Why Did You Move My Desk?
As Glen Kenny said, Sue wanted sought top spot on the newspaper, and
most of her time was consumed in plotting ways to take over. Some
spectacle this as the reason for Sue's spreading of chaos among the
staff. Even then, I was not yet completely aware of the fireworks that
usually associated with the Beacon. In fact, for a while, I became a
"Sue Watcher," taking time to observe her activities when I was not too
busy with the details of my own survival.
Sue since has painted our relationship differently, and her overly
suspicious father, seemed to believe I played a more central role in
Sue's college life than I did, penciling me into the pantheon of
ex-lovers who stalked her, or loved her at a distance.
I did neither.
While she may claim she had to avoid me on campus, and had to cancel
classes in order to not encourage my advances towards her, registration
records show, I had three classes during our three years on campus
together, two English Literature courses, and one creative writing
class. If I stalked her, it was via mental telepathy and telekinesis.
My contact with Sue came by chance. And often as not, I stumbled onto
the consequences of her plots, not their cause. Like the time I heard
shouting in the hall and rushed out from the Essence office to find Sue
wagging her forefinger under the nose of Nicole.
"Glen said you said I say he was cheating on me," Sue shouted, her voice
as shrill as a fire alarm.
Open conflict with Sue was rare. It just wasn't her style. Sue shaped
reality like a politician, doing the dirty work in whispers, and
boasting out loud. Her dramas occurred in back rooms, in private, where
she swore the participants to secrecy, isolating them with promises of
later pleasures. Even twenty years later and six months after vanishing,
some old friends from that time, maintained their silence or broke only
reluctantly thinking Sue dead.
But this time, Sue's face was flushed, and not from one of her vain
attempts at a tan. I'd never seen her so outraged -- though even this
had a taint of dishonesty, she, like a spider caught in her own web,
trying to untangle herself from one spoiled plot by weaving strands of
another, her eyes alive with instant and panicked creativity, as if
working writing this new scene in her head as she spoke.
People crowded into the hall from every office, the paper notices,
pinned to the cork bulletin board outside the newspaper office,
fluttering with each jerked open door, until Sue glanced around, her own
eyes widening from their usual squint. Although her "he said; she said"
game was nothing new, I'd never heard her play it before such a large
audience or at such a loud volume.
Sue usually played before smaller audiences, even when confronted about
one or two of her nasty habits, where she could control all the
"She could be in a room with six different people and she would have
each person believing a different thing," one of her friends from the
newspaper office once told me. "And unless people compare notes, no one
ever knew. She's that good."
But Sue didn't just tell stories, but built whole dramas, couching her
statements in an environment of plausibility, getting friends to swear
allegiance to them. And she demanded a fierce loyalty among her friends,
few of whom wouto swear allegiance to them. And she demanded a fierce
"Sue has a way of making you feel special," one of her classmates told
me. "As if you were the only person in the world that mattered and the
only person to whomattered and the only person to whom she would divulge
this piece of important information. Maybe later you would find out she
was telling everybody that same great secret, but even then, nobody's
version would be the same. She had a way of twisting the tale so it
I followed some of the stories, asking people questions after Sue was
through with them, and found that the stories didn't seem to matter as
much as Sue being the source of some valuable piece of information. She
seemed to understand the value of having exclusive rights to a story,
and that people would seek her out if she could supply them with
something no one else could give. She walked around campus with an air
of mystery, her eyes shimmering with secrets she sought to tell.
Sue rarely told me any thing directly. I seemed out of that loop of her
friends. As editor of the school magazine, I was less sociable than
those at the newspaper, spending most of my time in my office along with
a notebook and pen. When she sought me out, it wasn't to tell me
anything, but talk about art, and how she might make a living at it --
as if I could tell her anything. I had no secrets, and she seemed
disappointed by that, always leaving with less hope.
Most of the time, I heard only the "he said she said" in the halls or
the study lounges, now-exfriends of Sue's grumbling about Sue's
deceptions, comparing notes in the school cafeteria over sour cups of
"Why do I listen to her?" most of them ask.
But often enough, even with more and more people grumbling, Sue still
takes people in, and often the same grumbling people.
Sue had that affect.
Although she clearly disliked watching one of her schemes fail, she
seemed entertained with her ability to talk herself out a nasty
situation. Those few times when her skilled failed her, she disappeared
for a few days, hid out on some new lovers couch, regrouped, called her
spies for campus news, and returned when tempers cooled.
But this time in the hall with some many people watching, Sue could
neither controlled all the elements or conveniently step into the
stairway and disappear. She looked less entertained as she licked her
lips, then desperate, her gaze searching the hall for possible allies,
but finding only faces who saw this as funny -- like children witnessing
a school yard bully being punished. Her stare promised revenge, though
paused when it fell on me, as if at that moment, she didn't understand
why I was in the hall with the others. I had missed most of her previous
calculations. Her hardening glance suggested she would rectify this in
Then, she turned back to Nicole, glared at Glenn Kenny, and then shouted
again, though carefully positioning herself as to push them back into
the office, where she only had to worry about the newspaper staff. When
Nicole and Glenn, step by backwards step, reentered the room, Sue
glanced over her shoulder, smiled just slightly, then slammed the door.
As with many things Sue did, this conflict with Nicole could not be
unraveled easily. Only much later, after talking with numerous people
from the Beacon office did the barest elements of the conflict emerge
and even then, I only pinned down a more definitive answer after her
vanishing in 1996, when people began to break their vows of silence to
What emerged from these recollection seemed so remarkably trivial, I
wondered why anyone had bothered to shout. But as with everything Sue
did, even the most trivial element often played a vital part in her
plot-mwith everything Sue did, even the most trivial element often
played a vital part in her plot-making. I did not trace the initial
event down, one of Sue's co-workers on the paper did, checking with
everyone in the office over the week after the shouting match, to find
Joel in his unpublished manuscript claimed that most of those to whom he
talked for his article recalled this as one of the two most vivid
memories of their time with Sue at school.
At some point before I stumbled onto the argument in the hall, Nicole,
whose desk sat side by side in the newsroom with Sue, had shifted her
desk and inch or so to one side, thereby disturbing Sue's desk as well.
Perhaps the movement showed on the floor, where the indentation of the
desk leg in the tile was revealed, perhaps, the subtle shaking had moved
a few papers or rolled a few pencils in some of Sue's drawers. Sue's
reaction was explosive.
"It seems Sue was angry that my desk was too close to her and she went
into a massive hysterical fit and began throwing about papers and small
office items," Nicole told Joel later. "I mean it was something
obviously major to her and ended involving all the people on the paper."
Sue, after having come into the office and noticing the change, promptly
accused Nicole of invading her privacy. This was an accusation Sue often
made when talking about her secret diaries, moaning and groaning with
great public spectacle about how she had been violated. When such scenes
served Sue's purposes, she used them amazingly well to her advantage,
and did so during this earlier confrontation over the desk.
Sue claimed Nicole had not only moved her desk, but had rifled through
the drawers and read private documents, all in an effort to harass Sue.
Nicole apparently denied everything, but bad feelings began to emerge
from the incident, feelings made worse by their competition for Glenn,
and resulted eventually in the "he said; she said" shouting match I saw
in the hall.