Shawn Screws With My Head–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–September 1992, Part 3

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.

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: