The next few days are blurry at best. I am not sure why this happened but I think because of both the public nature of fallout and who I was, the school was compelled to react and held a disciplinary committee meeting to determine the fate of the three of us. Shannon was off in Texas and could not represent herself so she wrote several lengthy pages about her view on it. It was shredded afterwards and I never saw it and one of the people on the committee told me to not try to but that that if I ever did to realize that it was one point in time for Shannon and to see it as such. Natalie and I both took turns before the committee and spoke with each other in the lobby and also at some length with each other afterwards. It was a few days before Christmas when all of this broke down. While at the time this thought never crossed my mind, it must have been incredibly inconvenient and bothersome for those faculty to have their Christmas break ruined by my drama. I don’t envy their role, having to figure out what to do with this poster boy kid who most of them had embraced mentally. Most of them had at least done it physically… To have been a fly on the wall of that room…
I don’t remember how long the decision took but I’m almost certain they didn’t decide it for a few days. The silence was just eating away at me because I had no clue to what would happen. The president of the college, Richard Osborn, was kind enough to sit down with me during that time and while showing the fact that he was disappointed conveyed a great kindness about the fact that humanity was hard and that he would make sure I wasn’t expelled for this. (Over the next few months, there would be multiple kindnesses like this, there would even be some kindnesses that I would grossly misinterpret because I was off balance and because I chose to focus on the people who were being cruel. As this story continues, know that when I tell those stories, I am not trying to be a victim of my own life, I am just reflecting what I remember and trying to tell the story honestly). Dr. Ashworth was on the discipline committee and I still can’t decide how I feel about the fact that he said this showed “a consistent character” issue because of things that he “knew about but wasn’t at liberty to share.” I go back and forth between appreciating that he didn’t say it but a little annoyance at that he referred to the previous episode.
Natalie had previously planned to spend Christmas with her father (her parents were split up). Shannon was at her parents and had made it clear she didn’t want to talk to me. I had gone from having both of their time and attention to neither. I was just planning on staying at home alone; I’d had a couple of invites but they were pity ones. I had actually left the light and the heater off the entire time after Shannon went home so I was consistently literally in the cold and dark. Natalie’s mother was kind enough to invite me over for Christmas eve and I went. She had apparently spent a good part of the day cooking up really good food and I went there and because I was in crisis mode, I went there and verbally beat myself up in front of her and didn’t eat any of her food. The incredible rudeness of this didn’t strike me for several days.
I went home and the phone rang around 8:00 PM. It was Shannon and she finally was ready to talk, not necessarily about the crisis but just talk. We had a history of five years and she wasn’t ready to throw it away though she was thinking about it. So we talked and talked and talked, sometimes about what was going on, sometimes about what the last few days had been like, sometimes awkward painful conversation, at points venomous angry conversation. We have a tradition of hanging up an ornament representing the most important event of the year on Christmas Eve and that was the only time we weren’t together but I did it while talking to her on the phone. It was an Eiffel Tower, representing our trip to Paris that summer. The conversation just kept continuing with no sign up wrapping up and then I noticed the time. It was 11:30PM.
After the initial hundred days of running right before our marriage, I had decided to run a thousand consecutive days. At this point, I was at over 600 days and suddenly I had a very odd decision to make. In order to make these 1000 days work, my ocd had led me to pull over the car and run in dress clothes at 11:30 at night, to run up and down stairs in a subway in New York at 11:30 at night, to get up at the crack of dawn because I would be crossing the international date line (always had to be local time). I considered than finding an excuse to get off the phone just to keep the streak going. The conversation wasn’t really going anywhere as some of it was just rehashing many things but this was the first chance she’d given me to talk to her. I weighed it out and decided to stay on the phone which I did until almost 2:00 on the morning, her 4:00 AM. We fell asleep on the phone.
The school eventually came back with the decision that we were all suspended for 1 week, we were forbidden from talking to each other (unless Shannon decided that she wanted to fix our marriage), we would have to go to therapy until our graduation that June. This meant that some classes had to be rearranged (Shannon and Natalie were in the same major) and for a brief moment our role in the school production was up in the air. The school yearly put on a play and Shannon, Natalie and I had all tried out for it. That year it Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dreams. Shannon and I both had tried out for the part of Puck and she had gotten it but they liked me enough to bring me back and gave me the part of Lysander. Natalie had not gotten a part. It was ironic that in the midst of all this I was cast in a part where I go back and forth between being in love with two girls. Shannon fairly quickly decided to officially state that we were going to try so the ban on us speaking was lifted. In addition to this, the school required me to resign from pastoring the two churches and from being senior class president.
Shannon came back to PUC and to her credit and my chagrin; she moved out and moved in with a friend that I’d introduced her to, Donica Ward. My pride wouldn’t allow me to admit this to essentially anyone and while it was fairly obvious to many friends and neighbors this had occurred, I don’t believe I ever owned up to it to anyone.
I’ve always been the kind of guy who has an excessive amount of energy and to all of a sudden have no job, no positions, no wife living with me and everyone gone on Christmas break was driving me nuts. They then got back and it was worse. The school had further added that during the week I was suspended I wasn’t allowed to step on campus so I was in exile in my own home with no wife. My friends for the most part didn’t know what was going on so they didn’t know to come by and I was still so ashamed and proud that I couldn’t face up to any of them. Plus the school gave us this vague directive about the fact we weren’t allowed to talk about its decision. The Angwin church was on campus so I figured I couldn’t go to that either and it wouldn’t make sense to go to either of the churches I had pastured so even on Sabbath I was home alone. I tried to pray and talk to God on those days but it felt hollow from both ends. More earnestness didn’t seem to help the situation and the prayers got less frequent.
All of this pent up emotion and confusion had me on edge. So the Sabbath that was two days before we were scheduled to start classes, in a frenzy and an act of desperation, I threw a bunch of my clothes into my car and was headed to Texas to my mother’s house. I didn’t have much of a game plan beyond that, whether or not I would continue college or not or graduate at all wasn’t crossing my mind. I got as far as Napa where I got a cell phone and for some reason I checked my answering machine messages before heading out and there was a message from Greg King, the chair of the theology department, asking me to come to his house. I drove back the half hour to campus and he tried to get me to stay, saying I still could have a bright future. His wife then said what was meant to be a very kind thing but is probably still the most painful thing anyone’s ever said to me: “Satan is out to get the best and the brightest and you let him do that with you.” I was a long way from home.