I start dating Charles–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–October 1994, Part 7

Mike’s driving was now a byword, and we had just had a debate in the Journal about it.  Astrid told us about the time she wanted to say, “Pick one lane and stay in it!”  There was another time he scared her half to death by nearly running into a truck.

But now we had to deal with Charles’ driving, as well.  He sped like a maniac and called everybody who didn’t a “putz.”  (That’s the first time I ever heard that term.)  He spent so much time getting mad and flipping people off and saying “you putz” that I worried for the safety of us passengers in his little, black car.

On Sunday, October 16 at 5pm, he took us down to Milwaukee to see Pearl in the hospital.  At least I wasn’t in the front seat watching, but in the back seat with Sharon.  She liked to zone and muse in the car and not talk, just like I often did; on the way back he thought she’d gone to sleep.

(But when I went to KFC and a movie with him on the night of the Shantytown, which I will describe later, I had to sit up front and see firsthand how he drove.  😛  )

At least I didn’t have to deal with Phil’s driving anymore.  He was an inattentive, erratic driver, possibly worse than Mike or Charles, often taking his hands off the steering wheel and dancing around.

That’s why Persephone and I both laughed when Persephone told me one day that he offered to drive a group of people to Fond du Lac for dancing.

And one time junior year, Carrie told me she was waiting at a stop sign when she saw Phil and me in a minivan; Phil took the corner and almost hit her.

We planned to go to Florida over Winterim with Pearl, whose parents would help pay.  But now Pearl couldn’t go because of her surgery, so her parents decided not to help us go to Florida.

At some point during the year, however, possibly Spring Break, they took Pearl to Florida as a family trip.  We were jealous, of course.

As it turned out, though, my taking a Winterim instead of going to Florida helped lead to meeting my future husband (and we went to Florida on our honeymoon).  But more on that when the time comes.

Pearl loathes Barney.  The nurses got their wires crossed somehow and thought Pearl liked Barney.  So they gave her a purple dinosaur balloon.  Pearl said to us, “Death to Barney!”

We all sat down in Pearl’s big, private room and watched some show about ways people got engaged and married.  I felt a bit uncomfortable, thinking of Phil, probably wondering why these marriage shows were everywhere now, but tried to hide it.

Charles said he liked tradition, and would go all out for his engagement and wedding: a buggy ride in the park, top hats, tuxedos.  My other friends weren’t too sure about tradition.  I said, “What’s wrong with tradition?” and Charles smiled at me.


I sat with Carrie and Elaine one evening at dinner, possibly Tuesday the 18th.  My roommies hadn’t shown up yet.  Carrie was Catherine’s roommate sophomore year.  They didn’t get along, so Carrie ended up with Elaine the following year.

Elaine’s parents used to be a priest and a nun!  (They went from being celibates, to being so lovey-dovey that Elaine couldn’t stand it.)  Carrie and Elaine often hung out with the Group.

Carrie said, “Persephone and Phil O’Hara have been going out.  I’ll have to warn her about Phil.”

No, I never talked to Carrie about Phil; she said this all on her own.  Maybe she heard things from Pearl, Sharon or Catherine.  Or maybe she always disliked him.  But it was comforting that other people saw him this way, after I was abused and unceremoniously discarded by him.

Then Persephone sat down with us and said, “Phil and I aren’t dating anymore.  He said something really bad at a really bad time.”  She wouldn’t tell us what it was, or what the situation was.  I didn’t ask; I didn’t want to know.

That evening, we had an IV meeting in the gazebo by Jubilee, probably an executive board meeting, which we had at 7pm each Tuesday.

It was a warm evening, lit by a moon which would be full the next night, a beautiful background to our meeting.  Charles leaned up against the inside wall of the gazebo and looked through the openings at the moon, saying how pretty it was.

I started back to my room after the meeting, but Charles asked me to go for a walk instead.  I was suspicious.  We walked along the side of the road in the moonlight and down to the lake.  We sat at the picnic table by the lake and he asked me on a date.

The subject of Phil came up for a moment and Charles said, stroking my hair and caressing my back, “You deserve better.”

I said, “I don’t want a serious relationship.”

“I didn’t say it would be serious.”

I was reluctant to take his hand, so he said, “You’ll set the pace.”

Charles walked me back to my room and my roommies soon discovered why he’d asked me on a walk.

However, even though I’d dreamed of this, and even though I’d been attracted to him ever since I met him, it started to fade as soon as he asked me out.  I didn’t know why.

But then, I’d felt that way soon after I started dating Peter and Phil.  It went away both times.  Maybe this would go away, as well.  Maybe it was just shyness, or getting used to a change, going from liking a guy to actually dating him.  It’s not as if that happened often.

One day in the next week, I sat with Catherine and Kay at a meal.

Catherine said, “You and Charles are a better match than you and Phil, because you’re both ‘royalty.'”

Through my paternal grandmother, my line goes back to King Duncan, immortalized in the play Macbeth.  Charles said he was descended from a Sicilian noble–a duke, I think.  I believe he also said he was a reincarnation of some noble or royal.  (Yeah, right, but anyway.)

Catherine and I spoke of Phil and I said, “I’ve decided Phil is a jerk.”

Kay got very quiet.  I later learned that Phil had been confiding in her.

I also said, “Charles and I are going slow because I don’t want this to be a rebound thing.”

Charles and I started sitting next to each other at meals (he usually sat with my friends, and had become a part of the Group).  He came over to my apartment in the evening and hung out.  We always watched Alternative Nation at eleven and Mystery Science Theater:3000 at midnight, which in those days was played in hour installments.

We cuddled up, but no kissing or anything else.  I didn’t want to fall into sin, you see, as badly as my body missed what Phil and I used to do.  Charles was soft and cuddly like a teddy bear.

We got along very well, having several things in common, such as a love of alternative music.  We talked a lot and enjoyed each other’s company.

We were both Republican, though his views were more conservative than mine, which did make me nervous at times (he could be loud with people).  (I eventually became a moderate Independent, and around 2004 or so, turned more liberal.  Around 2010 or later, I realized I was a Democrat.)

He was 24, which seemed old to me.  He was a senior when I was a freshman in high school.  “You’re one of those old seniors!” I said, and laughed.  He made a sound of fake annoyance.

Sharon didn’t hide from Charles her annoyance that he was always there in the evening.  Later on, my roommies and I thought he had a crush on her because he liked women with opinions, she wasn’t afraid to give him hers, and he acted like he liked her.


Sharon and I began straightening up the microfiche drawers at the library, making room for new microfiches, putting them in order, etc.

It seemed tedious at first, but with both of us doing it, it became a chance to talk on and on about guys and life and things like that.  Many of the microfiched magazines were short-lived, and Sharon started calling them “failures.”  “It’s another failure,” she would say as she put one into the drawer.

I think I listened to alternative music as early as elementary school, about 1983.  I remember listening to a little-known station that soon got replaced by Sunny 101 (shudder).  It was great.  They played songs U93 didn’t play, such as Peter Schilling’s “Major Tom.”

Then there was the stuff played on the Notre Dame University station late at night, which I discovered back in my junior year of high school and listened to all through college (on breaks).

And I also liked the alternative tapes that the weird, redheaded, leather-jacketed skinhead brought in to Drawing class my senior year of high school.  He played Misfits and Faith No More.  Everyone else at our table ripped on them, and said, “These Misfits don’t know how to play their instruments!”  But when one of the guys asked me if I liked it, I said I did.

Of course, now alternative music was turning oddly normal and boring.  102.1 overplayed a lot of so-so songs but played little of the really good stuff, such as “Basket Case” by Compulsion (which I saw on MTV).

Alternative, suddenly popular, became too popular for its own good–which eventually ruined it.  It became a cliché, a joke, and lost a great deal of its popularity, just as heavy metal had done in the late 80s and early 90s.

It was replaced by electronica, techno, even swing for a short time.  By 1998, listeners lamented that all the bands sounded alike now–and, for an example, named several bands which all sounded like Matchbox-20.

It took the fusion of metal and alternative, forming a new style of music around 1999, to breathe new life into alternative.


The night of the annual Shantytown, Charles and I went to see Only You, a cute movie about a young girl who grows up believing her future husband’s name has been revealed to her on a ouija board.

Charles and I loved the Italian scenery, Charles especially because of his descent.

I wondered if Charles and I were meant to be together, because at the time we seemed more suited than Phil and I, and he was kinder.

We had a wonderful time, both at the movie and at Kentucky Fried Chicken, where we went afterwards and talked about many things.

He told me about his time in the Air Force, which I thought was cool.  He didn’t want to join a frat because he’d already been through boot camp.

(Unfortunately, he changed his mind for some reason in the spring semester, and joined–can you guess which frat?–the Zetas.  Why did my exes keep joining the Zetas?)

We got back to Roanoke and went over to the Shantytown, which, as usual, was on the large lawn between Old Main and Krueger.  Almost everyone in the IV group was there, since they were all sleeping in either the IV shanty or the Phi-Delt shanty.

Clarissa slept in the RC-Cab shanty.  I think Pearl, back home from the hospital and on pain medication, was in the Phi-Delt shanty.  Mike, of course, was sleeping in the IV shanty.  One other person, a woman, slept in the IV shanty.  Of course Mike and this person would never do anything naughty, but it looked bad enough to joke about.

The shanties, as usual, were all cool, some cooler than others.  Astrid decorated the IV shanty with various Christian designs, crosses, fishes, trees and verses.  She was very proud of it.  The rest of us may also have helped.

Charles and I joined our friends in roasting marshmallows by the bonfire on pointed sticks.  Carrie or Elaine said one of us had a crush on a guy, but wouldn’t tell me who.  I feared, of course, that it was Phil.

I don’t remember who had the crush or if I ever found out who it was on, but I doubt it was Phil; she was probably just shy.  As a group, we entertained someone’s young son with ghost stories.

Charles and I went back to the apartment for a while, since neither of us were sleeping in the shanties.  Then we went to the door and exchanged a good-bye kiss.

It was the first and only kiss we ever shared, and very long and sweet.  I was enchanted by the evening and felt attracted to him at the time, and like I was really starting to fall for him.

It was a pity I didn’t feel that way for long.

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: