The Teddy-O Incident; Birth of These Memoirs–College Memoirs: Life At Roanoke–January 1995, Part 3

On the night of the 17th, I wrote in my diary:

God, help me
God, be with me
The whirlpool of depression and despair
Has sucked me down.

I know with my head
That You’ll bring me out–
That You’re all-powerful,
Almighty God
Able to do miracles,
Anything You please–

But my heart just
Doesn’t believe it–
Heart, don’t be so stubborn!
Help me out here!

God, pull me out!
Pull me out!
Reach down with Your mighty hand
And pull me from
These murky, watery depths
Up to the air of freedom

I need You
More than I’ve ever needed anyone
‘Cause I’m drowning
Under here

I wrote the following early in 1998: Ever since the whole problem with Peter and how it devastated me, I was determined never to go through that again.  Of course, that meant a difference in how I dealt with the Phil-situation.

I tried not to dwell on it as much as I did on the Peter-situation, tried to get my mind on other things.  I dealt with the situation so well that the counselor told me, “You’re dealing with this a lot better than most people do.”

I forced myself early on to face what Phil really was: an abusive, cruel jerk, not the wonderful, loving husband I’d thought he was.

With Peter, it took much longer to face that he was not the wonderful, loving boyfriend I thought he was.  It took what, a year or less to get over Peter, but only a few months with Phil.  Aside from one relapse during January (see below), I was over him by Winterim, and ready to meet Cugan and a few other guys.

I made sure I could get on with life sooner.  I cried sometimes, but not as much as I did with Peter, and tried to avoid sadness whenever I could.

Some may say I wasn’t dealing with the pain properly, not allowing myself to grieve, that I kept pushing the pain away.  But I still remember how bad my grief over Peter made me feel, and how my friends got tired of hearing about it.

I remember moving on to a destructive relationship with Shawn instead of looking around for guys to go out and just have fun with.  I could have asked out James, for example; I did have a crush on him.  I did ask him to Pearl’s party junior year, but I could have actively pursued him sophomore year instead.

But I was too drawn to Shawn at the time to pursue James the way I should have.  I look at all that, and think that my manner of dealing with the Phil-situation was the best I could have done at that time.

Or if not the best, then the best I knew how to do.  It’s hard to say.

I decided not to date another actor, because they were used to pretending in front of an audience and could easily pretend in front of me.  If a man was a good actor I wouldn’t know the difference.

Phil was so good an actor that I never could tell he wasn’t always sincere.  He fooled me with his “subconscious,” and in late September he had fooled me into thinking he wanted to be with me.  I didn’t want to go through this again with anyone else.

****

Pearl and I watched My So-Called Life every Thursday, but the network was now threatening cancellation because of low ratings.  It hadn’t even had a chance to build up a following yet, but they were already cancelling it.

I liked that the actress for Angela (Claire Danes) was the same age as her character, fifteen.  You don’t see that often.

I sent e-mail over Thanksgiving or Christmas Break to the TV Guide‘s “Save Our Show” campaign, and voted for this show.  Pearl’s sister liked it too, and was proud of me for voting.

But the campaign failed, and the show still got canceled.  Network execs keep canceling the good shows before they have a chance to build up a following, and keeping the mediocre shows!

Several years later, Freaks and Geeks got the knife, while Popular got renewed. (Typical: the popular kids beating the geeks.)

My roommies all loved ER, and watched it every Thursday night at 9.  They said it “er,” not “E.R.,” just as Jay Leno did.  I was so-so about it.  It was gross, especially in the opening scene, and that was the same time I usually had my evening snack.

Some of it was interesting, though, like some of the relationships.  Once I graduated, I never watched it again.

The library workers began processing new books for the library, along with books for RC-Japan, a branch of Roanoke.  One of the RC-Japan books was Anne of Ingleside.  (I thought it was the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series, though actually it’s only sixth out of eight.)

I borrowed it to read, since this was okay, and then talked about it with Sharon in one of our many library discussions that year.  She’d also read it, and we both agreed that it was disappointing: too much of Anne’s kids and too little of Anne herself!  It shows you that a series can go on for too long.

This is true, not exaggerated: Everywhere we went in the S– area, with few exceptions, Mike knew somebody, and waved and yelled “Hi!” to them.  Was there anyone he did not know?  Catherine said that everyone in the world was destined to meet him eventually.

I found a review for a new movie called PCU.  PCU was a spoof, written by young people, of college campuses that are too politically correct, have too much activism, and are too unreal.  I was glad I hadn’t gone to a college like that: I wasn’t into all that stuff.

Mike told us, probably in the first part of senior year, about his recent trip to Milwaukee.  He was stopped at a stoplight when a man came up to his window and said,

“Do you want some drugs?  Are you a college student?  Here, you can sell this at your college.”

Mike kept saying no, he doesn’t want any drugs, yes he’s a college student but no he doesn’t want to sell any drugs, no, no, no!  This shook him up.  Finally, the light changed and he could drive on.

Each of us had small bottles of milk, rather than one big bottle in common.  There was always at least one bottle of sour milk in the refrigerator.  Once, one of us finally cleaned them all out, when many of them sat in there just taking up space.

****

We were told at the beginning of the year that we could get no stains on the carpet at all, or else the whole carpet would be pulled up and replaced, and everyone in the apartment would get charged for it.

That was to keep the apartments in good condition for years to come, but one little stain would not ruin the beauty of a whole apartment.  Out in the real world, apartment complexes allow normal wear and tear, and don’t pull up the whole carpet just for one stain.

Needless to say, we were paranoid about stains that year.  We’d rush to clean up the tiniest spills with the bottle of Resolve Carpet Cleaner provided by the school.

One day, Pearl and I were alone in the apartment, me on the couch and her in the kitchen making lunch.  Pearl tried to be independent as much as possible, so if she needed help, she’d ask for it.

I learned from her that the disabled don’t like to be seen as helpless, and are quite capable of figuring out how to do things.

Later on, I met a man with no eyes or hands, but he led me from his apartment to the parking garage.  He appreciated that I did not assume he was helpless, but waited to be asked for help: It was a relief from what people often did.

There is a key movement in the disability community for the right to self-determination, which means that we have the power to freely choose how and when we act or are acted upon, without having the will of nondisabled people forced upon us.

Or, in the simplest possible terms: disabled DOES NOT mean helpless. I cannot stress this enough.

Being a good person is a great thing, but please don’t do it at the expense of allowing me to determine my own needs. It’s time for able-bodied people to differentiate between politeness and infringing upon my independence. –Emily Ladau, Thanks for the help, I guess, but I’m not helpless!

So Pearl, on her own, stuck Teddy-O’s (a kind of Spaghetti-O’s) in the microwave (I think the microwave belonged to one of us), and heated them up.

They were in a covered Tupperware bowl.  She took them out again, got a good hold on the bowl and her crutches, and began to carry them out of the kitchen.  She probably meant to take them to the table.  Everything seemed normal, uneventful.  And normally, nothing would happen.

Next thing I knew, she tripped and/or dropped the bowl, and the Teddy-O’s flew, spilling all over the kitchen floor and the carpet next to it.

We both laughed and joked about it, but of course, we had to clean it up, for fear we’d get charged for new carpeting.  Pearl couldn’t do it herself, so I grabbed the Resolve and some paper towels and did it myself.  I don’t remember if any stains were left behind, but we were not charged.

****

One evening, probably during Winterim, my friends and I went to the opening night of Wayne’s World II.  The lines to the movie were so long they stretched outside the doors.  I was used to a very short line, if any.  Across the street, a digital bank clock showed how cold it was: below zero, I believe.

We loved the movie.  We laughed at the kung-fu moves (which reminded me of Peter’s ninjitsu); the weird, naked Indian; the parody of the 70s/80s Calgon commercials; the naked Indian crying about the litter on the landscape, just like in the old 70s/80s anti-litter commercials.

The group of middle-school kids right behind us didn’t get the commercial parodies at all.  They scoffed at how much we laughed.  They also kept talking–not whispering, talking–through the whole movie.  Argh!

****

That semester, I worked on two writing projects in addition to my schoolwork: a novel based on Roanoke, and a novel about my seventh-grade dream about ancient Egypt.

I wrote many pages for the Roanoke novel before wondering just how long the thing would take.  Those pages have become my memoir’s introduction to Roanoke, the chapters “Meet the Suite” through “Tales of the Campus.”

In 1996, when I resumed the writing of these memoirs, and wasn’t sure whether to make them into a novel or an autobiography (though I knew I had to at least write down the true story before making it into a novel), I incorporated these chapters.

Besides the interesting bits of my own life, I wanted to put my friends in the book because they were so much fun themselves.  The whole group of us had been through many things together.

Pearl said one day that “Someone should write a book about us,” so I said I was already doing that.  She and my other roommies got excited and told me what names I should give them.  Yes, “Pearl” was one of those names.

By Friday, January 13, I had written about thirty pages of my Roanoke book, and made a note to include Penisman Christopher’s poems in the novel.  Unfortunately, I later realized I couldn’t, since I had no idea how to contact him for permission.

I actually started making notes for such a book during junior year, and began to write it senior year.  Of course, very little of it was fictionalized; I decided to write everything as it happened and then fictionalize it later.  Its current form is all truth, no fiction.

I later decided to write my memoirs but not make them into fiction, because that, in a weird way, could set me up for libel–while if I wrote an autobiography I couldn’t be sued for libel because it would all be true.

Eventually I abandoned the idea of publication, since I was afraid my family would disapprove of certain things.  Instead, I started using the memoirs as inspiration for novels, which I’ve read that most authors do.

Then in 2001, after friends requested to see the memoirs, I put them into e-mails, removing whatever seemed too boring or personal for other readers.  Those e-mails have now been adapted into this current form.

****

Around mid-January, the senior class hosted a Hunk and Honey contest, which elected the best couple.  You voted with pennies in a big, plastic jar set by the name and picture of your favorite couple.

Penny drives like this popped up now and then to raise money for something (and to get rid of spare pennies).  We had another one that year, in which the classes (junior, senior, etc.) competed to see who could put in the most pennies.

To my shock and dismay, someone nominated Phil and Persephone.  One day in the week of the 16th, probably Tuesday or later between 11:30 and 12:30, I walked past James and my co-worker Megan as they sat at the Hunk & Honey contest voting table.  It was on the south side of Bossard and near the bathrooms.

James said to me, “I nominated Phil and Persephone because they deserve each other.”  He hated both of them.  He said, “Persephone is the most negative person I’ve ever met.”  Then he put a bunch of pennies in the big, plastic jar.

Megan agreed with him, and said she voted for them, too.  They probably thought it would cheer me up and show they supported me, but it depressed me.

(By the way, I’ve reconnected with Persephone on Facebook.  In a recent status update about those days, she said she eventually realized why she had so much trouble making real friends at Roanoke–and made changes in herself.)

I worked at the senior table with Sharon from 4:30 to 6:00 on Monday, June 16.  I looked at Phil and Persephone’s container.  It was filling up with pennies!

I probably thought, “Please tell me people are voting for them because they deserve each other, not because they make a great couple!–which they don’t.”  I kept thinking, “It should say Phil and Nyssa, not Phil and Persephone!” Ugh, stupid residual pain.

Then Persephone came along and saw how full it was.  She said, “Oh, wow, look at that.”  She chuckled.  “I think I know who nominated us.  I’m going to have to get after him for that.”

This depressed me even more.  I thought I was finally getting over Phil, especially after my wonderful Christmas Break–but this threw me into a relapse.

I told Helene all this as she drove me back to my apartment in her minivan on a cold day.  There in the apartment parking lot, as usual, sat Phil’s minivan, close by my bedroom window.

I hated coming out of my apartment in the morning and finding it still there.  Just like John Cusack’s character in the movie High Fidelity, all sorts of horrible images popped into my head of Phil having sex with Persephone all night long.  I hoped he stayed in Dirk’s room, not hers.

(She later told me they never had sex, though he essentially lived with her and her roommate because his home life had grown intolerable.)

Anyway, I pointed out Phil’s Dodge Caravan to Helene.  She charged at it with her minivan.  She’d speed toward it, then slow down, turn around, and speed toward it again.  We giggled.

I don’t remember who won Hunk and Honey, but I do know it wasn’t Phil and Persephone.  I don’t think I even knew the couple.

Index 
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: