My Friends

I may have first heard Q101 (alternative, Chicago) on the way back to school.  I do know it was sometime sophomore year, either then or during Thanksgiving Break.  I began to like alternative even more than I liked the dance music on B96.  Eventually, I discovered that Q101 came in at my house when the TV antenna was hooked up to the stereo in the living room.

When my parents and I first got to Roanoke, probably on the 5th, we thought there would be many people there.  When we’d arrived on move-in day the year before, we’d gotten the impression that the other people in the suite had been there for a day or two at least, maybe even a week, and that this was standard procedure for sophomores and upperclassmen and football players.

We received no notice saying that we couldn’t move in before move-in day, and really, Saturday was far more convenient than making my parents spend Labor Day moving me in and going all the way back home for work the next day.  (The drive was about 5 hours each way.)  Classes started on Wednesday.  So we loaded up the new Plymouth Grand Am and moved in on Saturday, thinking everything would be fine.

When we got there, no one was waiting for us, and the suite was empty, all the doors open.  We went in, but of course I couldn’t stay there without a key.  So I went down to the Campus Center to find someone to give me a key; I found MemAdmin.  She cried out in a tone that sounded like an adult scolding a child, “What are you doing here so early?”

I had no clue why she would say such a thing.  She wasn’t happy about it, but gave me a key.  I believe she said the doors were open because the cleaning crew was cleaning.  I went back to my parents and told them what had happened, and they were just as mystified as I was at why she’d say what she did.

We moved my stuff in, but there was no food service right away, so my parents (who were staying in S– overnight anyway) came and got me for meals.  On Sunday the 6th, as I was dreading a long day of having no one to talk to except my parents, we were passing the Campus Center, either on foot or in the car.  I looked up and saw, parked in its usual spot outside Bossard, Pearl’s scooter.  “Pearl’s here!” I cried.  At least one of my friends was already there!

She was back early to lead a freshman orientation group.  One of the guys in it was named Derf, like the guy in the Disney TV-movie Exile from 1990, a favorite movie of mine.  We all thought that was a funny name.

I thought I was going to be all alone, but no, the day was full of socializing and friends: Pearl, Sharon, Rachel, Sarah, a couple of others.  Most, if not all of them were RA’s or Freshman Orientation group leaders.

I forget what day Shawn came back.  But when he did, he sat at a meal with the Group and me.  I jokingly complained to him that despite all the letters I’d written him, “You didn’t write me any letters.  You didn’t even send me a birthday card!”  Tara groaned, stood up, and said to Shawn, “That even hurts me.”

Shawn also ripped on my letters–probably for being long–and Catherine defended me.  As she had told me in a letter, she loved my letters.  They told so much about me, she said, and were more interesting than some others she got that summer.

****

Soon after I moved in, somebody told me my new roommate had decided last-minute not to live in that suite.  I don’t know why.  I didn’t know her, so it couldn’t have been anything personal.  So I didn’t have a roommate.  I never did meet her.

Tracy [NOT that other Tracy] was the only other sophomore in the suites.  She was there because she, like me, had signed up to a suite (probably a language one) before they pulled the language suites (lack of interest) and said only upperclassmen could live in the suites.

Since the school’s policy change caused us an inconvenience, we were allowed to stay, though we might have to change rooms or suites.  I was moved from the old German suite to an honors suite on the opposite end of the building, which I was able to live in because of my grades.

My suitemates–the ones I remember–were Nicky, Georgina and Mary; for a short time, Maggie, who had the room next to mine; and, eventually, Elizabeth.  Georgina and Mary were roommates, and Elizabeth lived with Nicky when she moved into our suite.  Maggie moved out because she was very unhappy on campus and wanted to live at home.

Mary got engaged to her boyfriend, so she told us–though she never told her sorority sisters.  I don’t know what happened there.  Georgina used to date Jennifer’s brother.  He broke up with her, but she could not let go for quite some time.  Unlike Peter, he was nice to his ex, allowing her to talk to him and ask him to do things–and she did that a lot.  This really got on Mary’s nerves.

Candice once told me that if she and her boyfriend broke up, she’d probably take it worse than I did.  Well, they did break up over the summer, and she was right: She ended up in the hospital!

On one of these first days back, I was in the Campus Center, lower level, probably checking mail, and glimpsed a new video on MTV on the lounge TV.  Something about this video caught my eye, so I sat down to watch it.  It was “Jeremy” by some new band called Pearl Jam–and it just blew me away.  The quality of the production, the interest, the art, the song itself–all were excellent.

If you’ve never seen it, it’s a collection of images depicting a young boy, Jeremy, living out his tortured life with parents who don’t care and classmates who tease him.  In one scene, he kneels in front of a big picture of a wolf with its mouth open.

At the end, he goes into his classroom late and shirtless, tosses an apple to the teacher, pulls a gun to his own head and squeezes his eyes shut–then you see his classmates frozen in time, Jeremy’s blood splattered all over them as they sit in shock and horror.  I didn’t know it then, but it was based on a real occurrence, I believe in Indiana.

From what I could understand of the lyrics, and without the shooting, he was me.  (I hadn’t yet caught the parts where he would act like a jerk).  The music seemed to express the despair and torment of a child who’s being teased by everyone else.  “Jeremy spoke in class today” was the most eloquent line, since it didn’t just refer to him opening up his mouth and answering a question.

Also, the lead singer, Eddie Vedder, looked like a wild man with his long, straggly hair and big eyes.

****

On one of those first evenings back, I went to visit Shawn in his room.  It was a tiny, single room, because he couldn’t stand his jerky roommate the year before.  It was almost a closet, maybe half the size of a double room, which in the Grossheusch dorm was already barely enough for two people.  He had one bed, a small, green easy/rocking chair, and a little space for his desk and closets–and that was it.

There were closets and drawers all around and even above his bed.  A green Inverness coat hung from one of the knobs of a closet near the window, which filled the wall opposite the door.  I wished he’d wear it more often: I love Inverness coats.  I don’t remember if anyone lived in the rooms near him.  Above his bed was his stereo or jam box, which usually blasted Christian music (rock, pop, maybe rap).

I was in a playful mood.  As we talked, he began going on and on about something, and I chuckled and said, “You’re so analytical!”  I believe I also called him paranoid.  He handed me my letters, saying that when I spoke in one letter about Laura Ingalls Wilder’s West From Home, it sounded like I wanted all my letters for posterity.  Starting December 30, I spent several days copying out as much of them as I wanted to keep, then gave them back to him.

****

My room was much like the room I had freshman year, except the windows faced the Wehr Center, parking lot and football field, and the door was on the wall adjacent to the window.  My bed was under the window because it was next to the wall heater.  At one point we had to have the heater fixed, but it kept the room nice and warm for much of the winter.

The phone was on a dresser.  At first it was a box-shaped phone, the standard, but then it stopped working right, so we got some newfangled thing which just had the receiver and no box.  You’d put it down on the desk to hang it up, since it had this little hook-thing that would be pushed in.

I would often skip putting it on the desk to hang it up, and just hit the hook.  I loved this modern convenience.  The cord was also really long, so I could talk on the phone while sitting on my bed.

Maggie’s room would eventually be made into a guest room, holding the old furniture (including a big, comfy, but ratty old couch) when the new furniture was put into the lounge.  I was surprised to find the lounge didn’t have a TV.  I thought all the suite lounges had TVs.  After all, the one in the German suite did not belong to any of us in the suite, but to the college.

Somebody made a paper sign which read, “Suite Sweet Suite” rather than “Home Sweet Home.”

The Main Suite Lounge was now turned into Day Care, and the old Day Care suite was turned into either a living suite or the Beta suite.  It was disappointing to lose the Main Suite Lounge.

I always knew when there was a party or something else big going on in the Zeta or Beta suite, since I could see and hear it through the lounge windows.  I could even tell when the Zetas or Betas turned on loud music.  At least they played good stuff.  That’s how I first heard “Would” by Alice in Chains and “Percolator” by Cajmere.

****

Apparently, the summer was the last gasp of my feelings for Peter.  I thought I only liked Shawn as a friend, and only wanted Peter.  But I wrote in my diary on December 20,

This crush [on Shawn] has been going on long enough, and I don’t think just because it’s been fed.  It wasn’t fed during the summer; I just kept falling deeper into love with Peter.

I thought–remember this?–that I only thought of Shawn as a friend at summer’s end.  I badly wanted Peter to reform and return to me.

But, as soon as I got back to school, I didn’t want [my supposed “word of knowledge”] to come true, at least not very much, and Pearl called me “obsessed” with Shawn.

I still had feelings for Peter, which I can see showing up in my diary from time to time, especially on the anniversary of our first date.

But a lot of the time I wrote about praying for him to reform, and asking friends to pray for him, because I saw him turning into a reprobate–and for conservative Christians, someone turning away from Christianity, into what we consider sin, means their soul is at risk of eternal damnation.  He was on my list of intercessions for my nightly prayers.

****

I hadn’t seen the new movie Wayne’s World and had never seen the Wayne’s World sketches on Saturday Night Live, but I knew many of the one-liners from my friends, who now incorporated them into daily speech.  There were little catch phrases such as “Ex-squeeze me?”; “Ree!  Ree!  Ree!” while making stabbing motions; “We’re not worthy!”; and “If you spew, spew in here” (said while holding up a glass cup).

We loved the references to “Mill-i-wau-kay,” and I loved the references to Chicago, such as the Empire carpet jingle, which I knew from watching Chicago stations for years.  I don’t think we actually used Wayne and Garth’s “Schwing!”  After all, none of us were guys.

As for Saturday Night Live catchphrases, we sometimes used a falsetto “Ne-ver mind” and “I’m verklempt”.  I didn’t use “verklempt” since I didn’t know what it meant and didn’t watch SNL.  Pearl used “O-tay” (from Eddie Murphy’s Buckwheat).  I believe she once embarrassed herself by using it with a much older adult during a serious conversation.  Tara’s favorite was, “You putchyer weeed in there!”

One thing my friends loved to say to each other after lunch was, “Let’s check mail–I want mail–I want a male!”

Somebody would lose her train of thought and say, “What did I want to say?”  Then somebody else–usually Rachel or Sharon–would pipe up with, “I know!  I know!”

One of the many running jokes we had that year was the “Standing O.”  Instead of standing up and applauding as a standing ovation, we would stand and put our arms in a circle: a standing O!

Other catchphrases: “That’s not very fun” and “This is my friend/This is not my friend (used about things and situations as well as people).  I don’t know where they came from.  Rachel liked to say “Oh…my…G-d,” like the woman in the beginning of the song “Baby Got Back” by Sir Mix-a-lot.

One catchphrase came from Rachel talking about her uncle and others and repeatedly saying, “He’s dead now.”  The “he” would be drawled.  Another one was “Spew!  Spew!  Spew!”  We said this whenever somebody took a drink just as another person said or did something funny.  The drink-spewing was meant to come out of the nose.

Another catchphrase originated in Rachel’s summer job.  She worked in a cheese factory, and one of the products was cheese and rice.  Whenever someone used Jesus Christ’s name in vain, somebody else would say, “Excuse me?  Cheese and rice?”

Another one (Rachel’s) was, “Excuse me, yer what hurts?”

Sarah, Tara and Carol loved to use the words “sexy,” “voluptuous” and “oscillating.”  I’m not sure what the deal was with “oscillating,” but the first two were used for anything that was good–even for plans that sounded like fun: “That sounds sexy.”

Catherine’s manner of speaking–things she said, her flirts, the way she talked about guys, the very sound and lilt of her voice–sounded (to me) just like Meryn Cadell in The Sweater, a song from the summer of 1992.

In the evening, I would go in the side door of Krueger, the women’s dorm.  In those days, it was always kept unlocked until probably Quiet Hours.  I’d get pop and snacks from the vending machines, or go visit my friends.  Pearl and Cindy, Rachel, and others lived on the first floor.

****

All during our talks the previous year, Shawn would mention his ex-girlfriend; he broke up with her because they were going to college and separating, and she had trouble opening up and talking to him, so they just made out.  But he was still hung up on her.

He told her they could call each other after their first year of college, and if they wanted to get back together, they could.  But she found a new guy, whom she could talk to–and was engaged to him.  Shawn didn’t think the guy was good enough for her.

Shawn called her over the summer and left messages, but she never returned his calls.  I felt bad for him.  (Still, if she’s gone then there’s more of a chance for me, right?  I must’ve thought that at some point.)

****

On Tuesday the 8th, I went out for pizza with Darryl, Steve, two guys named Ned and Marc, and maybe somebody else.  I had been hanging out with Darryl and Steve, who explained to me the background of Red Dwarf, which I had been watching on PBS over the summer.  (My brother also got the book version later on, which I read.)

Ned got Darryl into a political conversation in the car.  Ned was surprised I wanted to vote for Bush.  He said, “Is it because you don’t want to vote for Clinton?”  There really was no good candidate in this race, which would keep happening for the next few elections.  I only voted for Bush because, in those days, I thought Pat Robertson was God’s prophet–and he said Bush would win.

Ned is the same guy I saw when I visited Roanoke for a SEED day back in the spring of 1991, who flirted with me and impressed me with his sky blue eyes.

But by this point, he was no longer one of my crushes, just one of the guys I sort of knew; I don’t believe I ever thought of him again the way I did in the spring of 1991, not once I got to know him better.  He was very cute, but not my “type.”

Catherine had just started dating Ned.  I don’t think they dated during the summer, because she didn’t live in S– and had written to me about a couple of sailors she dated.  He said she wasn’t really what he was looking for, but he wasn’t sure what he was looking for.

I thought about telling Catherine what Ned had said, but wasn’t sure.  I may have thought they weren’t serious anyway, since they only just started dating.  I don’t know why I didn’t warn her, but I was soon to wish I did.

At the first dance of the year, on Saturday, I saw Catherine and Ned meet in the Campus Center lounge; Catherine wanted him to hurry up and go upstairs to the dance with her.

I thought her remarks were completely appropriate for people who were dating, but he treated her like a possessive nag telling him what to do, and said, “We’re not engaged.”  She soon went up to the dance without him.

A few minutes later, a lovely, voluptuous freshman named Melissa (Catherine was also lovely and voluptuous, by the way), who also happened to have been a schoolmate of Shawn’s, came in the lounge.

Ned, in his black trench coat, hurried over, crashed down onto the floor on his knees and knelt beside her, and began to talk with her.  At the dance, he danced with Melissa and totally ignored Catherine, who stood by the drinks table.

I then saw Catherine in the bathroom, looking upset but not crying.  She didn’t say much.  A short time later, I asked where she was, and was told she left.  I saw Peter slow-dancing with some girl, so I didn’t much care to stay, either.

I soon left and saw Catherine far ahead of me, walking back to Krueger, her head down.  But I wasn’t able to catch up with her or find her in Krueger and talk to her, so I don’t know where she went after that.  I may have tried calling her, but didn’t know her number and had to go back to my room first for a directory.  But by then, no one answered her phone.

Ned and Melissa were a couple for most of the year.  Sometime in early spring, Melissa broke up with him, and he was, as Pearl said, “still hung up on her.”  Catherine said much later that it seemed that every ex-girlfriend he had, hated him.  Many years later, he even told Catherine he shouldn’t have broken up with her.

****

People didn’t jump enough at the school dances.  All they seemed to do was sway back and forth and shuffle their feet a bit.  Black dances, which sometimes involved people lining up and doing a sort of follow-the-leader, were more interesting than these (which were predominantly made up of white people).  I moved my feet more than the other white people, as Peter taught me.  Somebody told me that House of Pain recorded “Jump” to get people to jump.

One day, an improv group came to RC and did a performance in Bossard during lunch.  If you’ve ever seen the British or American versions of the show Whose Line is it Anyway, you’ll understand what this improv troupe did.

Basically, none of the comedy was scripted: They made it all up from moment to moment.  They tried to act out situations and play games given to them by the moderator, who tried to give them situations and games that were as funny as possible.  They were given points which didn’t make a difference.

And if things ever got too raunchy, such as a sexual reference, the moderator would hit a buzzer, ending the player’s turn.  I don’t remember the jokes except for “Bananaman.”  One of the guys ended up with a banana and started going on about “Bananaman.”  He got buzzed for sexual content.  For the rest of the year, you could hear jokes about Bananaman.

Food Service and Classes

Food Service was an icky job, but at first I didn’t mind cleaning people’s trays and sending them down the line to the dishwashers.  The kitchen and dishwashing areas were called “in the back.”  There was this big, long, silvery thing with rollers on it which was shaped like a U, and you slid the trays along it to your coworkers.

When people put their trays in the window, I tossed the trash in a big trash can with a red, plastic lid on the top with a hole in it for the trash, then tossed the silverware in a pan of water and sorted it by type into round containers.

The containers were in a stand that held them upright.  I sent down the tray, and the others stacked the dishes and trays in big trays which kept them separated from each other, then pushed them into a big washing machine.

When the dishes were clean, they came out the other side, which was parallel to and behind the side I worked on.  We let them dry and cool off, and then put them away.  If the dishes weren’t properly cleaned, they got sent back through the dishwasher–yet I still had to check my silverware and dishes for cleanliness at meals.

Before a shift, we ate, punched in, and hung up key card necklaces on pegs outside the dishwashing area.  We wore plastic aprons and white, rubber gloves, then tossed them into the trash at the end of our shifts.  The white powder inside the gloves weakened my fingernails.  The Back had a weird, food-like smell which clung to our clothes.

Nancy, our supervisor, was a sweet person, though she could get stern if she needed to. Arthur, our boss and a real chef, often rollerbladed around campus.  Rollerblades were new back then.

On Thursday nights, when I worked late, I often had to help take out the trash.  We went into a service elevator with doors that were pulled shut with a rope.  It took us downstairs and opened to the dumpsters.

This job introduced me to the Grease Bucket, which got dumped out by the trash.  It was disgusting, all yellowish and smelly.  It explained why I sometimes had stomach problems from the food, and had to blot the food with a napkin (just like my dad would do) until my stomach recovered.

****

Part of the Campus Center got converted into a pub, which was supposed to be a combination bar, grill, pool hall, and meeting place.  Dances were often held there, even though it was too small for that.

The voting for the new pub’s name was on the 14th and 15th of September.  One name suggested was Study, so you could tell your parents “I’m going to Study” without lying.    Unfortunately, the name for the new pub was voted to be The Pub.  We laughed because lack of creativity won.

That was the golden year of ice cream.  We had it all the time, and in various flavors: the new chocolate chip cookie dough, Elephant Tracks, even peanut butter chocolate, which was delicious but rare.

I now knew where the ice cream freezer was, and would go there when I had my early dinner.  I had my pick of full bins, so my preferred choices would not be empty or ice cream soup before I could get to them.

The fries were always good, but Muskie fries were even better, and wonderfully salty.  You could eat either kind without ketchup.

These hamburgers had real meat in them, not vile soy, and weren’t served on bread but on buns, contrary to high school and junior high burgers.  I even learned to love the cheeseburgers.  Wisconsin has this way of making even cheese-haters start to like some kinds of cheese.

My first night in Food Service, since Nancy had told me to come in after dinner, I stayed after the first shifters left and the football players (mostly black) came in, and until maybe 6:30.  There were a lot of flirts in there at that time.  One of them asked me if I had a boyfriend, and I said no.

He said in disbelief, “You don’t have a boyfriend?!  What kind of music do you like?”

“Nearly anything,” I said.

“So if you put on a slow song, she’ll dance with you,” he said to the others.

There was another black guy with a shaven head who liked to flirt with me.  He often worked the lunch shift with me during spring semester.

I loved the attention, which made me feel beautiful.  I had never really had much of that sort of attention in my life, and Shawn kept making out with me but insisting we were just friends, so I could certainly use it.

I got a roommate later in the month; she also worked Food Service, and for a time we worked together.

Remember James?  Now for more details.  He had very German features and a long nose (I have a fetish for long-bridged noses).

I sometimes spotted him working after my late shift on Thursday.  His job was sweeping.  He always seemed to look at me whenever I was nearby.

I’d walk around putting dishes away while glancing at him, and noticed him glancing at me as well.  I looked at his time card one day to learn his name.

I would pass him on the way to or from Food Service, and we would glance at each other.  I never quite got up the courage to say hi, I guess.  Oh well, he never said it, either.

The two good things about Food Service were higher paychecks and Muskie Inn coupons.

****

Carl and Dirk were freshman roommates who worked in Food Service on a different shift.  Nancy pointed at them once and told me that one had a crush on me.

I thought she meant Carl–whom I preferred–but she meant Dirk.

Dirk was just as much a know-it-all as Shawn, able to talk you into believing anything, and I eventually considered him obnoxious.  He wasn’t even cute.  So it’s just as well that Nancy said,

“I told him you were shy, but he didn’t like that.”  Yeah, well, who needs you?

I sat with Carl and Dirk a few times at meals.  Once, Dirk said,

“Half the guys here are probably in love with you.”

I think he was trying to inspire me not to be so shy, as if it would somehow make a difference on someone who was born that way.  I don’t know if guys were really saying this about me or if it was just Dirk’s theory.  If it were true, I wish that one of the guys would have acted on it.

Nancy told me once that Dirk would try to tell the football players how to do their jobs.  Now these guys had been in there far longer than freshman Dirk had, yet they seemed to take his commandeering with amused, patient faces.  But Nancy expected that any day now they would grab him and put him through the washer along with the dishes.

The freshmen in my shift kept complaining about Freshman Studies.  They said it had nothing to do with their major, so they shouldn’t have to take it.  I thought a liberal arts education meant a little of everything, not just what applied to your major.  It’s for expanding your mind, not just teaching you how to make money.

One of my first days back, while I was still feeling self-assured and happy, I had to face Roanoke reality again: Peter was back at school.

****

In a cold room in the basement of Old Main, my Fiction Writing class met with Terry on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  My final grade was a satisfying A-, just what a writer could wish for.  I wondered why Terry loved Flannery O’Connor so much, since she seemed to write such dark stuff.

We moved the desks so they were in a circle, making us much more comfortable talking to each other and reading our work.  We kept writing-journals.

One of the students also knew Peter.  She read one of her assignments in class, said it was about someone she knew–and she confirmed to me that it was Peter.

Her assignment was about a guy who takes dream trips while he sleeps, trips into the past where he studies with a ninja master.

Or maybe she talked about him traveling in time to other places; I don’t quite remember what she read, just that I knew about these dream trips as well.

One assignment was to write an argument between two people.  I based mine on stories I dreamed up in junior high, about Shyeskol, a Martian with a high-pitched voice, and Brian, the Earthling she loved–but he thought she was weird.

I used much of the Martian culture I had already developed over the years.  The class seemed to love it, and Terry especially loved my simple, beautiful-sounding alien names.

We soon had to sit down and write for an hour, just to see what we came up with.  I sat down at the computer at home for much longer than an hour, and came up with “Brian and Shyeskol.”

It was 25 pages, double-spaced.  Terry brought it to my suite to return it to me after he graded it.  He stood outside the door with an umbrella, and said, “This took me soooooo long to read, but I really enjoyed it.”

I first wrote my now-published story “Bedlam Castle” over the summer.  I had dreamed parts of it, only the characters were the cast of Are You Being Served? and Colin’s part was played by Spooner.

I don’t know why it was Spooner: I never had a crush on him or anything.  But that’s why Colin ended up average-looking.

I threw in ghosts to explain things that only made sense in a dream, such as clothes changing color.  I typed the story with the name “Bedlam” in maybe a day or two.  Now, in Fiction, I needed to submit stories to be workshopped, so this became one of them.

While home for Thanksgiving Break, I typed a revision into my parents’ computer.  It was about 20 pages, double-spaced, and I believe I had to print up 20 copies for everybody in the class.

That took forever, and then I had to separate the pages and remove the edges.  (It was a dot matrix printer with continuous feed.)

I submitted it to the class, and people joked that it was so long it kept them up half the night.  But they loved the story, and had all sorts of praises.

Rachel loved the humor.  One person, a man who was probably in his thirties or forties, loved that the focus and culmination was a kiss and not sex, unlike so many other stories and movies these days.

I took the copies back, along with the comments people had scribbled in the margins, and revised the story in my word processor.  It became much stronger.  I also changed the title to “Bedlam Castle” to address a concern that “Bedlam” didn’t fit.

I worked as quickly as possible, but revising and then printing the story took far longer than I expected.  I had to get it ready for finals, which were shortly after Thanksgiving Break, but I also had other classes.

The night before the final day of class, I stayed up until 5am revising it.  Then on the day of the final, which was to be held in Terry’s house on Prof Row, I was still working on it!  The 1991 Brother word processor printed dreadfully slow, and ink cartridges lasted for maybe 20 pages.

The time for the final arrived, and I was still printing out the revised copy for the teacher.  I ran out of ink at least once.  The final was just the class sitting in the teacher’s house and chatting, but we were supposed to turn in our revised stories as well, so this could not wait.

I didn’t get done printing it until 3:00, an hour after the final started, and everyone was waiting for me before they could start.  One of my classmates called and said, “Where are you?”

“I’m printing out ‘Bedlam,'” I said.

She and the whole class laughed.

When I finally got to the final and gave the story to Terry, I could sit down and enjoy the rest of the afternoon.

Terry had been a lead singer for a punk rock band in his youth, circa 1980, and played us a record made by his band.  I still remember the chorus to one song: “I want to kill for kicks!”  His punk persona was different from the Terry we knew, a soft-spoken, even-tempered man.

My friends giggled at the way he would talk slowly in class and that he was actually using a textbook this year.  But I liked him, and really missed him the next year when he moved and someone else took his place.

One day freshman year, Pearl had been sick and didn’t go to class.  He came all the way to her room to find out how she was.  Ever after that, people joked that he was her “man.”

****

Music History and Appreciation met in ugly room 14 of Old Main.  This room was painted in a 70s red-orange that looked good on the outside walls of the building, but not on the inside.

We listened to tapes of samples of the various types of music which appeared in each period of history.  We discovered that music notation wasn’t established until sometime in the Middle Ages, so it’s difficult to pinpoint just what songs sounded like before then.  Love songs were as prevalent then as now.  I learned to love plainchant and Baroque.

We read about Hildegard of Bingen and the music she wrote.  We learned a few other things about culture as they related to music, and that one woman intellectual in the eighteenth century wrote under a male penname so she’d be taken seriously.

She was one of those philosopher-types, such as Voltaire, which were around in those days.  I don’t remember what her penname was.

We learned that modern-day S– and other Wisconsin towns of similar or larger size were like the big and small towns and cities of the nineteenth century, with “its symphony association, organized by merchants, bankers, government officials, lawyers, and other members of the middle class” (page 243, Listen, by Joseph Kerman).

We learned that Franz Liszt was like a modern rock star: His concerts drew crowds, women wanted to tear his clothes off, he broke piano strings as he played (much like modern rock stars sometimes smash guitars), and he had a “flamboyant” lifestyle and affairs with noblewomen.

In the class with me were Tara, Pearl and Shawn.  I loved having them all in there with me, seeing them three out of the five weekday mornings and then being able to discuss the class with them.

Pearl and I loved hearing Chopin’s Etude in C Minor, Op. 10, No. 12, because David Meece had written a song, “This Time,” with this song incorporated into it.  It’s also used in an episode of Abbot and Costello’s comedy show, “The Music Lovers.”

On Wednesday and Friday mornings, my Sophomore Honors class met with Bill.  I read all the books, except for one.  Some I liked more than others; I loved Incidents in the Life of a Former Slave Girl, the diaries of women pioneers, and The Crucible.

I thought Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold was terribly boring.  It’s funny to occasionally find praises of it in newspapers and books.  I thought Gretel Ehrlich was obsessed with sex, since she saw phallic symbols everywhere in the Wyoming landscape.

By the way, the teacher in “Bedlam Castle” was written with Bill in mind.  Somebody in Fiction even noticed that he was like Bill.  Since the teacher didn’t show up much in the story and did nothing awful, I don’t think I should worry about libel suits.

Once, probably around October 16, Bill brought in two black students.  They spoke to us about the black experience, since nobody in the class was black.

They said that oftentimes a young black man would go to a white girlfriend and ask her for money all the time, knowing full well that he couldn’t do this with a black girlfriend because she would think he was nuts.

From what they said, black women sounded far more confident than many white women, and I envied that.

I also mentioned that I saw Boyz n the Hood in the Muskie, and sat there with tears in my eyes, blown away by what I had seen.  I had no clue that such things happened in this country.  Our guests nodded and smiled, confirming that yes, this movie was showing things the way they really were.

****

Humanities class would meet with my freshman year German teacher, Ruth.  I didn’t get along with her, but I loved reading the textbook, especially the part about Egypt.  I seem to recall getting an A.

I was especially entranced by the sad story of Abélard and Héloïse.  I wished the book had gone into more detail on it, or even reprinted some of their famed letters.

I mentioned the story to Pearl, and that I had been told Héloïse was twelve.  Pearl said she’d been told she was sixteen.  In 1999, I heard she was seventeen.  So how old was she, anyway?

I read Dante’s Divine Comedy over Thanksgiving Break, and loved it, though I really hoped that Hell wasn’t nearly that bad!  According to the Orthodox, this view is just his invention.

Frustrating German Teacher

As late as September 1, my schedule of the semester’s classes was fixed except for German Composition and Conversation, with Ruth, which was still marked “TBA,” or “To Be Announced.”  The room and teacher were decided, but not the hour.

As I did with every single other class I had during my college career which was marked TBA (and there were at least two or three others: German, probably Frontiers of Space, World Lit, possibly Expos), I waited for the Registrar’s office to send me a new form or a notice giving the time, place, and teacher for the class.

This was just normal procedure for classes which weren’t Independent Study, and Comp/Con was not Independent Study.  You were expected to wait for a confirmation of the time or room, rather than calling and annoying people about it.

I certainly hadn’t been told to do this any differently, and it had worked just fine in the past, as it would in the future as well.

It was probably just before Friday the 11th, when classes had been in session for a couple days and I still hadn’t heard anything about the class, when I saw one of my German classmates in my suite.  She was friends with some of my suitemates.  I asked her if she had heard anything yet about our class, because I hadn’t.

She said that she and the others had contacted Ruth about it and had started meeting or were about to.  I don’t remember if she gave me a time.  It’s just possible that she did and that it conflicted with something else I did and that I had to talk to Ruth about that, because I see in my day planner that I still planned to talk to her about it on the 11th.

So on the 11th I went to find Ruth and talk to her about the class time.  I certainly didn’t at all expect the reception I got.  I know she also talked to me on the 21st, so I may be confusing some of the things she said now with what she said then, but I do believe she chewed me out for not calling her before about the TBA like all the others did.

I thought this was totally unfair of her, because how the heck was I to know to do this, when with all my other TBA classes, I was just supposed to wait for an announcement?  Only Independent Study classes required contacting the teacher about it.

Whatever she said to me on this particular occasion, it upset me enough that I dropped the class and switched to Music History and Appreciation.  Pearl, Tara and Shawn were all in the class, so I believe I was happier in there than I would have been in Comp.

I have never regretted switching classes, though I have regretted how my love of German was soured by this teacher.

She seemed to like all three of the other students in German freshman year better than she did me.

I was a good student, already knowing many of the things taught first semester, and I loved German.  But I didn’t talk any less or any more in that class than I did in German class in high school, and I did have a life outside of German class.

I did well in the class, as I did in my other classes, and in my old German class I had been one of the best students and felt that the teachers really liked me.

But it seemed there was no pleasing this one unless you were extremely outgoing.  We can’t all be like that, nor do we all want to be.

On the 21st, probably in the morning, Ruth had me come see her.  I was doing well in Humanities class, I thought, which by now was the only class I had her for, and which should have been the only one she would concern herself with.

I didn’t know what she wanted to talk to me about, but I surely didn’t expect it to be the whole German thing again.

She sat there and chewed me out for several minutes, saying I wasn’t assertive enough, referring back to the TBA thing

(which didn’t have anything to do with how assertive I was but with my tendency to want to follow normal procedure–which is generally considered a GOOD trait),

my not going to her office with the high school student more than once to converse in German

(I considered it boring; this had nothing whatsoever to do with assertiveness).

She also said she didn’t think I had the knowledge or assertiveness or whatever to go to Germany junior year, as I had been hoping to do.  (It was the reason I chose Roanoke, the chance to go to Germany.)

Yet I was a good student!  I knew what German she had taught me!

I wasn’t a German major but had been considering a German minor; this only required six courses of German, and I didn’t have to take Comp for it.  It wasn’t even a prerequisite for other classes, so I could skip it altogether and it wouldn’t make any difference.

I only needed four other courses, one of which I could take spring semester.  By the time I took a semester in Germany, I could easily have had two more courses in German, probably from the literature and culture courses.

Since the course book says nothing about what year you have to be, I may even have done it senior year and had yet another course under my belt.  So what did it matter how much knowledge I had of German at the beginning of my sophomore year?

After all, you take a class because you don’t know what it teaches, not because you do, and by the time you get done with it, you do know what it teaches.

Her reasons for me not being able to go to Germany in a year or two were unfair and irrelevant.  She was biased against me long before it would have been time for me to show I knew German well enough to study in Germany.

I guess she just didn’t like shy people who were not go-getters.  She loved another girl in the class who was in all sorts of things, outgoing and ambitious, majoring probably in Business or Marketing.

(I was a writer from an easygoing middle-class family.  Many of my relatives were farmers, and my brothers ended up in the working class.  My big ambition was to write well enough to be published.)

I remembered her getting snippy at least once when I asked why pronunciation for a word (German or French) differed from what I’d previously been taught.

I remembered her getting mad at me for choosing not to do an optional activity because I didn’t want to.

And her harassment over my being introverted was insufferable.

So I decided I could not keep taking German with this woman, and wished I didn’t have to take Humanities with her as well.  At least I got an A.

I began pondering whether or not to pursue the German minor anymore.  It was undeclared, and Ruth would be my teacher if I did pursue it.

My ideas of becoming a translator apparently had faded.  She had destroyed my desire to continue my study in German.

Now all I wanted to pursue was my Writing major, which was soon to be declared.

Since she and Heidi were both German Swiss, I began to wonder if there was something about the Swiss that made it hard for them to get along with people like me,

if maybe they favored go-getters and had no patience whatsoever for the quiet, retiring sort of person, who has every bit as much right to exist as a go-getter does.

Yet I had a Swiss pen pal, and we seemed to get along all right.  But Heidi did say that a popular Swiss joke was, they’re a neutral country because they like to fight too much.

I took no more German classes after this.

I get the feeling, looking at my old response papers (written after attending lectures or performances), that she graded them unfairly.

Like for example, I wrote a favorable review of “Les Jongleurs”; the performers dressed in medieval garb and played medieval songs in the Bradley Building.  I wrote how boring it was that the guys all dressed in modern suits, when I would have liked to see them dressed in medieval clothes, like the girls were.

Ruth wrote on my paper that I should have taken issue not with that, but with the dresses the girls wore: She said they were in poor taste and not at all period!  Maybe that was HER opinion, but I thought this was supposed to be MY opinion!

Looking over my other response papers, it seems that nothing I ever wrote pleased Ruth.  She kept docking me for not saying this or that or saying too much of this and not that.  Maybe I just never thought of those things, or had those reactions, or maybe I really did think the lecturer made excellent points.

I’m not real sure why she didn’t like me: After all, it seemed like most of my teachers did.  I wasn’t trying to be obnoxious or a bad student; I was just me.

She took issue with things I had done all my life and had never ever heard of anybody having a problem with.  I was totally shocked to learn that anyone would.

Her criticism got personal.  It wasn’t for many years that I learned that the traits she complained about, are perfectly normal NVLD and introverted traits.

It’s too bad that Roanoke’s usual German teacher was gone at the school’s Japanese satellite school during my years at Roanoke.  HE was well-liked, and a native German.  Maybe I would have received my German minor and become a translator for banks.

****

As for television, that time period had some awesome shows–quirky, creative–which didn’t last more than one season, but also one that did, Picket Fences.  There were Covington Cross, Key West, Class of ’96.

There were other shows about college that came out at that time, yet Class of ’96 was the closest one to actual college life.

Oddly enough, though, Seventeen slammed it as being unrealistic, and it didn’t get renewed.  For my school, it was very realistic.  I think one of the things they complained about was the smaller class sizes and no TAs, but my school had smaller class sizes and no TAs.

They showed dorm life–guys playing their stereos too loud while one character needs to study–and the freshmen coming for orientation with their parents, unloading their cars, moving in, having no clue what was going on or what they were supposed to be doing.  It wasn’t all about sex like the summer’s Freshman Dorm.

This show, and the lack of realistic college shows, inspired me to write about college, the way it really was.  The idea for these memoirs was born.

Roommate and Campus Stories; Shawn Screws with my Head

On the 11th, I sat at lunch with Julie and a couple of others.  Julie mentioned some mean jerk, and said while putting her head almost on my shoulder, “You learn to find the nice people and stick with them–hint, hint.”

When Shawn came in, came over and greeted her, then left, Julie said, “I had two happy days of not seeing him yet.”

I laughed and said, “There seem to be two kinds of people here: those who like him, and those who don’t.”  She laughed.

After we checked our mail, I said, “I’ll go upstairs and see if Shawn’s still there.”  She smiled and said “yeah” in just such a way that I wondered what she meant.

On the 14th, I wrote,

Pearl, Sharon and Tara all know about Shawn.  Not the one thing, the big secret, but that I like him.  They all knew last year, too.

Which kind of surprises me, considering how weird things were then.  Sharon says she doesn’t remember how she heard it, just that it was word-of-mouth, even though I reminded her of the time I told her I…might want to date him.

Tara had no clue until Pearl told her, even though Sharon had thought it would just confirm what Tara probably already thought anyway.  I’m surprised it was so widespread as that….The way he looks at me, I wonder if his feelings have changed since last year.

****

Character sketches I wrote on the 15th:

Catherine: Most likely to make suggestive remarks.  Likes classic rock and flirting….Over the summer, we discovered how similar our minds work.

Me: Mischievous.  Talk is clean, but every once in a while I make a remark (as a joke) that shocks people.  For example, a suggestion to Pearl that Darryl come over and warm her up (by hugging her, of course)….

Favorite show: Doctor Who, of course!  The label of “smart” has followed me everywhere throughout life, as has “weird” (sometimes, probably complimentary).  Likes techno dance a lot, and other musical interests vary according to mood.  Hates polka, country, jazz and southern gospel…Writing major who likes to make up own worlds.

Likes–no, loves–British humor, therefore gets along great with Darryl and Ned.  Imitates middle-class Brit accents.  Hates flies.  [The room was full of flies.]

Darryl: Whom you could call a mature class clown.  Very tall–easy to identify.  Likes Doctor Who and British humor.  Imitates Brit accents, such as Cockney.  People like me love to hang around people like him.

Likes to make salt shakers act like Daleks.  Likes Pink Floyd and Queen.  Was co-editor for the school newspaper last year.  Not surprisingly, has joined with Ned to form a comedy team, Virtual Reality (Monty Python and original sketches).

Ned: Huge flirt.  Also tall, but probably not as tall as Darryl.  In Feb ’91, I saw him when I came up for Seed Day, and what struck me most were his looks–blond, blue eyes–and clownish behavior.  Also likes to imitate lower-class Brit accents, but some actual Brits mistook him for someone from Wales!

Pearl: First thought of her as a Care Bear.  That’s a compliment, of course.  The person people confide in.  She’s also very popular, with so many people dropping by that it irritates her poor roommate.  Likes Christian music and CCM Magazine.

Shawn: Freshman year, he was the one most likely to annoy.  Seems to be trying to control that this year, possibly on advice from someone.  So analytical, it makes you laugh.  Nice, good-hearted.

Likes Christian music and CCM.  Knows of TV programs that I also watch, and even some Chicago stations I watch when I’m at home.  His accent is more “normal,” due to his hometown being so close to Illinois.

Seems to want to have different opinions on things that shouldn’t be controversial.  Viewpoint is very conservative, and more like mine.

****

Catherine told me that Marc, a Zeta, had some influence on Peter, so I asked Marc to help me get my remaining stuff back from Peter.  I gave him a list of the things.  There was a problem with one thing, a downloaded game.  He thought he gave me a copy, and deleted his, but I didn’t know this yet.

On the 16th, the day before the anniversary of my first date with Peter, I went to check my mail after work, looking for a missing time card, when Julie found me.  She brought me to the Pub, and had me sit next to Marc.  The Pub was the new remodel of the Campus Center game room, opening that night.

I talked with Marc about the problem.  He said I could talk to Peter when he came in the Pub from the Zeta suite at 8:30pm, but I wondered how was I supposed to do that?  I said I hoped he would be civil to me this time.

Peter came along and sat next to Marc.  I didn’t realize Marc was talking to him about the problem until Marc gave me a message from Peter.  He acted as a mediator for a few minutes, until Peter got frustrated, got up, and came over to talk to me himself.

I was surprised, and a little anxious: how would he speak?  I was also glad to be wearing my hair all cute and on the side, in a style Shawn got me doing.

Peter began with a smile and a “hi,” then proceeded with some explanations about where my stuff was.  He was so nice to me, smiling and polite!

I felt so much more at ease then, like I didn’t have to put on an act in front of him anymore, pretending that he didn’t faze me.  I wondered if he’d even be willing to consider coming to church again, though I didn’t say anything about it.  (I was most concerned about his spiritual well-being.)

****

Ever since we got back to school, Shawn and I had been hanging out and acting like friends, just friends.  But on the night of Friday the 18th, he came over to my room.

Because of my quick dropping of a German class and adding Music History and Appreciation, I had no book yet.  Maybe the textbooks had run out in the Campus Shoppe, since I hadn’t bought one yet, and Shawn had lent me his.

I read as much as I could by Friday night.  He tried to come over the night before to pick up his book, but I had to work late and he had too much homework.

On Friday night, I figured he would come over.  I started watching my favorite TV sitcoms; near the end of the second, someone knocked on my door, a hesitant but strong and quick knock.  Shawn came in and watched TV with me–then got control of the remote.  (grumble grumble)  My parents called during this time, but no, at that time nothing was interrupted.

He complained of a backache from sitting up against the heater next to my bed.  I had a cushioned back rest; I moved it a little to the left for him to share, but he said, “No, it’s safer over here.”  But then he asked me to massage his back.

I eventually said it was his turn now; he massaged my shoulders, moved me into a more comfortable position.  I leaned against him.  A few times, I turned my head and saw his close to mine, but turned away again to tease him.  Once I leaned forward; he kissed my back.  I teased him again by moving away.

The TV stayed on, but muted and forgotten as things heated up; he finally got his way as I let him go one step further than I ever had before.  I wrote in my diary, “only this time it was more intense.”

Basically, the intensity of the making out, and it seemed to really mean something this time.  There were probably significant looks and tender touches and such that made me think this.

He seemed to want me more than ever; he seemed to be in love with me at last.  He also told me three times that I was very pretty.

He sneaked out around 1:30am.  He hid behind my door; I looked outside and the suite was dark, so I told him it was safe.  He left so quietly (with his book) that I didn’t even know when he opened or closed the door.

I wondered what my suitemates would think about him leaving so late, but they didn’t say a thing, and probably just figured he was my boyfriend.  Under normal circumstances it wouldn’t shock anyone; it was the secrecy, the strange relationship of, he’ll touch me but not claim me as a girlfriend or even a casual date, just sneak out of my room as if he’d done something not worthy of coming into the light of day.

Afterwards and the next morning, I felt happy and light.  When we saw each other at meals, we kept looking at each other like we had a secret.

****

On the early afternoon of Sunday the 20th, he called and asked if I wanted to come over.  I did, knocked, he said to come in; I found him just waking up from a nap (it was half an hour later).  I sat in the chair as we listened to music and talked for a few minutes.

Ironically, whenever I came over and he played music, it was Christian rock or pop: Whiteheart (I had the same albums), the Choir, Lisa Bevill, Newsboys, I think DC Talk.  He had a poster of Amy Grant.

I don’t believe he listened to secular music.  It was one of the things that attracted me to him, since for several years I listened only to Christian, so we could talk about the same bands.

But then he patted the bed.  I just sat on it, to tease him, but he pulled me down next to him.  We lay there for several minutes, holding each other, his hands active.

It was so like what Peter and I used to do, so tender and loving, that I kept thinking, “He likes me!”  Friday seemed to have established something.

The Choir’s “Wide-Eyed Wonder Girl” played; he said the little girl in the song reminded him of me: always looking around at the world in wonder at what would happen next.  I thought that could be our song.

Things got a bit out of hand.  Once he said he wanted to make me sick of him.  I cried, “What?!”  Why do that when he so obviously wanted me?  He soon asked if I wanted respect.

Clothing got removed that I did not want removed, since I wanted to keep my “virtue.”  I feared things would go too far, so I got him back under control, he finally realized he should stop, we got dressed, I went to the bathroom, then came back.  He sat in the chair as I brushed my hair on the bed.

We began to talk about what just happened.  I thought, Here we go, analyzing it again.  He said, “If Friday night wouldn’t have happened, today wouldn’t have happened.”  Once, I threw down my brush in anger and irritation.

We worked on sorting out our feelings until almost 7:30 or 8:00pm!  He said, “Do you want everyone to know we’re dating?”  He said he liked me, but I wrote, “I guess I can explain it by saying it’s not a crush.”

Neither of us wanted a serious relationship, me because I was more independent now and wanted to spend all the time I could with my friends before we all graduated; him because he planned to go to UW-Madison the following year.  He’d already broken up with his girlfriend because of the separation of going to different colleges.

At the end, he asked if I wanted to talk about anything.  I said, “So are we dating, or what?”  He said that was putting a label on it that would make it too complicated.  (?  Wouldn’t a label simplify it?)  So he said, “If anyone asks you, just tell them, ‘We’re (real) good friends, but we can go on dates if he asks me or I ask him.'”

We went to the Muskie for dinner and a movie which was being shown.  As we left the dorm, a guy sitting in the lounge looked at us.  I wondered what he thought.

****

Tuesday, September 22 at 8pm, an ESP entertainer performed at Roanoke.  The two-hour season premiere of Quantum Leap–the one in which Sam leaps into Lee Harvey Oswald–was on at the same time, so I had to tape it.  It seemed like everybody on campus watched that episode.  Maybe that’s why the Bradley Building was only half-full.

The ESP guy stood on the stage, blindfolded.  Once, we had to write answers to personal questions on a piece of paper given to us earlier.

The questions were: funniest moment, number with special meaning for you, question for the ESP guy, nickname used at some time, and name.  I put down, “10 people stuffed in a car, 17, should I minor in German, NM, Nyssa M.”

The 10-people thing happened my junior year of high school, when 9 people got a ride in one person’s car after a Campus Life party.

The ESP guy was blindfolded, and began calling out things he “saw” with his ESP.  The very first thing he said was,

“I see a paper belonging to an NM.”

I froze, glanced around to see if he meant someone else, then stood up and said “Hello,” like we were told to do.

Pearl thought, “NM?  Where have I heard that name before?”  It was in my letters to her that summer.

He said, “Your last name is M.?”  My friends freaked out.  Then he said, “Nyssa?”

Later, Pearl, who wanted to go to England that winter, found that, according to this guy, she would go to England.  Tara found that she would get married in about a year, year and a half.  (He was almost right: she would meet her man senior year, and then marry him in 1997 or 1998.)

At first, the guy just seemed to be going down our row and in our little group of friends, which was really strange.

No, I didn’t minor in German.

****

Those of us without roommates had to meet together in Krueger Lounge on the evening of Thursday the 24th.  There, RA’s told us we had to get roommates or pay the extra price for a single room.

Rachel asked me if I wanted to move over to Krueger, but I looked at her as if she were nuts.  It was too cushy to live in the suites: no quiet hours, no visiting hours, no freshmen jumping up and down on the third floor all night long.

As the others divided up, somebody suggested I room with Clarissa.  She moved into my room the next day around 7pm.  I also saw my old suitemate Latosha, who was living off-campus with–get this–E.  After all the crap he gave her the year before, they were back together.

Clarissa was my age and a freshman.  Oh, the things I could teach her about Roanoke.  It was no longer me the freshman and Candice the sophomore; it was me the sophomore and Clarissa the freshman.

Clarissa liked playing with my new TV’s remote.  She’d flip here and there just long enough to hear a word or two on each station, and hear what sorts of weird and funny sentences she could put together.  We would both laugh at some of the things she came up with.  She’d grown up on a dairy farm.

We both liked to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation and wish the writers would put Riker and Troi back together.  We watched Monty Python and the Black Adder series every week on PBS.

We loved to watch Mystery Science Theater: 3000.  One night, Joel made a lemur hand puppet dance as the robots sang about Joey the Lemur.

I grabbed my Santa dog, which Shawn named Woof Woof after his sister’s stuffed dog, and began shaking him up and down like he was the lemur hand puppet.  I began singing, “Lemur the Lemur, da-da-da-da-da!”

This became a common joke between us.  We had many such jokes.  We also shared faith (she was conservative UCC).  Other people had expected us, two quiet people, to sit like bumps on a log.

We especially loved the local humor on MST:3K.  It had originated on a public access channel in Minnesota, and Joel or Mike had gone to college at UW-Stout, so its humor would encompass Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Clarissa and I were both animal lovers.  Her family had barn cats, dogs, and maybe a house cat or two.  She especially loved her dogs.

For her hearing problem, she bought one of those newfangled microcassette recorders to tape her lectures.  She would listen to the tapes later and write down notes.  She took her hearing aid out at night, so even though she went to bed very early (10pm), I could stay up and read, listen to the radio or watch TV without bothering her.  I just had to turn off most of the lights.

One day in September, she told me she went to the RC-CAB office with some guy to get something.  (RC-CAB was the Campus Activities Board, which they were both part of.)

I later told her about Peter, and pointed out his picture in the 1992 yearbook.  She cried, “I went to the RC-CAB office with that guy!”  Small world–er, campus.  (This sort of thing happens a lot in Wisconsin, too.  For example, I met a couple of guys in S– years later in the SCA who had no connection to Roanoke, but knew Peter.)

****

I often watched MTV, which still played videos in those days.  They had Rock Blocks, Alternative Nation and 120 Minutes.  I had already heard some alternative, but this opened up the floodgates.

Not only did I discover alternative, but I also discovered industrial and modern metal: Nine Inch Nails, Alice In Chains, Danzig. One day I heard “Would” by Alice in Chains being blasted across the courtyard from the Zeta suite; that’s when I knew I loved it.  I still listened to WIXX, the Green Bay Top-40 station, but techno and alternative were my favorites.

A popular song when the school year began was “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature.  You could sometimes see people (including my group) waving their hands around and singing, “Hey!  Ho!  Hey!  Ho!”  It was just fun to do.

On FOX, one of the new batch of shows was The Heights, a show about a group of twentysomethings with a band.  There were a bunch of shows in the 1992-1993 season that were copying the newest trend; I believe this one was youth shows or 90210 or Melrose Place (which in those days was about twentysomethings, not psychos).

Heights didn’t appeal to me, but the theme song, one of an album of songs which were made for the show, became omnipresent on the radio for a while: “How Do You Talk to an Angel.”  All the songs on the album were written and performed by the actors/band members, at least according to the premise.  I don’t know if the actors and actresses did their own playing, or if a back-up band did.

The show’s theme song did a lot better than the show itself did: it was canceled by the end of the season.  But everybody loved the song–except me.  I thought it was slow.  It got played so much that I couldn’t stand it anymore.

Probably early sophomore year, Darryl said Wisconsin PBS stations would stop showing Dr. Who because the BBC had stopped making it.  (Though, as we know now, it was only on hiatus, to return in 2004 or 2005.)

Life without my weekly fix of Dr. Who?  What a silly reason to drop it!  As if PBS never showed old programs.

Wisconsin PBS stations were weird: If one showed something, they all did, and if one stopped showing something, they all stopped.  They all seemed to be linked together.  They would even show hockey games!  A PBS station (typically highbrow) showing hockey??????

****

Sophomore or junior year, Cindy had a bowling set, which could be set up in the hallway in first floor Krueger.  One day, Rachel, despite being the “responsible” RA, used a real bowling ball and it almost went through a door.  After that, the set was put away.

The Group liked to sit together at convocations, lectures, performances, etc., and somebody often brought a bunch of Pixie Stix.

Catherine loved to yell greetings to Pearl and me and anyone else who was with us, no matter if it was across campus or across the cafeteria or even just a couple feet away.  She never cared how many people turned to look at us.

She would say: “HI PEAR-L!  HI NYSSA!”  We were supposed to yell back to her, but only Pearl yelled “HI CATH-E-RINE!”  I just said, “Hi Catherine,” which was louder than usual for me but nowhere near a yell.

We now had a new soft serve ice cream machine in the cafeteria.  Chocolate went fast, which was a shame for a chocoholic like me.  So that I could get what I wanted, I would get my cone with the rest of my meal, then set it in a plastic bowl.  It melted a little before I could eat it, and I had to push it back into the cone with my spoon, but at least I had chocolate.

Top-40 songs have always been stuck on one theme: love.  That’s one reason why I loved Christian music, which was far more creative with themes.  I now discovered that alternative music was, as well.  Alternative in those days seemed to be obsessed with death.

For example, Ween’s “Push th’ Little Daisies,” Belly’s “Feed the Tree,” and Julian Cope’s “Vegetation“:

Well I didn’t really want to kill myself, But there just was no other way.  Now I wait for you, darling, in my graveyard bed, And each day brings you closer to me and my vegetation.

There was often Bingo in the cafeteria during dinner, with various prizes, such as microwave popcorn.  You’d find plastic bowls of Cheerios at every table; they were the chips.  They were also a popular missile.  A student would pull numbers out of a big tub, and call them over a mike.  One popular number was, of course, O-69.

Steve, the guy with the Jesus hair, was a Zeta.  He was part of a cool group of Zetas, who included Darryl and Marc.  He was a chocoholic like me, and proud of it.  He said he was “a first-year senior, which means I’ll be here forever.”  (He graduated after my junior year.)  He wanted to go to Hollywood after graduation and try his hand at filmmaking; he ended up going back to Chicago instead, where he was from.

I had no idea at the time that he and Catherine were part of a local group that belonged to the medieval re-creation group called the SCA, or that my future husband knew him.  A few years later, Pearl almost passed him on the street, and he was seneschal (chairman) of the Chicago SCA group.  Later on, he went to Japan.

I called Steve the Head of the Psychos.  I often said that weird people seemed to congregate in Roanoke–a good thing, by the way.  I don’t remember now what all he did, but I do remember these things:

He would scuttle along in his chair in the cafeteria instead of getting up and walking around.  In the cafeteria one day, after the lunch crowd left, he sent a paper football and a paper frog flying through and over various formations of salt shaker pyramids, stacks, and goal posts.

Incense and candles were banned as fire hazards, but lots of people had them.  I believe Steve and Marc had some in their room.  During power outages, these contraband items became indispensable.

I don’t remember why I sat with Derek, an African-American freshman from Milwaukee.  Maybe he and his female friends invited me over.  He was weird and funny.  I had chosen the pepper steak, which I never had before.  I tried it and made a face: It was spicy hot!  I took a swig of milk.

Derek said, “It looks like someone’s trying the pepper steak for the first time!”

I never had pepper steak again.

More Friend Stories; Friendship With Peter?

Sara loved fish.  Though fish were not allowed on campus, along with any other pets, she had contraband fish in her room.  Poor Sara graduated just before fish were finally allowed in the dorms, my senior year.  She loved to talk about “fishies” and suck up her mouth into a fish-face.

Rachel began going out with a guy named Ralph.  They seemed to fit: both were zany people, I believe they were about the same height, and they had similar, twisted senses of humor.  They made the perfect couple–we thought.

Catherine had two characteristic voices: In one, she seemed to happily swallow the words “Happy, happy!”  The other one was like the doodlebugs on Sesame Street.  She also liked to sing, “Ta-ra-ra-BOOM-de-ay, did you get yours today?  I got mine yesterday; that’s why I walk this way.”

When she saw flies in her room, she would wait until two of them were mating on a wall, then swat them.  They wouldn’t fly away, and, as she said, “At least they die happy!”

She loved to call herself the Goddess of Salt.  We were supposed to ask her permission to use the salt.  No, she was not a control freak; she was kidding.  She also called herself the Goddess Venus.

We all had fun with Pearl’s new crutches.  We called them “crunches,” which a child had called them.  We used them as rifles, weapons, something to lean on, or whatever.  Pearl would just laugh.  We also played with her scooter.  We longed to have our own scooters, and would drive Pearl’s whenever possible.

Catherine, who was short and light, would often get up and stand on a little ledge on the back of the scooter while Pearl drove.

Like the rest of us, Pearl had brought stuffed animals to college: One was Pingo, her favorite teddy bear from babyhood, now all beaten up.  Another was Mona, a yellow dinosaur with a big body and long neck.  Pearl called her Mona because, when squeezed, she let out a moan that was supposed to be a growl or roar.

One of Mona’s pals was a stegosaurus named Spike.  Mona sometimes called people on the phone and roared at them.  Spike had a girlfriend, Sara’s dinosaur Peg.

Since I usually found people in Pearl’s room, I called it Party Central.  When her friends weren’t over, roommate Cindy’s were.  Cindy’s friends were a mix of Band people and high school friends (she lived in S–).  So these friends were often from other colleges.  One was Ralph Z., who loved to make “manly grunts” like Tim on the sitcom Home Improvement.

Amoebas became Rachel’s symbol, because she would say not “me” but “amoeba.”  Someone cut out a cartoon of an amoeba, probably from “The Far Side,” and Rachel taped it to her door.

Since Rachel was the youngest of sixteen children in a Catholic farm family, she had a common phrase: “We never had those.”  This was applied to nearly any toy we had as kids, such as Barbies.

Rachel’s family must have been as macabre as she was.  After a break, she told us about her niece, who was maybe a few years old.  Some of Rachel’s brothers and/or sisters had gone hunting, and came back with a deer.  Rachel’s niece came up and said, sweetly and innocently, “Can I cut off the head?”

Darryl, Marc, Steve, Julie, and their friends soon noticed that I didn’t cuss.  I never said anything about it, but they saw it bothered me.  So in place of cuss words, they said “bunnies.”

This was a lot funnier than cuss words, so they often ended up laughing instead of feeling bad.  Just imagine hearing a manly guy like Marc say, “What the bunnies are they doing?” or “It really made me feel like bunnies.”  Pearl said it showed they respected me.

This group soon became secretly known in our group as the Octagon.  Somebody noticed all the little love affairs and crushes going on in the group, and made a diagram showing who liked whom.  It ended up having eight lines, so it was called the Octagon.

I call them that here because it’s far more convenient than saying, “Darryl, Julie, Marc, Steve, etc.” all the time.  I thought it included Marc and Steve, though Pearl said in 1999 that the original octagon diagram included Darryl, Julie, Melissa, Ned and two other people.

The diagram was put in Pearl and Cindy’s room, but Darryl once came in their room and didn’t even notice it.

Samuel was a good friend of Anna’s.  They were both black Pentecostals, and both very vocal about their faith.  They were also both greatly respected, even by non-Christians, perhaps because of their integrity and sincerity.

I loved to listen to the two of them, sitting together at lunch on Sundays after church, talking about faith-related things.  They’d give each other advice, or talk about what they’d learned.

Grossheusch still smelled.  It was said to be from drunk guys peeing in the halls and stairwells.  The guys also didn’t seem to know how to clean up after themselves, so the place smelled like a trash bin.

Shawn’s older brother looked Latino, and his younger sister was blonde.  Shawn joked that somebody once saw them together and said, “You guys all look nothing alike!”  They both had cystic fibrosis (CF).

Shawn had been in a mental hospital for a time for a breakdown.  The whole school knew about this; he did not keep it a secret. I know the reason why he had his breakdown, but won’t post it: that was a secret, which he only told me.

Peter and Shawn acted civil around each other, but hated each other.  I was never quite sure why this was.  Back before the breakup, Shawn already thought a lot of Peter’s ideas were, as he put it to me later, “in left field.”

I’m not quite sure what Peter didn’t like about him, unless it was the same things other people didn’t like.  Shawn annoyed a lot of people, probably because he over-analyzed everything (as you’ll see), said things nobody agreed with, made jokes people didn’t like, stuff like that.  Even Heidi told him he was too analytical.

Lunch was usually a bit more hectic, with people coming and going all the time because of classes.  But some of the Group would go to dinner around 4:30, the rest around 5 or later, and we would all sit there until long past 6.

We often stayed longer than anyone else.  Thanks to frequent outbursts of loud, raucous laughter and the Cup Game, we called ourselves the Loudest Table.  We were obnoxious, yes, but it was fun.

Once when I wasn’t there, a hall director came over and asked the Group to please not play their Cup Game because it was too loud.  But that didn’t stop us from playing it at other times, probably usually late into dinner or weekend lunch when we were practically alone.

Pearl learned the Cup Game from a high school friend and passed it on to us.  This is how she described it to me: “The cup game had a clapping/slapping-the-table rhythm you had to follow [in time to Rich Mullins’ song “Screen Door on a Submarine”], and you had to turn the cup over and pass it (to the right?) at the right time.  It was loud, and confusing if you didn’t concentrate.”

One night, as Rachel, Pearl, Carol and I left the cafeteria, the moon was full and beautiful, with a star beside it.  Rachel looked at it and said, “Oh, wow, look at the moon!”

Somehow, this became a recitation, each of us with a part.  I don’t remember my part; maybe I made a weird noise from my childhood repertoire, since as a kid I liked to make all sorts of weird noises.  It went like this:

Rachel: “Oh, wow, look at the moon!”
Pearl (serious tone): “Tiddly pom, tiddly pom.”
Carol: “Huh, huh, hoy-yuh!”
Then me.

Rachel: “Oh, wow, look at the star beside the moon!”
Pearl: “Tiddly pom, tiddly pom.”
Carol: “Huh, huh, hoy-yuh!”
Then me.

There may have been more verses to it.

Pearl sometimes got us to all balance spoons on our noses in the cafeteria, like Gonzo from The Muppet Show.

A soap opera club met in the Campus Center lounge to watch, I believe, Days of Our Lives.

Starting this year, no alcohol was allowed in the dorms, just the suites, which were mostly for upperclassmen.

College dorm doors usually had dry-erase message boards, along with various decorations.  Some had muscle-men pin-ups; some had feminine decorations; some had paper animals; some had sayings such as “Drink till he’s cute”; one had a picture of a glowering Calvin (from “Calvin and Hobbes”) peeing.

My friends liked to write witty sayings and draw symbol-signatures (an amoeba for Rachel, a beetle for me) on each others’ boards.

Everyone had a signature, or something associated with them.  Pearl had a smiley face, Sharon had Ziggy, I had a beetle, Sara had fish, Rachel had amoebas, and Catherine had origami.

The Group, the Octagon, and Shawn liked to spill salt onto the table and draw pictures in it with our fingers.  We also used an ID card like a razorblade to cut lines out of the salt as if it were cocaine.  (None of us ever did cocaine, by the way.)

We also liked to stack salt and pepper shakers into pyramids or other formations.  I played Dalek wars with Darryl, using salt shakers.  After all, they looked just like Daleks.

At breakfast I’d sit with two girls and a very cute, funny, weird guy.  One day, he asked if one of us wanted to go see Bram Stoker’s Dracula with him.  I kick myself even now for not speaking up.  Considering the sexual energy in that movie, I could’ve gotten a kiss or two if I went there alone with him, dang it.

One guy became a fixture in the Krueger lounge, watching TV at all hours.  This made the residents uncomfortable, and annoyed them because they weren’t always able to watch what they wanted to.  Some people said he watched porno.  Sara began privately calling him “LF,” or “Lounge Fixture.”

The S– Nazarene Church began meeting on Sunday mornings in an elementary school.  We had two new members, Lenny and his wife.  Lenny had dark hair and a leather jacket, reminding me of Lenny and Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley.  The Williamses picked me up every week.

Pearl and I and some others formed a Bible study group.  Eventually, Pearl hooked us up with a national organization, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship.  Shawn and I were in this group together: studying our Bibles in public, fooling around in private.

Sharon, the second-floor RA of Krueger, said her room was haunted.  Things moved, walls shook.

Shawn gave me a bit of social advice which sounded like a good idea, so I adopted it: He said when people told him about bad or embarrassing experiences they’d been through, he gave a story of his own, so they wouldn’t feel stupid or like the only person who went through that.

Clarissa took “Church, Sect and Cult” during fall semester.  One section of the textbook mentioned Nazarenes.

(I discovered through this book that there were actually two denominations calling themselves Nazarenes.  Mine was officially the Church of the Nazarene.  The other one I’ve never encountered; I believe it was simply, Nazarene.  Their views were very different from ours, not mainstream.  A page about them is here.)

One day, the teacher lectured on my denomination.  He said he knew a Nazarene, and that they weren’t supposed to wear makeup, shorts, pants or short hair on women, etc. etc.–making us sound more like the Pentecostals I’d known in high school.

Clarissa said her roommate was Nazarene and not at all like that.  When she told me, I was glad.

In fact, the only Nazarenes like this I had ever heard of, lived in Southern Indiana and the South.  West Coast Nazarene preachers preached in their shirt sleeves, while East Coast preachers were more conservative–but only the Southern ones had Pentecostal-like restrictions.

My mom wore makeup and short hair; most of the women in my church had fashionable hair and clothes.  Shorts were common in summer.

My decision to wear long hair and no makeup had absolutely nothing to do with religion, but with my love of long hair, dislike for short hair, and dislike for makeup.

In the warmer months of the year, I sometimes sat in a certain tree by the lagoon to get away from everything.  I had to do more leaning than sitting in the little nook where the branches started, and hold myself in place with my feet, since it wasn’t much of a seat.

But it was a good place to read, a private place out of sight of nearby Muehlmeier.  No geese hissed at me there because they preferred to stay near the water.  I privately called it My Tree.

Sometimes I read Lit class assignments there, and sometimes I read novels, such as Ann Radcliffe’s The Italian.

Kids used to tease me for being weird.  Now, I realized that “normal” could be boring.  I did not want to be like anyone else in personality or in style.  I didn’t even like jeans or sweatshirts, which most people consider comfortable.  I liked weird people, such as Steve and Rachel, so why should I try to be normal?

****

On Saturday the 26th, the day started out with drudgery as I had to work Food Service at an unusual time, and an hour longer than it was supposed to be–so three hours.  I was working at the tray window, so my friends wrote “HI NM” in their fries on a tray.

Cindy took it up, but she bumped the tray, and I didn’t understand what she tried to tell me. I did finally see the message in the fries, though.  She also wrote “Hi” in mayonnaise on her sub sandwich.

For my classes, I had to go to campus events, such as the Fine Arts series.  That night at 8pm was the Talismen, an a capella group of six men, like barber shop singers.

My friends and I all got tickets in row C, but we didn’t know what seat numbers everybody had, so we were split up.  Catherine told me to at least wear a skirt, so I was all dolled up.  I went over to the Bradley building, saw Pearl’s scooter, and went in.

At the ticket window I saw an Asian student I knew, and told her, “These other people make me feel overdressed!  But I was told to wear a skirt.”  Every other female I saw, wore pants.  I made sure my hair was in place, then put my ticket on the sill when my turn came.  “You can just go right over there,” the woman told me, waving toward the right entrance to the auditorium.

So I went over there–and spotted Peter!  He was taking the tickets!  Next to him stood some guy.  For a moment, we both just stood there, stunned.  He was all dressed up as well.  Then he smiled and said, “Tickets?”

I pulled my ticket out of my pocket, and gave it to him.  I contemplated saying something, as he tore the ticket and gave me the stub.  I was just about to say “Hello” when he said, “How ya doin’?”  I looked up at him, made myself smile, and said, “Pretty good.”

(That’s what I always say.  As a teen, “fine” sounded too boring and common, so I switched to “pretty good.”  Some people interpret it as “not so good,” but I haven’t a clue why, because it basically means “fine.”)

Then I went into the auditorium.

I found a seat next to Catherine, and told her what happened, of course.  She thought it good, and seemed surprised, that he asked me how I was doing.  This was proof that our friendship was finally being restored!

October 1992
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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