Phil vanishes without a word of why–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–The Long, Dark Painful Tunnel, Part 4

That night, Phil still hadn’t shown up, so Pearl and I went to the semi-formal Opening Banquet in Bossard together.  I don’t remember why nobody else in our group went, but I do believe Pearl wanted me along for company.  There was a speaker, Bob Hall; his talk was called “Hands Off!  Let’s Talk,” and the subject was dating and sex.

At the beginning, I said to Pearl, “I guess I don’t really need to listen, since I’m engaged.”  (And married, I thought.)

Hall said to the guys in the cafeteria, “If she says no, let me introduce you to Mr. Hand!”  And later, in an unrelated comment, “Guys, she always knows where that hand is!”  Pearl went, “Mm-HMMM!”

Later that night, with still no sign of Phil, Pearl and I sat alone in the living room, talking.  I told her Phil had been building up muscles from working at the factory.

She said, “Sounds like lust to me!”

I said with a smile, “I’m going to marry him–I can lust after him!”

But sometime later in the conversation, I told her, “I’ve been losing some respect for Phil, but hopefully now that we’re living apart I’ll be able to build it back up again.”

She said, “That doesn’t sound good.  Maybe you two should try dating other people for a while.”

I said, “Well, I don’t want to see him with anyone else, and I know he doesn’t want to see me with anyone else.”  Not only that, but you’re not supposed to date other people while you’re married.


We put the new, blue, all-cushioned couch along the wall in the nook by the inside wall, the chairs around the TV, and the stereo in the nook as well.  Then the dining table went under the light in the more open, middle area.

And little metallic bears went all over the table and here and there in the carpet, Astrid-confetti from a party I missed on Sunday.  (Astrid loved to send us letters with confetti or little bears in them.  You learned to be careful opening her letters, or the confetti would get all over the floor.)  For the rest of the year, we kept finding these bears here and there, even when we thought we’d cleaned them all up.

We had a stove, fridge, many shelves and drawers divided among us (one each of each kind of drawer or shelf), a sink (with no stopper), and even pots and pans given us by the school.  Mom gave me an old dish drainer, which we needed.

The glass doors with their Venetian blinds were over by the dining table, and two other windows with Venetian blinds were along that wall. One of these windows was in the kitchen, the other in the living room.

There were bookshelves in the open area, opposite the glass doors.  My bird sat on the top shelf, where it seemed a porcelain bird should be, to watch over everything.  We put videos, tapes, CD’s and books on these shelves.  We each had one or two shelves, and it was understood that anything on the shelves could be used by anyone.

On the other side of the apartment, opposite the bathroom, were the two bedrooms.  First was my room with Sharon.  We bunked the beds because they didn’t fit side by side.  They were already bunked when I arrived, though at the end of the year I was told they were originally side by side.

We moved around the furniture in the rooms because the original arrangements, as usual, didn’t work either.  Now we had the beds under the window.  Sharon slept on the top bunk.

We each had a wire storage rack, and I put mine beside the bed.  Our closets were a little small, but they had shelves, and with the many storage racks provided for us, we found places to put everything.

So the room, though tiny, didn’t seem crowded, but rather neat and tidy.  (The living room was often messy, however, because we often left papers and textbooks lying around.)  These racks were like a stack of drawers, because you could pull them out to remove your stuff and then push them back again.

Pearl and Tara had their room (with its answering machine) next to ours.

We liked the bathtub, but not the glass door.  We started thinking of ways to cover up the door so no one could see us bathing, and may have even requested a curtain, which we never got.  The glass door should have been on the shower, and the shower curtain should have been on the bathtub.  The shower, after all, was in a separate room with a door.

Also, there would have been more room to pull the shower curtain wide open, and we probably wouldn’t have had quite so many mildew problems with it.  It had to be replaced halfway through the year.  So we never actually used the tub, except to store boxes, and it got really dirty by the end of the year.


Probably on Tuesday or Wednesday, I turned on my radio to change it from South Bend’s U93 to Green Bay’s WIXX.  Lo and behold, there was U93!  This happened only once that I know of.

I listened to U93 for a while.  Someone called in from Milwaukee and said, “I used to listen to U93 in South Bend.  I flipped on the radio here in Milwaukee and found it!”  If I knew U93’s number, I would have called and said the broadcast was traveling even farther than that.

Once over the summer, WIXX had come in on the house antenna.  Phil said they boosted their power, so that may be why it came in so far away.  However, I didn’t want to hear WIXX: it was on the same frequency as Q101.  I never heard WIXX in South Bend before or since that day.

Also, that same week I discovered Hot 102 had changed to an alternative format, which made the necessary break from Q101 much easier.


My first class of the year was at 9:15 in the morning, American Lit with Dr. Nelson, the teacher from New York.  He’d been there only a year, and soon after I graduated, he would move back to New York.  Yes, another American Lit class.  This was probably American Lit I, and the previous class American Lit II, because this one focused on an earlier period.

As I’ve noted before, Nelson, with his funny, New York accent, pronounced “illustrate” as “ill-yoo-strate.”  Whenever Phil imitated his accent, he always included “ill-yoo-strate.”

One day in September, Nelson said “ill-uh-strate,” like we say it in the Midwest, then stopped and corrected himself, saying, “ill-yoo-strate.”  I don’t know if anybody else noticed, but I found it funny.

While working in the library on Wednesday, I found some German dictionaries, some old and some new, and spent my time at the circulation desk looking up the words from “Undine” that I hadn’t been able to find.  Many of them were there.  There were still many words I couldn’t find, but they were much fewer now.  As soon as I saw Phil again that day, I gushed and exulted about it.

People kept seeing my bird, sitting up on the very top shelf of the bookshelf in the living room and looking out over us all, and they said how pretty it was.  Then I got to tell them it was my engagement ring until Phil finally bought me a real one.

(How disappointing that I didn’t already have one, since his mom took all his summer money for car payments!)

Somebody who parked in the apartment parking lot had a white Ford Bronco.  It was weird and funny because that was the same kind of truck in which OJ fled the cops.  Whenever Phil and I passed it, we’d say, “No!  Not OJ!  OJ’s here!”

In a similar vein, one day during the summer, Mom wrote “OJ,” or orange juice, on the pad of paper she kept on the kitchen counter.  Phil wrote next to it, “No OJ!”–meaning, no more OJ news.  Just think, we were already sick of it, and that was only the beginning of the news saturation.


Apparently Phil met me at the library, or soon after I left it, and we must have gone over to Krueger lounge.  We spent some time there, sitting with Dirk, a freshman named Sandy, and an elderly woman.  She had come to teach at Roanoke for half a year.  She lived in Krueger, since she was only staying in the area for a short time.  She had a southern accent and was very friendly.

Sandy was a freshman who lived in Krueger but eventually moved into Dirk’s campus apartment.  That sort of thing happened sometimes, though it wasn’t supposed to.  I don’t know how they got away with it.  Sandy was a dark-haired, pretty girl with glasses.

Phil and I were both confused about Dirk and Sandy.  We both thought they were dating, until Dirk told Phil they weren’t: Sandy was his friend’s girlfriend.  (Dirk later told me they finally realized they liked each other, and started going out; this hadn’t happened yet on Wednesday.)

But they certainly acted like they were going out!  He would slap her backside, they would make suggestive comments to each other–this was no platonic friendship!

They got engaged either that school year or the next.  Then in 1996 or 1997, I’m told, Sandy broke the engagement, complaining about how Dirk treated her.  Then she wanted him back, but he had a new girlfriend, whom he eventually married.  How could an obnoxious, plain know-it-all like Dirk keep getting girlfriends, while I had trouble getting dates?


You’ll remember that Phil vanished for an entire day, without a word to me of when he’d come again.  He never called.

I expected him at any time, and he knew I needed milk and orange juice for breakfast.  I had no idea where he was or why he never showed up.  I had to borrow milk and orange juice for breakfast the next morning.

Now that Phil was finally back, I complained, rightly so.  But instead of apologizing or explaining, he just said that one of my friends could have taken me for milk and orange juice.

Say what?  He took the passive-aggressive route by vanishing without a word, instead of coming out and saying he couldn’t/wouldn’t do it?

After we got back from getting the milk and orange juice, before I got out of the van I said,

“I love you and I want to marry you legally, so why do I have such doubts?”

Once, junior year, Phil said that if either of us were ever attracted to someone else, we should say so.  That way, if we were to break up because someone else came along, it wouldn’t be a shock to the “dumpee.”

He lived out this rule, constantly telling me who he was attracted to, even telling me he wanted three wives–and who they would be.  One was his own brother’s fiancée.

Well, after several days of Phil disappearing for long periods of time–even a whole day–without telling me when he’d come back, I wanted him to be around more.  When you’ve been married to a guy all summer and he suddenly vanishes, you feel like a part of you is missing.

Phil’s treatment of me all summer, and especially now, inspired the doubts.  I may also have subconsciously wanted to get back at him for a summer of telling me he wanted all those other women.

So I told him my fears.  I told him I was getting a crush on Mike.  I tried to reassure Phil I still loved him, though.

I had a crush on Mike junior year, before dating Phil.  I was attracted to his integrity.

He wouldn’t drink underage or smoke anything that was passed around at a party.  He didn’t make everything into a raunchy joke (just some things).  He was sweet.  He wouldn’t play tricks on his girlfriend.  He didn’t seem capable of making a woman feel like crap.

(In 2005, from e-mails and forum posts, I learned that he believed in total equality in marriage.  Also, from Facebook I see that he’s a loving, devoted husband.)

Phil left me with a choice.  We were both very sad.  He said to talk to Mike, and if he felt the same, I could leave with his blessings.  He didn’t want to see it, but he wouldn’t stand in my way.

I cried afterwards and decided I couldn’t leave him: I didn’t have the heart.  I loved Phil, and had only a tiny, insignificant crush on Mike.  Also, leaving a marriage wasn’t that simple.  So I said nothing to Mike.

I didn’t see much of Phil after that.

Also note that when Phil found other people attractive and wanted to include them in his harem, the relationship was not over.

But as soon as I found someone else attractive–boom, the relationship is over and he’ll let me go with his blessing.

So it’s only a crisis and insult if I find someone else attractive, but not if he does, not even if he wants three wives?


He claimed my friends kept dissing him; I saw none of this.  He claimed their body language showed it; I saw nothing but friends smiling at him and acting normally.

On Thursday, September 8, he gave me no word of when he would next come to see me.  So I made plans with my roommies.

My roommies and I were getting ready to watch My So-Called Life, and had friends over to join us, a kind of party.  I couldn’t wait to see it, and was excited to watch it with all these friends.

But then Phil suddenly dropped in and said he wanted to talk.  I thought it was about Mike and that I would soon turn away his fears, tell him I wanted him and only him and couldn’t bear to go to Mike.

It was very bad timing on his part, which he should have respected, and I figured it wasn’t so pressing that it couldn’t wait one hour.  After all, he gave me no clue when I would next see him, yet expected me to just drop everything and change my plans when he came over?

Not only was this unreasonable, but my NVLD made me resist changing plans on the spur of the moment like that.

But I did not yet know that he had this unreasonable and controlling attitude about it, that he expected me to submit to his every whim no matter how inconvenient.  I smiled and asked him to sit down and watch with me and see what this wonderful show was like, and afterwards we could talk.

I don’t remember how many people were there, but there wasn’t much room around the TV in that little nook.  All the chairs were taken, so someone suggested he sit on a cushioned milk crate, which my roommies and I often used as a chair or footrest.    He soon went down the hall instead of sitting down.

I thought he’d gone to the bathroom, so thought nothing of it.  My friends and I watched the show.

He took an awfully long time, so I wondered if he had diarrhea or something.  I eventually went to look for him in the bathroom or my room, but he wasn’t there.

He’d left without a word, and never came back the whole night!  Pearl and I both thought that was extremely odd, wondering where the heck he’d gone to, and why.

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: