Phil comes crawling back to me–and we put our marriage on paper–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 12

September 22.  Phil had once mentioned meeting Persephone, and sounded interested in her, which made me feel awful and jealous of her.

By this time she may have had a crush on James, which would have eased my fears a bit if I knew about it.  (Odd—he wasn’t especially handsome, yet without even knowing him, girls just seemed to keep falling for him–me included.)

One day, possibly anywhere between Monday and Thursday, I overheard Phil talking to Persephone at the table right behind mine at lunch.  I was all alone by then, and the cafeteria was almost empty.  He told her about the time he almost lost his legs during the summer, working at the Mishawaka factory.

When you’ve been married to and living with someone all summer, and he starts chasing another girl right in front of you, you feel like a part of you has been ripped out.

Next thing I knew, Phil came up to me, startling me, and started talking about Mike.  He asked if I talked to Mike about my crush yet, and I said no.  (I didn’t want to talk to Mike.)  Phil said if I didn’t, he would–which was a terrible intrusion he had no right to make.

But all the time he acted sweet and smiled.  I didn’t understand what was going on.  For me to be so surprised about it, it may very well have been Monday, when I still thought he hated me.

On the morning of September 22, I put out another fleece: that if Phil was meant for me, Mike would ask a question in class.  If not, the teacher would cancel class.  If no answer, both would happen, or neither.

I expected a no.  I went to class in the Chase basement, thinking it didn’t matter if I was late because we wouldn’t have class anyway.

To my surprise, there was still class that morning.  And Mike–well, he said one of those, “So you’re saying this is the case?” type of questions, more a clarification-question.

The teacher did let us out halfway through the class, so I thought maybe I got a “wait” answer, but then I thought, well, he didn’t exactly cancel class; he just let us go early.

So I sat in the chair in the little lounge under the steps there in the Chase building in the basement, and read the assignment for American Lit class.

I often went there that semester, when Intro to Christianity class let out early and I needed to kill time until Intro to Psych class the next period.  Sometimes I saw Phil pass by or heard his voice, because he had a class just above mine.

From October on, I tried to ignore him when he passed by, and pretend he didn’t bother me at all.  I liked my Lit books, and they, not he, would engross me.  Or so I wanted him to think.

Then I’d go upstairs to class, and sometimes I passed him on the way or got a drink at the water fountain when he was just down the hall.  Eventually, I ignored him and loathed the sight of him (you will soon see why).

I hated Phil in those days, sinning in my anger, and wanted nothing to do with him or his friends or his family (though I didn’t mind if his mom said hello and wanted to chat with me).  But it was impossible to keep a constant distance from him on that little campus.

On the 22nd, I went to lunch straight from a meeting with the counselor at 12:15.  Lunch closed at 1:30 each day that semester, since they expanded the hours on weekdays.  So I could get lunch, but I had to take whatever was left.

I sat in an almost empty cafeteria.  It was lonely, especially without my friends there, but I had to work not only with my schedule but with the counselor’s.

During the meeting, the counselor told me I was handling this much better than most people handle the breakup of an engagement.  I figured this owed to my past experience with Peter.

As painful as it was, the breakup with Peter taught me a lot.  When Peter broke up with me, I slept maybe two hours out of the first night–and that was part of my problem.  Fatigue makes depression much worse, much harder to deal with, and my inability to eat made me physically sick.

The counselor said my anger, as expressed in my diary the night before, was a good thing, a healthy thing, part of the healing process, and I should concentrate on that for a while.  I probably spent at least part of the meeting spewing out to her what I felt about Phil.

I still wondered, though, if I truly got an answer from God, or if I was misinterpreting it, or if it was just coincidence.  One more fleece that day, and that would be it.  I asked God to either open the door or to close it forever, whichever was in His good and perfect and wise will.

While I sat at lunch, probably thinking about the meeting and how enraged I was over how Phil had been treating me, the weirdest thing happened:

Phil came over to me, probably from the Muskie, and sat down across from me!  I believe he had already finished his lunch.

I didn’t know what he was doing there.  I didn’t want to see him.  I also no longer wanted him, no longer wanted the fleece to really be a “yes.”

He started saying some things to me, some nice, conversational things, while I sat there ripping on him in reply with witty and caustic remarks.  He didn’t seem to get it.

Then he said something insulting about me (I forget what), so I stood up abruptly and took my tray to the tray window.  He looked stunned.  I liked that.

However, I had to come back and get my stuff–my bag and, I believe, trusty duck umbrella.

I may have put on my light jacket, and was about to leave with my stuff, but he said something more to me, which got me to sit down again.  I don’t remember what he said, but it seems to have calmed me down for the moment.

But I didn’t stay for long.  I had to get to work soon, and I just didn’t want to be around him any more.  I wrote to a friend, “And then last Thursday, when I was mad at him and had been wanting him to stay away, he kept coming to talk to me wherever I was.”

My Thursday shift started at 2:30 and went until 4:30.  Phil came in the library while I worked.  He came and went, but I don’t think he said a word to me.

I had a sort-of-fleece, but without actually mentioning it to God, because I didn’t want it to be an official fleece, because I wasn’t sure I should be putting out any more.  But it was that he would come back down from the second floor, or wherever he went, in fifteen minutes or less, and that would be a “yes.”

He did so.

Near the end of my shift, Phil came up to the desk and started talking and joking with me.  This annoyed my co-worker Megan, who said,

“Why don’t you just go to dinner with her and talk to her there?”

Phil said, “Why would I want to have dinner with her?  I just broke up with her.”

He soon left, finally taking the hint.  I said to Megan, “He is so annoying.”

I went to dinner right away, hoping my friends were already there.  While I sat eating with them, Phil came over and took the empty seat across from me!  Pearl and I were both surprised.

He talked and joked with me, while I kept putting him down in witty ways.  After the others left, he still talked with me, even though I wanted him to go away.  He asked me to go to his house and see a movie that night.  I was like, Okay, whatever.  I also thought, Is this the open door I was asking for?

That night, I went with him to his house to watch Omen.  On the way, he asked, “Have you thought about my offer?  To have sex without commitment?”

I said, “I’ve thought about it, but I’ve decided that it wouldn’t be right.  Before, we thought we were married.  Now, we don’t.  We don’t have an excuse.  And I’ll need a piece of paper saying we’re married before I sleep with you again.”

We sneaked into his room and started watching the movie.  He hid me in his room, since he didn’t want the family to know I was there (why not?).  I stayed on a little chair in a corner for some time, while he looked for the movie and his mother talked to him.

Then he came back in and we sat down together on his sofa bed, which was pulled out.  He started to put his arm around me, and I cuddled up against him–all unexpected.  Then he started kissing me.  Then he wanted to make love to me.

I said, “Not without a piece of paper!”

He seemed so dejected, and so affectionate.  He said, “Don’t tell anyone we’re back together.”

I said, “I have to.  I’m not going to keep such a thing secret.  Are we engaged again?”

“Yes, I suppose we are.”

“And the spiritual marriage is back on?”

“Yes.  Everything is.”

“Well, I won’t do anything this time without a piece of paper.”

He got out a piece of paper and a pencil, and wrote words like this:

This is to show that Nyssa McCanmore and Phil O’Hara are married in the heart, the soul, and the body.  It is a real marriage, and this is binding for us, even if it isn’t a legal marriage.

So you see, I had a written contract expressing that we considered ourselves married.  We may have signed it; I have since forgotten.

I said, “Never do this to me again.”

“I’ve grown up a lot over the past couple of weeks, and I never want to lose you again,” he said.

I told him how I embarrassed myself with Peter and that I decided not to do that again.  I also told him about the fleeces, and some of the things people said about him, wanting to get those issues out in the open and out of the way.  I believe I also mentioned that they called him unstable.

I later wrote my high school friend Becky about all this.  He wanted me to keep the marriage secret from her over the summer, but now all our college friends knew about the spiritual marriage, and I told Becky about it as well, in an October letter.

So for the next week, we were openly married.  In some places, this would have made us legally married.

Laws aside, it was now a public covenant that we were married, which is more important in marriage than legal issues.

When Phil took me back to school the next morning, we walked arm in arm from the parking lot by the suites to my apartment.  We passed Kelly, InterVarsity’s chief nemesis during the play fiasco.

I figured Kelly must have known about the breakup by now, and this must have been such a sight for him!  I enjoyed it immensely.  Look at us now!  Back together and happy again!  I imagined Kelly telling the tale to others, seeing their shocked faces.

I went to my room to shower and change for my 9:15 class.  I saw on the message board: “It’s 8:30–Do you know where your roommies are?”  Referring to my “disappearance,” of course.  They were already gone, so I wrote a reply.

Blissful, I went to lunch.  My roommies sat behind the south Bossard partition (which was up), and I sat with Phil, Dirk and Sandy.  I saw Pearl come in the cafeteria; I smiled at her and said, “It’s on again!”  She rushed over and told the others.

Dirk said he and Sandy were happy for us, and, “We were rooting for you because you make such a great couple.”  (Heh, Dirk had such a way of showing this….)

I took the stuffed rabbit Benny down from the closet, and put Phil’s pictures and keepsakes back on my shelves and bookcases.

Phil soon told his family about us, but he didn’t think I should go over there again right away, because he wasn’t sure his parents would like it.  He said it was because we had broken up.

But he soon talked to his mother, and she said she didn’t mind.  He just wasn’t sure if his dad would mind.

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: