The Fire Burns Hotter; The Dreadful Night (Shawn Almost Goes Too Far); Accidents Will Happen–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–December 1992, Part 1

InterVarsity Group is Organized

My RA friends, Sharon and Rachel, now jokingly insisted, whenever we referred to the dorms, that “They’re not dorms, they’re residence halls!”  Apparently this was some mantra the school tried to teach the RA’s.

Sometime probably in December, when Pearl connected our Bible study group with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, we began organizing it and making rules.  A bunch of us who were interested in the group got together in Pearl’s room for a meeting.

We began talking about the politics of it, such as officers and how officers are chosen.  I don’t remember who suggested that officers should follow Christian beliefs.  This may have been when a questionnaire was suggested, asking what an aspiring officer believed.

The beliefs seemed to go a bit beyond the Apostle’s Creed and trespassed into denominational dogma territory.

I said that some people of other denominations might not be able to serve with a questionnaire like that, and that it excluded people who were going through a period of questioning and searching but were still Christians.

But Pearl said the officers of the group needed to be held to a high standard because they were the leaders of the group.

A vote was taken, and the majority agreed with Pearl.

I knew, however, that even I couldn’t stand up to such standards.  I had lots of questions about my religion, and when I heard the questionnaire questions one day, I knew that even though Pearl and Sharon and maybe others kept saying I should be an officer on the executive board, they probably wouldn’t actually let me be one after seeing my answers.

InterVarsity meetings, based on a slip I found, were: Bible study, Mondays at 9pm in Old Main (room 22, it says, but we also did room 14, same time, during Winterim and Spring Semester).  Spring Semester, we often used the Phi-Delt room as well.

When we met in room 14, Pearl and other discussion leaders liked to leave on the board whatever they had written there for our meeting, hoping to amuse or witness to the first class to use it the next morning.  We left some pretty strange messages up there at times.  We had a lot of fun with this.

We had some cool people show up that year, even a few guys.  Unfortunately, two left for UW-Madison, one may have left the school, and we were left with only one guy most of the time.  This was Mike, the brother of the pledge master.  But more about him later.

We discovered in Bible study meetings that Dori, my fellow pledge, was quite a flirt.  She was engaged, yet still flirted with all the guys just like she did when she was single.  She told of being a big heartbreaker in high school.

One day after a snowfall, Rachel built a cute little snowman on Pearl’s scooter, in the basket.

One week in December, I got the flu and had to spend at least a couple of days in my room.  I didn’t even go out for meals; my wonderful roommate went out and got me sick trays, or rather styrofoam boxes, from the cafeteria.

Besides homework and MTV, I passed the time by reading about 100 pages of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson.  I mentioned this book before; I had seen the movie on Masterpiece Theatre, and now I found the abridged book in the Roanoke library.

Shawn said once that, rather than sitting there feeling bad about his criticisms, I should turn it around and say, “I don’t care what you think, I don’t want to do my hair/wear my clothes that way.”

I began doing this, telling him to let me be the way I wanted to be and not always try to change me.  But you see, until then, it just hadn’t occurred to me.  I didn’t realize that just because he thought I didn’t look right or act right, didn’t make it true.

Shawn told me once that Cinemax came in quite well in Grossh Lounge, even though it was supposed to be blocked because we weren’t supposed to get it at RC (Roanoke).  The guys there often watched it.

After we had a maintenance guy come in and fix our heater knob, Clarissa and I kept our room nice and warm (often hot) during the winter.  This was a wonderful change from the year before.  Only extreme cold outside made the inside cold.

Some more things about Steve: He had Siouxsie and the Banshees posters plastered all over his dorm room walls.  He said he liked the band, but Catherine believed it was because Siouxsie didn’t wear much clothing in many of the posters.

Also, whenever someone would say, “You’re weird,” he would say, “Thank you!”  Pearl jokingly said, you truly are weird if you respond like that.

The Fire Burns Hotter; The Dreadful Night (Shawn Almost Goes Too Far)

On Sunday November 29, back at school, Shawn called me up when he got back from home.  Then he came over because he was tired of Calculus; before he left, he hugged me and gave me a kiss on the neck that made me curl up.  He was acting so much like a boyfriend that it was hard to believe he wasn’t one.

The next night, we had Bible study; Shawn was there, teasing me unmercifully for being late and a klutz.  He winked at me once.

He stopped in my room for a while, then called me up around midnight; we talked until almost 3:30.  Once, he said, “If there weren’t a curfew, I’d be over there in a minute.”  (Actually, there was no curfew in the suites.)

He said that someone told him a while ago, “Don’t you think you’re just leading her on by always going over there?”  He agreed, and stopped coming over so much.

But from the way he said it, I got the impression that he changed his mind since then.  I asked him to clarify; it seemed to confirm this.  I also told him, “I know I’m not in love with you.”

We had Music History the next morning, so we both were dead tired.  He told me to give him a wake-up call so he wouldn’t sleep in and be late yet again (which the teacher teased him unmercifully about).

That night, Tuesday December 1, even though I planned to get some sleep, he stopped over again, and didn’t leave until 2 or 2:30–even though we both had morning classes.

We began fooling around.  That was the night of the trouble.  Things happened.  I kissed him so long and well that he went into overdrive.  I’ll keep details out, out of respect for him.

Then the phone rang–a wrong number.  He did not do what I feared he would, but he felt terrible, and I was shaking.

He hurried into the lounge, put on his jacket, and I joined him, sitting on the floor.  We talked for a while.  He was afraid Clarissa saw him get the phone and would ask why he was there so late.  He asked what I’d say, and I said, “Only what I have to.”  She never did ask.  He said he’d stop and go home when I said stop.

I longed for him to hold me.  As if he read my mind, he put his arm around me, drew me near, and I put my head on his chest.  I felt like crying, but couldn’t.  I put my face in my hands once; he wanted me to look at him and answer a question he asked.  He thought maybe he should stop coming over, but I didn’t want him to.

“Then maybe I shouldn’t come over for a few days,” he said.

I felt this was wise, so agreed, but said this weekend would be all right.

He said, “I’m not sure how I feel about you, if there’s really something there or if it’s just lust.”

Later, after more fooling around, which he insisted on until I finally agreed, he said, “Now this is a goodnight kiss,” and gave me a much shorter and less intense, but still great kiss.  “Anything else is more than that.”  He also finally spun me around again.

In April he said he would not have taken my virginity that night, but it sure didn’t feel that way to me at the time.  For some time, I thought that was his intent, and referred to it in my diary as the “Dreadful Day.”

For all his talk of not wanting me as a girlfriend but as a “best friend,” we were drawn to each other like magnets.  And also like magnets, we would repel each other.

It was a strange dance, sometimes loving him, sometimes hating him, him sometimes persuading me into all he could get, and in the same evening ripping me to shreds with his words.

But when the words would cease, when we were no longer out and about around campus but alone together, heat filled the room, and it felt like he truly cared for me, somewhere deep inside.

This was one night when he did not scold or criticize.

As we kept skirting the actual “deed” over the many months of our friendship with benefits, he led me into all sorts of sensuality.  He stirred up passions in me that even Peter had not, things I intended to keep repressed until my wedding night.

But the more he stirred them up, the more I did not want him to stop–but felt I had to stop him.  Our bodies are made to keep going, after all, to perpetuate the species; this is not from the Devil, but from our own animal nature.  So when you stir it up when you’re supposed to be abstinent, it’s difficult to stop….

I found a Christmas card to him which I must not have sent, since it was unopened–probably because I wrote on the inside that he made me miserable much of the time.

I have no idea what all the rumor mill thought was going on, since from my diaries I see that even my own best friends had no idea how often he was coming over or what all we were doing.  (I’m keeping out details here, too, not from lack of record in the diaries, which are full of description, but from tact.)  It was just the sort of thing to set tongues wagging, too.

Clarissa was the only one who knew how often he came over or I went over there, though we were seen together or coming out of each other’s dorms on occasion:

I was supposedly still hung up on Peter, though people also knew I had a thing for Shawn; Shawn was the obnoxious and over-analytical engineering geek who told people he didn’t want me as a girlfriend; did the rumor mill have any idea just what was really going on?

It’s possible, since I–wanting to get people to stop thinking I was so “innocent”–made comments like, “I’m not a pop tart but still a frequent visitor at Grossheusch,” and “Sometimes I have to beat Shawn off with a stick.”

All I know for sure is that even Peter heard about it; maybe that’s why he eventually softened toward me, because there was another guy in my life now.

Accidents Will Happen

On Wednesday the 2nd, Shawn and I were both tired.  He told me to call him if I was awake at 7 or 8, but I didn’t get up until almost 8:30.  We both took naps; once he called and said, “Did I wake you up?  Are you napping?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“So am I,” he said.

At lunch he sat next to me; I felt glad but uncomfortable, because of what had happened the night before.

I wore shoes instead of boots to class because I looked out the window and saw no ice left on the sidewalks.  But the sidewalk outside the library, which was on a small hill, was one big sheet of ice, the only ice anywhere.  On the way to work from class later that afternoon, I slipped.

After I fell the first time, I was too scared to move over to the snow beside the sidewalk, since that would mean moving sideways and possibly falling again.  I took another step or two, then fell again.

Shawn later said with a smile that an intelligent person would have known to get off the ice, that slipping–twice!–is the mark of a klutz.  But hey, it was a big hill of ice and even non-klutzes could have fallen.  Getting off the ice was hard for a short person on a wide sidewalk.

Though the report says the hill was salted, and though Memadmin said she saw maintenance crews salting it all day, this is not what I saw.  From my close-up view of the ice, there was no salt on it at all.

A non-trad from one of my classes saw me and asked if I was okay.  She helped me up.

“I got so worried about you when I saw you fall twice,” she said.

At that time I felt little pain, though my left arm had been pulled down by my heavy bookbag and did hurt somewhat.  But I figured it was enough pain to make Food Service horrible.

I went on to the cafeteria and found Nancy.  I said I’d fallen and was too hurt to work.  She and Arthur were concerned, though I thought I was just bruised.

“Come see me if the pain gets any worse,” Nancy said.

I went back to my room.  As I sat on my bed studying, the pain grew worse and worse.  I either called or found Nancy, and told her what was going on.  She told Memadmin.  Memadmin found someone to drive me to a clinic in S–.  My arm hurt so bad now that my eyes teared up.

The doctor did the usual things, but I hated the X-rays because my arm was put into positions that hurt even more.  After he put the cast and sling on, however, it felt better.  It wasn’t a plaster cast; I just had a hairline fracture in my elbow.

I got back before 9pm, in time to get into a suite group-picture for the yearbook.  Daphne yelled out, “Nyssa, what happened to you?”  She and the guy at the information desk found out, and one said, “You can sue Roanoke for millions!”

So there it is, immortalized, a good picture of me because I remembered to take off my glasses, but with a sling.

The next day in Music class, Thursday the 3rd, Shawn walked in (15 minutes late) and I smiled at him, but he didn’t see my sling.

He sat down in his usual spot near me, looked at me and smiled, looked away again–then did a double take and looked at me again.

He looked me over and made a wry face, like “What happened to you??!!”

I smiled.  I took after my dad: When he came home with a broken arm one day, he snickered at Mom.

At one point, my arm swelled up because I didn’t know I was supposed to use ice and keep my arm elevated.  When Arthur and Nancy saw this, they grabbed some ice packs, and insisted I keep my arm packed with ice.  Arthur adjusted my sling so my arm pointed up like it was supposed to.

The swelling went down within probably a day or two.  Clarissa and I didn’t have an ice tray in our little fridge, so we got the ice from the kitchen.  We used a rubber ice pack, sometimes using cold water if nothing else was available.

The next year, I rented a fridge with an ice tray.  Though I never needed it, at least it was there.

I still took showers, but with difficulty.  I had to learn how to shampoo with only one hand, and wash my right arm with an arm that could barely move.  I could only wash my right hand one-handed.  Everything I used to take for granted, was now a chore.  At least it was not my dominant arm.

My contacts weren’t in, either, due to my funk over the night before, so I did not have to take them out and clean them one-handed.  (Contacts further irritate already-irritated eyes.)

I may have asked people to carry my meal trays at first, but I must have learned how to hold them myself.  At one meal, I balanced my tray so skillfully that Sharon said I would make a good waitress.


On Thursday, Shawn said to Pearl, “This week, I’ve been going to bed too late and getting up too early.”  Hmmm, just the same problem I had.  I wonder why….

Shawn tried to find me on Friday, but on a bad time.  Then I didn’t see him at all, except to wave at me as he passed the tray window.  I began to worry that something was wrong, but he was just swamped with homework for some time.  Considering how close it was to finals, and that he had Calculus, this was probably true.

Rachel came over on Saturday to help me carry my laundry, and told me that once, he said he didn’t like me that way, so she and some of my other friends said, “Don’t you think you’re just leading her on by always going over there?”

She said he said some nasty things about me (she didn’t say what), and they stood up for me.  It happened around the same time I got really ticked off at some things he said to me, until we talked them over and I saw he didn’t mean them the way they sounded.

I told Rachel that he isn’t so sure anymore that he doesn’t like me that way.

“He sat by me a couple of times this week,” I said–especially since Tuesday night.

“I noticed that,” she said.

See, we’d agreed weeks before that I could sit with him if I wanted, but he wouldn’t sit with me–to show other people that no, we are not going out.  He’d planned to do this if he ever got a girlfriend in college, just in case she wanted to talk girltalk about him with her friends.  So by sitting next to me at meals, he surprised both Rachel and me.

I showed her a hickey on my neck.  Her mouth fell open.

“Who?” she said.




“You’d better watch yourself, girl.  Don’t get yourself pregnant!–No, I’m just kidding.  No, I never noticed it.  If anyone else [in our group] had, they would’ve told everybody, and I never heard about it.”

“I covered it up and tried to hide it because I knew people would wonder, ‘Now, who in the world gave that to her?”

“That’s right, they would.”


On Sunday, Steve (Head Psycho) sat with us.  Get him and Demento Rachel together, and you get salt shaker wars, loudness and tug-of-war with one of Pearl’s crutches.  They flipped one salt shaker at each other by pushing two other salt and pepper shakers together at its small end.  A few times, it went as high as their heads.  We all rolled with laughter.

I joined in some of the craziness, and we made so much noise in that nearly-empty cafeteria that Shawn, Heidi and another guy kept looking at us like, “What are you guys doing?”  Once, when Heidi got up to go get something, she said to us, “A loud table!”

On Monday, December 7, I saw the school nurse.  She checked my arm and may have given me pain pills.  We talked about the incident, and she said, “Oh, yeah, the school’s gonna pay for your medical expenses.”  I even recorded this in a letter on that same day.

The cast was taken off a bit before Christmas Break.  This was my best Christmas present.  I still couldn’t do much, but I could do more than before.  I was glad to carry my tray more normally and–especially–shampoo my hair with two hands again.

My elbow was tender for some time even after the sling came off, and if the weather turned cold, my elbow hurt.  But it was set well, so within a year or two, even the cold-weather aches went away.  Today, you wouldn’t know I ever had a fracture.

I do, however, have a healthy respect for ice.  Though falls rarely hurt more than my pride and some muscles, I still wear boots for only a tiny bit of snow.  Ice frightened me for some time after the fall, even small patches.

I expected to get sick pay, since the fall wasn’t my fault; I thought everybody in every job got sick pay.  But when I asked Arthur about it, he said I’d only be paid for the hours I actually worked.

I’d have to ask my parents for money again!  Contrary to the student stereotype, I did not like asking my parents for money when I had a job, and when I called them each week it was merely to chat.  My arm needed rest all through Winterim, so that was two months without pay.

A hypnotist did a show on campus on December 8.  Actually, the students sitting onstage as volunteers did the show.

What I remember: One of the guys thought some monstrous thing made out of sausage-shaped balloons was important.  Another guy thought the microphone was the most gorgeous lady he had ever seen.  He caressed, kissed and even licked it.

Daphne, the RA of the suites, sitting in the audience, let herself go under hypnosis along with the students onstage.  (I didn’t because I wanted to watch people make fools of themselves.)  When she came out of her trance, whenever the hypnotist said a certain thing, she ran around and yelled, “The Indians are coming!  The Indians are coming!”

Afterwards, I went up to the hypnotist and asked if he knew anything about mental links.

(I saw James in line behind me, also waiting to ask him questions.  I wondered what James thought about my question about mental links: He watched me so intently that I wondered if he heard about my mental link with Peter.  In any case, Peter wanted me to stop talking about it, told Memadmin I made it up.  But he was a liar, and I did not stop talking about it.  So there!  Nyah!)

I was afraid he’d say they don’t exist, but no, he did know about them.  He said they’re rare, but do happen, and that a breakdown could be caused by a subconscious fear of it, wish for it to end, or several other things.  He said it may or may not be permanent.  If it wasn’t, I could get a professional to hypnotize me, help me find out what went wrong, and maybe set it up again.

I didn’t want to set it up again.  I had also read about them in an old book on ESP in the Roanoke library.  Now, Shawn told me it was probably all just an elaborate ruse of Peter’s.  He may have been right, but at the time I could not believe that Peter would lie to me about something like that.

One night, after a Bible study meeting in Old Main, Pearl, Sharon and I went to the head of the staircase.  I went down, But Sharon stayed up, leaning over the railing.  She said, “Do you ever feel like throwing yourself over?”

She wasn’t suicidal.  Pearl laughed and said no, but I knew exactly what she meant.

Somebody else felt that way!  Maybe I wasn’t so weird.  It wasn’t suicidal, just the thrill of danger, something you weren’t supposed to do–probably some primal urge, such as the Id.

In the midst of everything, the daily routine went on.  Our mailboxes usually held junk and campus circulars, not “real mail,” or letters from friends or family.  Catherine came up with the term “EMS,” or “Empty Mailbox Syndrome.”  But our group would send each other various holiday cards.

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: