First Date with Future Hubby Cugan–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–March 1995, Part 6

Just before the Dungeons and Dragons game and movie night, which was planned for the 11th, Catherine told me she’d sent Cugan two letters:

In one, she pretended to be in love with him, and used the terms she’d wanted me to use in my first letter–such as “coy wanton advances” and “sultry attractiveness.”


Along with that letter she sent one that read, “Please disregard my first letter!”  She explained it was just a joke.

Despite the second letter, the first one still concerned Cugan, who didn’t know how to take it.  After all, Catherine was married!  He wasn’t yet used to Catherine’s flirty ways.

Catherine’s scheme for the movie night was to invite Cugan and me, Cindy and Luke, maybe Tara and Randy, and probably Sharon and Krafter.  But the only ones who could go were Cugan and me.

On Saturday morning, Catherine picked me up around 11am so we could get to the Dungeons and Dragons game in M– by noon.  The movie night was set for 5pm at her house, which I’d never been to before.

We got to MPB, a small gaming shop on one of the downtown streets of M–.

In the back, a screen hid a large table from the customers.  This was the gaming table.  The gaming area was cramped, the seats uncomfortable and hard to get to.  This was partly a storage area, and had an outside door and a vending machine.

A fabric and sewing shop was right next door and on the right, with an entrance in the wall of the gaming shop.  You went through this to the basement, to get to the badly maintained toilet.

The gaming shop was set up with sundry items you’d expect to find in such a store: miniatures along the wall, boxes and books belonging to various role-playing games (even Doctor Who).  All sorts of dice were on the counter with the cash register, along the wall shared with the sewing shop, and near the outside door.

The second time I went there, I brought money and started putting together my own collection of D&D things, replacing the ones Phil let me use during the summer of ’94: a gold nugget die, the Bard’s handbook, a player’s guide, and a die with red and pink flecks.

I would have gotten one exactly like Phil’s flecked die, with twenty sides, but Catherine begged for it, so I got the twelve-sided version instead.

I discovered a couple of years later that Phil probably got his nugget and flecked die from this very same store.  He used to go to it a lot, and even knew Cugan’s friend Laura, who either owned it or worked there at that time.  I believe that by now, she no longer owned it, though she still worked there until mid-1999, when she moved to Madison.  She sewed my wedding dress.

I also got my own starter set of blue dice, with every kind I would likely need, except for a hundred-sided die, which I got at my first Gen-Con in Milwaukee in 1996.

Having my own copies of all Phil’s cool gaming stuff,  broke my last ties with him.  I stopped longing to use his Bard’s handbook, player’s guide, gold nugget or red die, because I had my own.  Eventually I even bought a brownish-red, felt dice bag with a drawstring opening, my first step in personalizing my gaming gear.

But on March 11, I had to borrow some of Cugan’s dice.

The first time I saw him again, even though we’d talked on the phone, he was still practically a stranger.

As with all my past boyfriends, as soon as I knew he liked me back, I lost my crush temporarily.  I don’t know why that kept happening, especially since the crush came back shortly after I dated a guy a few times.

I also wondered how Cugan really felt about me.  He calmed–or maybe worsened–some of my nerves: He looked at my Halloween T-shirt, black with pumpkins on it, and said, “Cool shirt.”  I didn’t know his birthday was on Halloween.

I sat on one end of the table next to Catherine, and started rolling up my character.  The name “Thundina” for my thief/mage elf was a kind of variation on “Phoena” (my old character with Phil) and probably “Thumbelina.”  It just came to me.

I worked on that during most of the game.  I had to ask Catherine’s help with a lot of it: It was months since I rolled up Phoena and Fury, and I did not use standard character sheets for them, just sheets Phil made on Microsoft Word.  I recognized few of the terms and abbreviations.

There were two other gamers, J.J. (character name: Konig) and Casey (character name: Thorin).  Thorin had a dog named Lockjaw and a talking sword named Ethelmark.

Casey wore glasses and a long, dark ponytail.  J.J., our age but looking much older, was stunningly handsome.  He had longish, brown or blond hair and no glasses.  Both generally dressed like Cugan: T-shirt, jeans.

At one point, we took a break.  I had my coat, but it was so unseasonably warm outside that I didn’t need it.  Cugan, J.J., maybe Casey, Catherine and I went over to the door for a few minutes, then outside.  Catherine said to me when the others were out of range,

I told you not to look at J.J.!”

We all chatted and walked down the nearby streets, which were closed off except for local traffic because of major construction.  Imagine the freedom of walking down the middle of a city street without worrying about cars.  This was my first exposure to M–, and I loved it.

Back inside again, while Cugan and I sat alone at the table, he came up to me and asked me to go to the March Haire Affaire, an SCA event, with him.

It was during Spring Break, however, so I didn’t accept right away; I thought I would be at home.  But when he asked me, my heart did that proverbial leap.  Of course Catherine was glad to hear about it.

I later checked with my parents; they said if he took me home to Indiana afterwards, it would be okay.  No, I didn’t need my parents’ okay for a date: It was just a matter of getting home for Spring Break without inconveniencing them.

After the game, Catherine drove me to her house, with Cugan following in his car.  Catherine pointed to his red, stickshift, ’92 or ’93 Saturn with license plate “CUGAN S” (Cugan’s).  She said, “Doesn’t he have a cool car?”  (It’s perfectly safe to put his license plate number here, because he changed it years ago.)

We got to her house a while later.  We watched all her brand-new tapes of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.  I hadn’t seen them since I was a kid, so these movies were never associated in my mind with any other guy but Cugan.

These movies first entranced me in my prepubescence, when my younger brother bought them on laserdisc and I saw them for the first time.  He probably got Star Wars when I was in fourth grade–while Star Wars was still fresh and Return of the Jedi wasn’t even out yet.

(I can date this because I got glasses right before fifth grade, and have pictures to prove it.  Before then, I thought Star Wars was supposed to be that fuzzy.  Getting glasses made the movie so clear, that it looked “wrong” and a bit “ugly” until I got used to the new lines.)

I’d play them over and over–so much that my dad had to tell me to play Star Wars only once a week.

Back to March 11, 1995.  Catherine’s husband Glen was with us for a little while, but soon left us all alone.

Cugan and I sat on the couch, but he sat at the left end and I sat at the right end.  As the night went on, I began to feel more comfortable with him, and we began to joke about the movie.  Catherine saw us moving closer together.

Then, all at once, Cugan made a cute whining noise, put his arm around me, and pulled me close.  I didn’t mind.

I sometimes felt uncomfortable with some gesture he made, but felt more and more comfortable with and attracted to Cugan as the evening wore on.  At one point, Catherine left the room for a while.

She later said that she noticed we were cuddling, and being there without Glen, she felt like a third wheel.  We asked her if she’d fallen asleep, but she was just giving us some privacy.  She later said to me,

“When you got here you two sat on the couch like this–” she held her two index fingers far apart– “and in a little while you were like this–” she jammed the two fingers together.

Cugan drove me home.  At first we weren’t very talkative.  But finally, probably after we decided to not stop at Roanoke and soon got lost in the roads around it, we found the right topics of conversation, and became as talkative as we were in letters and on the phone.

We agreed that modern dance was boring; I said I wanted to dance like in medieval times, with ring dances and fun.  The SCA soon gave me that chance (though, actually, it was English country rather than medieval).

Dead Man’s Party by Oingo Boingo came on the radio, a song which Q101 played all summer 1994.  Because of that, I thought it came out in 1994.  It actually came out in the 80s.  I missed it the first time: Either it was too avant-garde for our local Top-40 station, or this was during a time when I only listened to Christian music (because a camp preacher told us rock music was “of the Devil”).

I loved it because it reminded me of a story I read the summer of ’94 in a Gothic collection: A young boy, who didn’t know he was a ghoul, crashed a party and didn’t understand why everybody ran away.

Cugan knew the story, The Outsider by H.P. Lovecraft.  “Don’t run away, it’s only me,” a line in the song, matched the ghoul’s sentiments exactly.  Cugan also knew other Lovecraft stories, which I’d never even heard of.

At one point, Cugan said, “You’ve done something few people can do: You got me lost.”

I laughed, banged my fist against the car door, and said, “Yes!  Yes!  Yes!”

He laughed.  He soon found his way again, and we got to Roanoke.  I offered to pay for the extra gas used, but he said that was okay.

As we sat in the car in the parking lot just before I went inside the apartment building, we agreed to go out again.

He leaned over and gave me a peck on the lips–nothing spectacular, so I thought he’d never done this before.

(He told Catherine he never had a girlfriend before.  I didn’t know yet about the SCA’s cloved fruit game, a kissing game.)

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

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: