand, and we probably tried to not get too lovey with each other when she was in the cafeteria.

But angry?  Saying he treated her badly?  Rather than a warning sign, I took it as sour grapes.

Oh, by the way, Tracy was quite busy at this time with various projects related to Band and her theater major.  I think she was even directing a play at a local high school.

The Drunken Stork (Phil’s Controlling Nature Manifests)

Phil was good friends with Dirk, the obnoxious one.  It was maybe the next week after we got together when Phil asked me to go to Muehlmeier, where Dirk lived.  There in the lounge I found him and Dirk sitting at a table near a window facing the lagoon, and playing Magik.  I played a few games with them, losing them all, and it still bored me.


As always, I waited for the guy to say “I love you” first.  But Phil said it even sooner than Peter did: on one of our first dates, as I’ve already mentioned.

This time I didn’t say “ditto” as I did with Peter; often I didn’t say anything.  It was too soon; I didn’t want to confuse infatuation with love, because love meant marriage.

Phil may have complained about this.  Then when I did feel like I loved him, I would answer his “I love you” with “I love you.”

He complained that it didn’t sound right when I didn’t say “I love you too.”  It may have been something about not acknowledging that he loved me; I don’t remember now.


Sometime in February, we went to a party in the Phi-Delt suite for Ralph Z.’s birthday.  Cindy and Catherine had both dated a guy named Jason.  He showed up; Phil kept telling him his name was Bruce.  A year or two later, Jason still remembered him as Bruce at the party.

Phil kept putting his arm around me and talking like the drunken stork from Looney Toons, telling everyone, “We’re going out.”  People thought he really was drunk, but I tried to tell them he was just drinking Mountain Dew.  People got annoyed (even me), and I tried to get him to stop, but it didn’t work.

Phil got up once; Mike sat down and cuddled up next to me.  Mike pretended to try to steal me away, to which Phil said I cost a buck fifty (running gag between us).  Mike said, “That’s all it takes?  A buck fifty?”

All evening, people kept saying, “Shut up, Phil,” especially Pearl.  I was mortified at his behavior, and how he disregarded everyone else’s feelings.

Finally, he left the suite, and someone closed the door behind him, pretending to have thrown him out.  It was a game, though partly they meant it, being so very annoyed by him.  They thought he’d come back in a few minutes.

Instead, we got a phone call.  Mike answered and tried to talk to Phil, but Phil just kept plaintively wailing, “Nyssa.  Nyssa!”  So I had to come to the phone.

I said hello, but for a moment he said nothing.  I tried to get something out of him, but it was harder than pulling a tooth.  Finally he said, “I’m at the phone outside Krueger.  Are you going to come here, or stay there?”

I didn’t want to leave my friends, but didn’t feel I had much of a choice.  He wasn’t coming back to the party, either.  Cindy had long since left the party with Ralph Z. and some others, and then returned to Roanoke after bowling; she found him there at Krueger.  He said to her,

“She’ll come here, if she knows what’s good for her.”

If I’d known Phil said such a thing, I might never have gone back to Krueger for him.  But I didn’t, so I went, and spent long hours comforting him.  I don’t believe I told him that what he did at the party was okay, because I still thought he’d been obnoxious and annoying.  Mike thought he shouldn’t have made me leave the party like that.

Cindy told me his words a few years later (we were co-workers), and that they left not because of Phil being obnoxious, but because they planned to go bowling at a certain time.  It was Ralph’s birthday party, but he left it early, so we all thought Phil was the reason.  Well, okay, maybe he was partly the reason.

Idealizing Phase and Early Sign of Control

Krueger visiting rules were the same as for Grossheusch and Muehlmeier: No opposite-sex visitors in anyone’s room past visiting hours.  You had to go into the lounge.  But did people follow that?  No.  I did, though, this year, anyway.  (I was trying to do better than I did with Shawn.)

I didn’t let Phil stay in my room overnight, even when it was very late, because I didn’t want to break the rules and I was pretty sure Clarissa didn’t want him spending the night, even chastely.

Once or twice, he slept in his van in the parking lot instead of going home, with an extra pillow and blanket that I gave him.  He was so happy when I gave them to him, and acted as if I were a saint.  (It didn’t seem so remarkable to me to give him a pillow and blanket: I had them, after all.)

As I mentioned before, Mike and Phil met at a special needs camp in S– a summer or two before, when Phil was working as a counselor and Mike’s brother was there.  Because of this I thought Phil was a special person himself, with a big heart willing to care for special needs children.

Though Mike and Phil had hung around together and been such great friends fall semester, now it seemed that all of a sudden they didn’t hang around much anymore.  I kept wishing they would.

That month, in a scale of musical taste that went from “made in heaven,” through pop etc. to “made in hell,” YM Magazine called Alice in Chains “made in hell” music.  I considered this a good description, and laughed that my favorite music was “made in hell.”  Phil, however, seemed to find that troubling.  (He wasn’t a metal or alternative fan.)

When he left me at night, Phil would say “Dream of me,” blow kisses at me, and wave as he walked away.  He made sure I could see him through the big windows of the entryway and the kitchen window, and kept waving and blowing kisses at me until he’d passed by them.

I thought this was so cute.  I was so happy in those early days, before anything bad began to happen.

Phil didn’t want to pledge a fraternity.  He tried pledging the Zetas, but they were too hard on him.  They connected the pledges with rope and said he was the weakest link.

He went to a Zeta party and got a negative image of Pink Floyd’s The Wall because the Zetas would sit around listening to it and smoking weed.  He and maybe Pearl also talked about how depressing Zeta parties got late at night after the guests left, with people sitting around, smoking weed, and complaining about life.

This becomes important here.

I went to every one of Phil’s Choir concerts.  As his girlfriend, I felt it was my special duty, especially since none of his family ever did go.  I thought this was strangely unsupportive of them.

I discovered that Phil hadn’t been to church in quite some time.  In fact, his whole family hadn’t been to church lately.  So I talked Phil into going to church with me.  He simpered and joked that he hadn’t been a good boy, and he may have said that now I was going to be a good influence on him.

When we first went to his church, we stopped at a tiny doughnut shop or bakery for breakfast.  The baker was talkative, so we barely got out of there in time to get to church before the service was supposed to start.

I loved the Gothic style of the architecture of the Congregation of the Holy Name of Jesus in S–, and was far more interested in going to this one than to another, more modern-looking one.  This was Phil’s church.

I saw the holy water basin in the little foyer, and wondered what it was for.  A collection box sat out there, too.  Phil may have taken some of the holy water and splashed it on himself.  He genuflected–a new thing to me–before the altar when we went in (he used to be an altar boy), and then we found a seat in the packed sanctuary.

To our shock, church was in session already; why was it over in only half an hour?  Last Phil knew, it started at 11.  We were to find out that it now started at 10:30.

I loved the many statues, the pipe organ in the balcony, and the ornate detailing of the sanctuary.  It was gorgeous.  Though many Protestant groups consider the statues idolatrous, to me they were beautiful.  It was so odd and beautiful to hear the choir’s voices singing out from the balcony over the hundreds of churchgoers.

I was surprised to see so many people wearing jeans, and to be the only one I could see with a Bible.  Phil had wondered at me for bringing one, and I had wondered at him for not bringing one.

Phil’s reasons for not having a Bible in church had, I believe, something to do with listening and concentrating better when the priest reads from the Bible.  (Okay, with me that’s totally the opposite.  My mind goes all over the place without a text to follow!)

My reasons for having a Bible in church included the tradition of our church, so I could follow along, and so I could be sure the pastor was reading it right and not taking anything out of context.

I wondered why the adults didn’t have Sunday School.  This is when I first discovered these particular differences between Protestants and Catholics.

During the Mass, Phil leaned and stood and bowed his head and prayed silent prayers in total immersion in the spirituality of the liturgy.

I was totally lost during the liturgy.  I knew none of it, and the songs were unfamiliar.

If memory serves, even the Lord’s Prayer was said differently.  In Catholic and Lutheran services I’ve attended, the last part (after “Deliver us from evil”) always got cut off, so I’d stumble over it, expecting from long habit to say, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, amen.”

I wasn’t quite sure what to do during the sign of peace, so just followed what I saw other people doing: shaking hands and saying “Peace.”  I didn’t initiate it with anyone because I was too uncertain–and because I, being shy, didn’t usually greet people even when my own Nazarene congregation was called to do so.  (I suppose it was our own version of the sign of peace: saying hello, shaking hands.)  But as always, I did return the greeting whenever anyone initiated it with me.

I kept wondering if my Protestantism showed, and if anyone minded.

Phil told me that I could participate in the Eucharist if I wanted to, but I didn’t feel right doing it.  In my church, anyone can participate in communion, but in Catholic churches, you have to be Catholic.

I especially didn’t feel comfortable drinking the wine, when I’d been raised drinking yummy grape juice. (I didn’t know it yet, but wine is NASTY tasting stuff.)

I certainly wouldn’t want to share the same cup rather than using individual communion cups, even though the smiling woman holding it in front of our section did wipe it off with a towel after each person drank.

Several people remembered Phil, and greeted him after church.  One was his teacher back in junior high, and remembered him being very spiritual and wanting to be a priest (which had been his plan for seven years).

I don’t think he admitted to her that he was no longer becoming a priest, and that I was his girlfriend.  In fact, now he wanted to be an actor and study math as a backup.  His dad was a math teacher, so I guess he was just following in his footsteps, since he was gifted in math.

Phil said that many of the people were there because they were “supposed” to be, and not because they wanted to be.

Though I only have one bulletin now–one from March 6, 1994–I believe we went to Phil’s church several times that semester.  On the back were tons of ads, which I’d never seen in a church bulletin before.  I believe Phil said they were part of the reason the church didn’t rely on tithes: The advertisers paid for their ads, and helped keep the church running.

He’d never heard of a 10% tithing obligation, which surprised me, because I’d read about the medieval Catholic church requiring tithes as a tax, which you had to pay lest you go to Hell when you died.

My church didn’t require it, but unless you were poor, you felt a spiritual obligation to tithe 10%, which my parents did.  So I would take 10% out of each paycheck, put it in an envelope, and give it to my church whenever I went home to South Bend.

On February 6, we went to the S– Evangelical Free Church.  I felt much more comfortable there, and loved how happy and jumping the church was.  (I didn’t yet know about the problems of emotionalism.)

Yet one Sunday, after we got to his house and I said how spiritually alive the church was, Phil said, “I’ve seen more alive ones.”

(I figured he must have been comparing it to a Pentecostal church, because every church looks dead compared to that!)

He even said he didn’t think he wanted to go to my church anymore!

For one thing, I wanted to go to church with him, not without him, and for another, he talked as if my beloved church were a bad place to be.  And who would drive me there?

I got upset while still wearing my dress from church.  He finally relented, and said,

“You can’t deny we almost broke up just now.”  From the context, I knew he meant that I nearly broke up with him.

I could deny it, though, because breaking up with him never even entered my mind.  But things seemed better now.

Later on, when I told Pearl about us going to each others’ churches, she said to me in Phil’s hearing, “That’s good.  You should go to each others’ churches.”  I had said nothing to her about the disagreement.  So I knew I wasn’t alone in that feeling, and was glad for her unwitting support.

I sometimes wonder if this was an episode of him trying to control me, an early sign of him trying to get me to become Catholic against my will.

Phil Tries to Control my Friendships, Unfair Accusations from his Dad and Brother

One night as Phil and I sat talking in the lounge together, he put his head against the back of the couch or chair and began to lament that he wasn’t worthy of me.  He would do this often over the coming months, telling me he wasn’t a good person and that I should find someone else.  I didn’t believe him at the time.  (See #4 here as a sign of abuse: He Warns Her Away by the Rambling Curl.)

I was to discover, through him and two people I’d meet senior year, that I had a tendency to find guys like this, who would be down on themselves and need me to encourage them and tell them they’re not so bad as they think.

This is what I did for Phil.  I also told him that his old desire to become a priest showed him to be a very spiritual person.  I said I had always admired spiritual people, such as priests, pastors or missionaries, and he began to weep with (I suppose) joy.

Phil told me early on, “My parents say you’re another me.”  They saw the way I was then–shy, quiet, spiritual–and the way Phil was the year before–shy, quiet, spiritual (he was more outgoing and less quiet now)–and said this.  Over the coming months, they would say that we were perfect for each other.

Every day when classes allowed, Phil came to talk to me while I worked in the library.  I did miss having a chance to get more homework done, but didn’t mind seeing him.  He would stand there and chat, his two Big Slam Mountain Dew bottles beside him.  He would try to drink the Dew there, but Seymour didn’t like that.  There were rules against that.

Phil often interrupted me as I read my World Civ textbook while working the desk in the library.  Once, in April, while I read a copy of the Mirror, he read it upside-down.  Latosha saw this; after I told her we were engaged, she said she saw him reading upside-down and thought, “That man’s in love!”

I still worked with James; Phil sometimes joked that he was scared of me working with a good-looking guy.  That was ironic, since I had a little crush on James before I met Phil.  He would also joke that one day I would go back home and marry some football player from Notre Dame.  Or that I would find someone with a longer nose than his, and leave him.  (I loved long noses, and his was quite long.  Not Cyrano-style long, but a long bridge.)

Phil told me about his “Vampire Friend” S–, who was really into vampires, dressed like one for Halloween, was into sadomasochism, and was engaged to Phil’s first ex-girlfriend for a while.  He feared to introduce me to S–, who had a tendency to steal away his girlfriends.  (A later girlfriend confirmed this, making me wonder what kind of “friend” S– was.)

Phil liked to spend his evenings with me, but after ten, Clarissa kicked him out.  So we had to go into the lounge to spend the rest of the evening.

Sometimes I even watched Alternative Nation out there with him, since even a boyfriend wasn’t enough to make me want to give it up.  Without it I felt sad, incomplete (sort of like the King Missile guy without his detachable weenie).  We’d cuddle on the couch and chat for hours.

As we sat in the lounge each night, Phil liked to greet Julie’s freshman sister with “Mornin’!” whenever she came into the lounge.  She just made that smile-grimace which says, “Okay, whatever!”

Phil watched Beavis and Butthead, and though I used to hate it, he got me into it.  He said he’d disowned S– High School (I forget if his alma mater was North or South) because he recently discovered the guys there now were all Beavises and Buttheads.

He grew his beard back because I said I liked him better with his little beard.  Dave would yell at him to shave, and Phil would say somebody didn’t want him to.  It grew in sparse and reddish, with several hairless spots: a sort of birthmark.  I liked it that way.

Phil was in Roanoke Singers, which paid $200 a month: far better than what the rest of us got in work-study.  I could never understand why Dave kept yelling at him to get a job, because he had one.

He used half his paycheck to pay for tuition each month, and the rest for food, gas, maintenance and car payments.  He kept running out of money and asking people to lend him some.  By the 15th of every month he owed so much to people that by the time he paid it back, he’d have to start borrowing again only a short time after.

It was a never-ending cycle, and though he did always pay back what he owed, I found my own wallet getting emptier all the time.  I could usually pay for my food in the Muskie and for snacks and laundry, but would desperately need Phil to pay me back come payday.

It seemed as if Phil had more of my money than I did.  The following fall, this was one thing I did not miss.

I mentioned the ill-fated relationships with Peter and Shawn, and Phil said, “You’re so nice to me!  How could anybody not love you?”

Phil’s minivan was a Dodge Caravan, the kind that was so popular that year: boxy, wood paneling.  Where there was paint instead of paneling, it was brown.

It was used (1985, according to a Firestone receipt), which confused me because I thought that model had only just come out.  After all, a model exactly like it was so popular that year that it seemed there was one in nearly every parking lot or driveway.  We thought this was funny.

Phil had three dolls in his minivan: Ren and Stimpy, and Family Dog.  He handed these dolls to me nearly every time I got in the minivan: It was my “job” to hold them.

Early on, Phil wanted us to find “our” song.  We chose “I Can See Clearly Now,” the remake by Jimmy Cliff, because it had been one of my anthems that school year, and was also on the soundtrack for our first movie, Cool Runnings.  Whenever we heard it, we turned it up.  But I don’t think that in my mind it ever had quite the huge association with Phil that “Everything I Do” had with Peter.


Since Phil and several of my friends were in choir, I heard about the single choir director and saw her little, yellow sports car.  It was a peculiar yellow, kind of a dark yellow.

The choir people loved it, and found the director amusing in a good sort of way.  They liked the way she acted, the tips she gave, the way she directed, the way she said to say “watermelon” if you don’t remember the words because it really does look like you’re singing the right ones.

She began dating a professor, which surprised them, probably because he had already been teaching at Roanoke for at least 35 years, and she was only about 44 years old.  (She eventually married somebody else.)

Heidi’s friend Paul was in choir.  Phil told me that Paul’s hearing aid dog Maizie often accompanied the choir during practice.  The choir would hit a high note and Maizie would start barking or howling along with them.


On Sundays I still liked to go eat with my friends in the cafeteria during dinner, as before, taking Phil with me.  But now, Phil kept wanting me to leave them right after I’d eaten.

I always wanted to stay and chat and joke with my friends, but he’d sit or stand there with a stern look on his face and tell me he wanted to go.  I’d try to resist, but he would practically make me leave.

My friends noticed this and maybe other things I missed, and began to dislike him.  They thought he treated me like a child, that he was controlling, domineering and possessive.

He noticed that they didn’t like him anymore, but blamed this on his being Catholic (they were mostly Protestant) and supposedly socially annoying.  So he didn’t like them, either.


I don’t know how I didn’t notice this when we kissed, but he did not brush his teeth very often.  He also didn’t bathe very often.  He had this thing against showers which I won’t explain on the Net, yet he didn’t take baths instead.  I guess my nose slowly became immune.

Whenever Phil drove me to or from school on the road to S–, we passed a cemetery, and Phil held his breath.  He had this childhood superstition that if he breathed by a cemetery, he would soon die and be buried there.  Last I checked on Facebook, he’s still alive.

Once, we saw a dead cat by this cemetery, which upset us.  How ironic that the cat would be killed by a car right by the cemetery.

The Plymouth Neon car debuted in 1994; the TV ads for it featured cars with froglike faces bouncing all over the place.  When it stopped and faced the viewer, the caption “Hi!” appeared underneath it.

(These ads were so cute that in 1997, I got a 1995 Dodge Neon, my dream car at the time, and wrote on my Marquee (personalized) screensaver at work, “I now have a bouncy, baby Neon!”)

There was a billboard right by the cemetery, and one day, an ad for a Neon was put on it.  It had a picture of a Neon facing the viewer, and said, “Hi!”  It looked as if the car was trying to say hi to the people in the cemetery, but of course, none of them returned the greeting.  Phil and I found this hilarious.

Though Peter had once been welcome in the O’Hara house, he was now ostracized: He tried to back up the computer or something like that, and ended up crashing the hard drive.

Everything had to be re-installed, and it was a big mess.  Phil and I thought it was unfair of his family to ostracize Peter, since he didn’t mean to crash the hard drive.

I got my share of unfair treatment from Phil’s dad, too.  First of all, one night in February, I wanted to take a shower because I was staying overnight at Phil’s.  (I did so much of it that semester that Clarissa missed me and wanted me to spend more time in our room.)

I asked Phil when the best time was for taking a shower.  He said nighttime, and that even though it was late, no one could hear the shower.

At my house, my mom could hear the shower because the bathroom was in the master bedroom; Phil said this was no problem at all at his house.  He said, “Actually, people would prefer it if you showered at night, because in the morning everyone’s trying to take a shower.”

So I took mine that night.  I also shaved, which I think I did with just the faucet occasionally running and not the shower after I bathed.

Then I had to rinse off the shaving cream with the shower, turned off the shower, squeezed out my hair and ran my hands under the faucet to rinse off any hairs that may have come off from my head onto my hands.

Then I dried off, got out of the shower, put on lotion, put some kind of leave-on conditioner in my hair and combed it, then left the bathroom.

After I came out of the shower, Phil said his dad had come to him and complained about somebody using the shower and keeping him awake, and turning off and on the water about three times.

I asked if he explained that he told me I should shower at that time, but I don’t believe he did.  I was upset because I had specifically asked and then done what I had been told was the most polite thing to do, and still was accused of rudeness or not thinking of others.

At times I wondered if Phil’s dad hated me, because there were other things as well, such as Phil’s parents telling him (later that semester) that I didn’t live there.  (At this time, Phil would say to me, how could he tell them I was his wife and had a right to be there?)  Then there was the phone.

I would only use my phone card to call long-distance from Phil’s house, which I don’t think I did all that often.  And since I used the phone card, I didn’t see a need to ask to use the phone.

I remember only one time when I used the phone to call home, and of course I used the card.  I got off the phone feeling happy because it was a good chat with my parents.

Later, Phil told me that his dad found out I was calling home–I believe Dave told him, intending to get me in trouble–and got upset.  He complained about me using the phone for long-distance, and not wanting to find a charge on the bill for a call to South Bend.  I believe it was Phil who said, “Maybe she uses a phone card,” and calmed him down a bit.

I was upset about this because yes, I used a phone card, no, I was not rude and thoughtless, and why didn’t he ask me first before assuming that I was running up his phone bill and getting all mad at me?

If he didn’t believe Phil that I used a phone card, he certainly should have believed it when he looked at his next phone bill and there was absolutely no charge for a call to South Bend.

Phil Gaslights Me with Fake Dreams, Ridicule and Psychological Abuse

I told Phil what I often thought over the years: that to us students who lived on campus, quarters were gold.  Only quarters were accepted in the laundry machines, so they were hoarded, and the more you had the better.

It beat having to run down to the Campus Center all the time to get a roll of quarters, especially since once or twice I couldn’t find anyone at the Information Desk to give me quarters.

So Phil began giving me quarters here and there as tokens.  The first time, he said I should know what it was for, but I didn’t.  I guess it was a token of his affection.

I didn’t remember this until years later when writing these memoirs, but I dreamed about Phil before I met him.  More details of that dream will soon make sense; for now, I thought Phil looked like Eric Idle.

I hated when he cut his hair, because whenever it got long, it curled up at the ends.

When I first started going out with Phil, the song “No Excuses” by Alice in Chains had just come out.  It became my new favorite song.

The beautiful song “Sweet Lullaby” came out around this time, and is associated in my mind with the winter part of spring semester.  I wondered how many people knew that Deep Forest also had the song “Deep Forest,” which was popular on Chicago’s alternative station all summer of 1993.  (Wikipedia says these songs came out in 1992, but I suspect this refers to the UK, not the US.  My tapes of these songs/videos are dated, and prove the years I give here.)

I taped the video, too.  At the time I thought it was a little dull compared to “Deep Forest,” but I still liked it.  It fit right in with the creative songs of that time.

Sarah McLachlan came out with a new album during spring semester.  I thought it was her debut, but she’d done at least one other album before; I didn’t know this for several years.

I thought songs like “Good Enough” and “Hold On” were beautiful, that her voice was beautiful, and that she was beautiful to match.  Because of this, the occasional cuss word in her songs seemed out of place, ugly trolls among beautiful, graceful fairies.  (Not like cuss words in many alternative or hard rock songs.)

I first saw her on a video one day while at Phil’s house, Possession.  Her short nose reminded me of my aunt and mother, making her look much like them; her face looked British.  This would become one of my favorite songs of all time.


I told Phil my fears about Dungeons and Dragons, that The 700 Club had portrayed it as this evil thing which led to demonic activity and Satanism.

He said it wasn’t that way at all.  He said spells are not actually said; you say you’re casting a spell, and maybe wiggle your fingers or something, but you don’t actually cast any spells.

The 700 Club had made it look like a board game, but it wasn’t.  They had said all sorts of things about it that weren’t actually true (unless, of course, your DM, or Dungeon Master, was mean).

Phil invited me to watch him play a game with Dirk, and make up my mind about it then.  So I did.

I watched them as they played a D&D game called “Undermountain.”  Phil was the DM, and led Dirk’s dwarf character through caverns in a mountain.  He used voices and accents and made things amusing and exciting.

Dirk would jokingly say things like “oh great Dungeon Master” or “great DM,” and I picked up on this.  It all seemed perfectly harmless to me, so I decided to join in later on.

There were some pre-made characters, and I chose that of a sixteen-year-old.  I used a British accent, which was a lot of fun for me, and played her as a girl who wanted to try out the wine in a cask the characters found–which surprised Phil.  But hey, must my characters always be exactly like me?

Julie once told me she was impressed that Phil, as a DM, let people duck out to study or whatever.  She said there were DM’s who would make you come to each game, no matter what tests you had.

Another time, Dirk led us in a game of “Werewolf: The Apocalypse.”  My character warmed up quickly to Phil’s character, and I remember them cuddling by a fire after setting up camp.

It seemed really exciting as we rolled up our characters and chose tribes and totems and such, but the game itself was boring.  Phil said Dirk didn’t run it very well.  We never did play the game again.

D&D is what you make of it.  It doesn’t have to be bad for you.  You don’t have to play characters who go against your own beliefs.  You don’t have to end up so obsessed with it that you can’t do or think of anything else, that you think you are your character, and that you spend all your money on the books.

(Some people do.  But then, some people are obsessed with science fiction, chocolate or video games.  That doesn’t mean there’s anything inherently wrong with the object of the obsession, just that the person needs to expand his interests.)

In the 90s, I played D&D with other Christians for years, and none of us became Satan worshippers; we all stayed Christians.  And since you don’t actually say any real spells, and the gods and goddesses are generally made up, there is no danger of accidentally calling up an unwelcome, demonic visitor.

I had told Phil that God gave me my name (my real name, not “Nyssa”), as my parents told me.  They said they both had the idea and then one mentioned it, and the other said they’d also thought of it.

They agreed that God put it into their hearts to name me that.  I never knew why, but my life had been a search for the reason, for my purpose.  (This is also a big deal in many fundamentalist/evangelical circles.)

Phil thought this was silly, and that hurt.  As we played “Werewolf,” one of us brought it up.

Phil began to ridicule my thoughts about the importance of my name.  Dirk came to my defense and said, “Hey, this is important to her.  Respect that.”


Soon after this, while we were alone in his room, Phil pretended to fall asleep, but let me believe he really was asleep.  (It was months before he told me the truth.)

He began to say things to me like, “I know your purpose.”  His mom came in the room and woke him up.  I feared he’d never be able to tell me now.

But he “fell asleep” again and said, “Your purpose is–to destroy me!”  I was horrified.

He later said it was because he decided not to be a priest, and God was angry with him.  I sat in disbelief that this could be my purpose, the reason for God naming me, which I’d sought for all my life!  I don’t think I did believe it.  I probably insisted it was just a dream.

So the gaslighting started very early, but I didn’t know what was going on until it was too late.

Another example: One night, Phil and I were in the lounge talking when it got to be really late.  He talked about leaving, yet didn’t get up.  He made no move to go for some time.  Then when he did, of course I wanted to kiss and hug him good-bye, and of course I wasn’t happy to have to part.

Whoever is, that early in a relationship?  Who ever wants to say good-bye–unless, of course, you don’t actually care about that person and could just as soon be away from them as soon as possible?

It’s an expression of endearment, but not at all the same as holding a person hostage: He can leave at any time.  Just say how much you will miss her and how much you don’t want to leave, give her a hug and a kiss, then leave.

I also don’t push people out the door: I let them decide when to leave, because they are grownups and I am not their mother.  It boggles my mind that I would even have to explain these things; you’d think it would be obvious.

He finally left, but didn’t get much sleep because he had an 8:00 the next morning; he may even have been late to class.  When I saw him later that day, he blamed me for everything!

How could he blame me for that?  It was his own fault, yet he complained that I didn’t let him go, when that wasn’t at all the case.  I explained this, and things seemed to be okay after that.

But it was the beginning of being blamed for things of which I was innocent; far more cases of this were to come over time, a series of gaslighting to make me think I was the bad one.

In the very beginning, it seemed there was no problem that Phil and I couldn’t work out between us, and every problem we had, we instinctively knew how to solve.

Phil had recently done a paper on problem solving between couples, and he said we did everything that he’d read we were supposed to do.  Though he’d written this paper, I hadn’t, so I hadn’t read the articles he did, but for me it just came naturally.

When he told me this, I thought it was amazing–and yet another reason why we were good for each other.

This is ironic, however, because in time it would seem that we didn’t know how to solve anything anymore.


I liked to read the Bible books in Phil’s house, especially one which explained the archaeological and cultural backgrounds behind the stories of the Bible.  He also had a Catholic Bible, of course, and I read some of the Apocrypha/ Deuterocanonical books in that.  I found them fascinating.

I read the Additions to Esther and Susanna and the Elders, and maybe other books as well, as I sat next to Phil in the computer lab one day.

(He had his own computer at home so didn’t use the lab often, but this one time he did with me nearby.  It was weird to sit next to a guy in the computer lab again, like I did with Peter.)

One day, Phil showed me a tape of him acting in an elementary or middle school play of Treasure Island.  He towered over the other children, which was why he was cast as Long John Silver.

He was also far and beyond the best actor there (as his teacher told him), not sounding like he was reading his lines.

As a child, maybe as early as second grade when I played a whistling bird in a little play in my reading group (I couldn’t whistle and had to make these sort of tweeting noises), I had noted that many other children sounded like they were reading, and I fought hard to sound natural.  In fact, in 7th grade I wanted to be an actress.

Phil had a definite gift, and I hoped he’d become famous with it.

Very early in 1994, the song “Mr. Jones” by Counting Crows came out.  I liked it at first, and the MTV Buzz Clip ad was cute: as a clip of the song played, one of those little constant-motion mechanisms that looks like a bird kept dipping its head to “drink” water.

But the song was overplayed so much that I just could not stand it anymore, and I still can’t listen to it.  In 1996, I heard on some TV program about the Counting Crows that it was played so much, even the band couldn’t stand it anymore!

I believe it was only about two or three weeks since we started going out when I spent one Saturday night at the house of Phil’s sister Maura, helping him babysit for his nephew, Taylor.

Taylor’s grandparents spoiled him terribly.  For examples, he would insist on having things his way, watching his tape of the 1993 Disney movie Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey AGAIN when Phil and I were in the middle of watching The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, staying up too late, eating this or that before dinner, and such.

Phil said he was like Taylor at that age (about four), throwing a temper tantrum to get a book he wanted and such like that.  (Uh-oh.  I hope Taylor didn’t grow up to be just like him.  Taylor would now be about 26, which makes me feel friggin’ old.)

Phil often said to him, “You can’t always get what you want.”  We felt he needed to learn this (though Phil apparently never did).

But Taylor could also be cute, and watching Phil play and roughhouse with him warmed my heart.  I thought he’d be a good father.

Maura had also given in to Taylor’s demands and gotten him a puppy, a big, yellow one which I believe was like Chance in Homeward Bound.  Chance was also the puppy’s name.  She was very young and hadn’t been housetrained.

Chance would bark all night because she didn’t like being locked up in a kennel in the kitchen, but if you let her out she would pee on the floor.

She did this once in the kitchen while we were there, and we had to clean it up, which was disgusting.  We had trouble sleeping that night because of her barking.

The downstairs-bathroom sink also had only cold water.  We slept on a sofa-bed downstairs, and Taylor slept in his room upstairs.

While in the kitchen, maybe while helping him heat up a pizza for dinner, Phil and I somehow got on the subject of the Rapture and Tribulation.

He’d never heard of it before, which I thought was unbelievable.  How could he grow up in the Church without ever hearing of the Last Days?  It was all in Revelations.

So I told him about it, and encouraged him to read the whole story in Revelations and Daniel.

(In 1999 I read a message from a Catholic on a newsgroup saying that the concept of the Tribulation and Rapture is Protestant, not Catholic.  That sounded ludicrous to me at the time because the concept comes from the Bible.

(But it’s true.  In October 2001, some people on the Dark Shadows newsgroup discussed it, saying that only some Christians believe in a literal translation of all of Revelations.

(I’d always thought that all Christians believed in it, since it was in the Bible.  In September and maybe part of October 2001, however, I did another reading of it myself, using two Bibles which gave various interpretations of it.  Before, I’d always read it as a description of the End Times.

(Now, I discovered that most of it probably isn’t meant to be taken literally, but allegorically.  For example, 666 would probably be Nero, meaning that it already took place–and hardly in a literal fashion.

(Further research uncovered that traditional interpretations hold Revelations to be highly symbolic, the Rapture to be a modern fabrication, and Christ’s reign to be here and now in the Church, not a literal theocracy–amillennialism.)

Once, after we’d been making out a bit, I got up to go to the bathroom.  When I came back, Phil was asleep on the couch.  I tried to wake him up, and he started kissing me and being playful with his eyes closed.

At first I thought he was awake, but then discovered he was still asleep.  I touched him with my hands, which were icy cold because the bathroom sink only had cold water.

He cried out, put his hands to his face, and made noises like he was crying.  I tried to wake him up, distressed at this.

When I finally got him to wake up, he told me he’d dreamed that I had died, and it upset him.  He said everything he’d done with his eyes closed, he’d done while asleep.

My ex Peter had often talked in his sleep or acted out his dreams, but this was even more intense than that.  I was shocked at this strange ability Phil had, and because of Peter and because of my trust in Phil, I believed in it.

I was to find out, many months later, that it was a trick to show me how much he’d be upset if I died, that he wasn’t really asleep.  But for now, he told me he’d been dreaming it.

That night, as we lay between the sheets of the pulled-out sofa bed, Phil and I started kissing.  We both got really turned on, and I thought I was going to give up my virginity only two weeks into a relationship–but didn’t care.

Finally, Phil said we had to stop.  He was right, of course, and I am glad that he stopped us from doing such an awful thing.

I’m glad for two main reasons: one, it was sin, and two, it would have been very disrespectful to Maura, who would possibly have wanted both to burn the sheets and to wring our necks for doing this with Taylor in the house.

The next morning, we got a call: Phil’s parents.  They said that somebody in the Roanoke Singers had called their house to give him a wakeup call, but he wasn’t there.

They thought Phil knew about it, and would be coming home soon to shower; they called when he didn’t show up there.  There was a concert that morning, and he was going to be late to it, but it had totally slipped his mind.

When we spoke of the weekend and when we’d leave Maura and Taylor’s house and how I’d get back to Roanoke and all that, this concert never entered the equation.  I didn’t know about it, of course, and I don’t know how he forgot about it.

But now I was stuck at Maura and Taylor’s house, and Phil was in trouble with the choir director, since the Singers group ended up leaving him behind to go to the church they were to sing at.

Phil came back again later that morning or in the early afternoon, told me what happened, and took me back to Roanoke.  He felt awful about it.

Another Pre-Engagement

I told Phil that I had never had a Valentine’s Day, and that, especially after coming so close to having one with Peter and then being denied that privilege, I wanted one even more.

So on Valentine’s Day, I don’t remember where I found them–in my mailbox or outside my door or personally delivered–but Phil got me a box of chocolates and a red rose.

The rose was in a long, green or white, plastic cylinder, and the chocolates were in a pink box–not one of the usual candy boxes or heart-shaped boxes, but a small, high box.

The chocolates were eaten over the next several weeks, and the rose lasted far longer than I expected it to.  I saved both the box and the rose cylinder.

When I told Anna about the rose the next day as we walked past the library, she said, “Ooh, sounds like you’ve found a good man.”  But romance is not the only indicator of a good man.

On the night of Saturday the 12th from 9PM to 1AM, there was a Valentine’s Day dance in the Pub.  We went, expecting to hear slow dances and dance to them.  However, all they played was rap.

We eventually left in disgust and disappointment, wondering how a Valentine’s Day dance could have no slow dances.  It was that year or before that school dances began to be like this, full of rap music and not much else, which disappointed a lot of people who didn’t like rap and wanted to hear alternative or dance.

Before we left, however, Derek (pepper steak guy) came over and put his arm around me, pretending to come on to me.  He acted like it was just a joke, but Phil didn’t like Derek and suspected it to be a deliberate attempt to upset him.

Phil didn’t like Derek because of jokes he made; I believe Phil felt he was teasing people not to be funny, but to be mean.  Phil got a new catchphrase: “That’s just Derek!”

Phil and I had awful luck with dances that year.  I wanted to see him dance, since it was legendary in his family: He would be all over the floor, doing all sorts of wild and weird moves.

But we never did seem to have the chance to go to another dance together, not that I remember.  Remember that; it becomes important later.


On or before February 16, Pearl told me at lunch that there was a concert coming up, and I would be interested: it was Whiteheart.  She knew they were my favorite band, that I’d never seen them in concert despite trying, and that seeing them would be like paradise for me.

I gasped and got all excited.  I wrote in my day planner to tell Phil about it.  We also asked him to drive the InterVarsity group there when the time came.  It was to be at UW-Whitewater.  Pearl had friends there, and we could stay in their room.

On February 25 and 26, members of InterVarsity did the 30-Hour Famine, which World Vision sponsors.  Your group goes without food for 30 hours to find out what it’s like for people in Third World countries, and raises money for World Vision.

I felt I couldn’t go without food for that long, surviving only on juice, but I did pledge money.  (I thought I had a moderately high metabolism.)  The people who did do it were surprised because they didn’t feel all that hungry–and even when they gathered together for pizza and a party after it ended, still didn’t feel all that hungry.

Once, I sat in the hallway outside my room with Phil and told him why I still couldn’t drink canned Mountain Dew.  (A few years later I could handle it, but I didn’t like the taste as much.)

It reminded me of the breakup with Peter, when I drank canned Mountain Dew with the sack meals provided by Food Service over a holiday weekend.  I also couldn’t eat ravioli, because it was served right after the breakup, and I could barely eat it.

He didn’t understand why when it had been so long since the breakup, and when I had him now.  This upset me, especially since I couldn’t make him understand no matter how much I tried to explain it.  He may have thought I wasn’t over Peter, but this wasn’t the case at all, not now.

The real reason I couldn’t stand Mountain Dew in a can was that it reminded me of a dark time in my life when I was very depressed.

It’s not quite the same thing as having a new boyfriend or girlfriend yet not wanting to see a movie you saw with the old one, or not liking to hear that the old one is engaged.  In such a case, you have someone new who is supposed to help you forget the old one and not care if you saw this movie with the old one or if you hear that they’re engaged.

But in this case, canned Dew reminded me of depression, not just a person, and would bother me no matter who I was with.

I told him I also had a problem with ravioli.  Considering that the last time I ate it I felt like puking it back up again, and was in the beginning of my depression, I had good reason to not like ravioli, either.  (Both issues have long since gone away, with the passage of years.)

I also don’t like ginger ale because it reminds me of being sick.  So why would my aversion to canned Dew and ravioli mean I still wasn’t “over” Peter?

What about all the years it took to stand Dew and ravioli again, or how many years it took to listen to songs which reminded me of Peter and/or the breakup depression?

Long after I found someone new and got married, I still had trouble listening to those songs.  It wasn’t Peter, but the depression itself which I hated to remember.

Phil had a D&D-based board game which we sometimes played together, with him acting as DM and me acting as the character.  He set up rooms for me to go in and loot or capture.

We rolled dice with symbols that showed how successful I was.  I enjoyed it.  One night while we played it, his mom opened up the door and said with a grin, “I just knew you two would be playing a game.”

Phil’s mom was, I believe, in the national Dean’s List publication the same year I was, freshman year.  Unlike me, she was able to afford it.  I looked through her copy, and sure enough, at long last, I saw myself there.

It wasn’t long before Phil and I started talking about marriage.  We decided to get engaged after 6 months of dating, then marry when I graduated.  We believed we were meant for each other.  Our interests and beliefs seemed to be much the same in many ways.  And we believed we loved each other.

One day, an Honors classmate brought in some books from the S– library, and put them on the desk so they wouldn’t set off the alarm.  Two were “Brides” books because she was getting married.  Seymour saw them, thought they were mine, and said I was a fast worker.  It was ironic, but I said nothing because at the moment, it was a secret.

Phil’s mom had spoken to Peter recently; Peter told her the reasons for the breakup.  He told her some of the same lies he told other people, that I was talking about marriage and he wasn’t, even though he started it and talked about marriage at least as much as I did, with excitement.  We had agreed to get married after graduation.

You don’t promise to marry a girl and then tell everybody she’s some psycho obsessed with marriage.  I think he did this major smear campaign to keep me from finding love with somebody else, even though he didn’t want me himself.

Because of Peter’s lies to her, Phil’s mom kept asking him, “Is she talking about marriage yet?”  He told me he wanted to say, “We both are!”  But instead he just said, “No,” because our agreement to get engaged (yep, I was “pre-engaged” once again) was a secret from her.  I did tell Pearl.

I don’t want to go into details, since there are lines I don’t want to cross on the Net, and I don’t like reading other people’s blow-by-blow (literally) descriptions of sex on the Net.  It’s embarrassing and makes me feel like a perv, a voyeur.

But around this time, one thing led to another, and it sure seemed like sex to me.  I cried, “What did we just do?”

But he–whose school had sex ed, unlike mine–talked to me from his position of “superior” knowledge, and told me it was not sex: Because our clothes were on and there was no entry, it was not actually sex, so we were still virgins.

I felt foolish.  It was many years before I discovered that this is actually one of many lies we Christians tell ourselves, that it really is sex and, for us, sinful, that I was right but Phil made me feel wrong and ignorant.

Virginity isn’t something physical we can “break.” And virginity isn’t your hymen: it’s an idea, or a set of values and concepts which varies from person to person, not a body part….

So, it’s more sensible, if you’re going to use the V-word at all, to, for instance, say — as many people do — that losing one’s virginity is about choosing to have a certain kind of sex with someone, such as vaginal intercourse, or about having ANY kind of sex with someone else (which would really be the most accurate and inclusive way to look at it).

Even then, a lot of those concepts have flaws, but they’re less flawed than all that silly business with hymens that’s so meaningless and flat-out wrong….

Yes, you’re dressed, but this stuff going on is about sex, is about one or both of you exploring sex, and that’s just as real as intercourse or anything else….

If the two of you were dry humping, and everyone is all turned on and looking to get off, you were having a form of sex, and it’s just as much sex as intercourse or anything else, even though it doesn’t present the pregnancy or STI risks vaginal intercourse and some other sexual activities do.

(This is some of why so many people are so underwhelmed if and when they DO have intercourse: they expect it to feel like something wildly different than dry humping or oral sex and it really doesn’t: it’s just one other way to do the same sort of thing.) —Did he break my virginity with dry humping?

March 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:

Junior Year
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: