No One Ever Left Alive in Nineteen Hundred and Eighty-Five (Part 1)

[First of a two-part post.]

NoOneEverWe drove south, stopping at nearly every roadhouse that caught our eye.

It was Tuesday, Jan. 15, 1985, and fellow University of Iowa chum Chris Hampl and I traded driving duties in his car.

“We split a six of Molson,” the journal reports, “and a little shot bottle of bourbon on the way down.”

Once back in Iowa City, ahead of winter semester, we dropped my stuff off at Mayflower Hall (pictured at left), took some drapes over to a couple he knew at another house, then went downtown to a bar called George’s for cheeseburgers. After dinner and more beers, we headed to his apartment, smoked a joint, and listened to music—totally crashing me out on his living room floor for the night.

The next morning I watched game shows until Chris awoke. Then he gave me another ride back to the dorm where I waited until roomie Bud Morris had returned from holiday break in Louisville, Ky.

“It’s a letdown being here,” the journal confesses. “The place looks hideously bare … and I’m feeling as lonely as I did when I first moved in last autumn. …It’s an odd feeling, being neither here nor there, moving about as I’ve been doing.”

Sue Rolfe, my crush from The Crow’s Nest, had graduated and left town. It was back to square one with new classes and new faces.


Six days later, with Bud back and Rick Kubat returned from Illinois, we ventured into The Crow’s Nest again, popping a couple bucks to see a band called Boys With Toys. I later confessed to the journal that while at The Crow’s Nest I “waxed a bit nostalgic; of course Sue’s no longer there, but I still really like the Nest.”

Classes that winter included Language & Society, a remedial Math lab, Astronomy with Dr. Fix (who tried to “dramatize the size and scale of ‘heavenly bodies,’ and sometimes his attempts seemed pretty ludicrous…”), and American Literature and Culture with professor Wayne Franklin. I was feeling pretty solid about the semester.

However by mid-February, things seemed shakier. After all, there was Valentine’s Day.

Bud was despondent when his longtime girlfriend Kim couldn’t make the drive from Louisville due to a freak snowstorm, which made Indiana impassable.

So, on Saturday, Feb. 16, we attended a party at Ted, Carol, and Doug’s place (Bud’s fellow Stats TAs) where, in the kitchen, an eight-gallon keg of Old Style sat in a tub on ice. Of course I was curious if there’d be attractive young women there.

“There were hardly any good-looking girls,” the journal reports, “—none, actually—and I spent some time amusing myself by putting up quotations on a ‘Graffiti’ board they supplied for people to scrawl on.” Bud, still moping over a Kim-less Valentine’s Day and drinking heavily, vomited at one point. So we all started moving closer to the door.

“Before we left,” the journal reveals, “I gave Carol a big ‘thank-you-for-having-us-over’ hug. It was real nice to wrap my arms around someone.”


Two weeks later it was spring. Well, it was a “False Spring.”

“Very warm, near 50, and the river, now flowing, is gushing downstream flooding over the banks on the way.” It was Thursday, Feb. 28, and I was feeling pensive after struggling through Math lab, so I went on one of my long walks by the river. The journal describes my thoughts:

“I tried to gauge how happy I really felt, realizing all the ways I could be happier, and yet feeling generally contented. Some of those happier ways included an energetic circle of friends (much like the group I had at Lakewood, when we’d all meet at Jethro’s, the local bar, and pulled tables end on end so that we could all be together), and perhaps a girlfriend would be nice—someone I would be sexually and intellectually (not so much with wit and pedantic knowledge, but simple wisdom, a kind of common sense) fascinated with. She’d have to be very attractive to me, otherwise how could my fascination have any real grasp? So I saw how I could be happier, and the day seemed a little less cheery.”

So, what did I do?

Join the other sad sack single guys—Rick, Dick, Gundy and Jim—for our usual glum dinner at Currier Hall.


After spring break, I was more desperate.

“I’m fed up with everyone and everything,” the journal declares. “I hate Math. I’m tired of myself and Empty City, Iowa. Where was the charm I thought I saw here? I thought it formed a place in my future—now I don’t know what my future will be—I have no plans—if anyone were to ask me, I’d say I don’t know.”

Then, on Monday, April 8:

“After a regular, busy day [during dinner at Currier where] everybody was present and we all sat at a large round table: Rick, his friend George from the Quad Cities, Jim, Dianna, Dick, Gundy, and Brian. Jim says to me, ‘Oh Mike, Laura tried to get from me your last name, so she could look up your number and call you about an assignment or something for the class you two’re in.’ Really? Well, I told him my last name and then he said, ‘Why don’t we just stop over at her place and see if she’s in? She lives right across the street from Harv’s House (where Dick lives)…”

Cripes, Laura.

Laura Speaks, from Lamoni, Iowa.

I’d nearly forgotten about her. And even now I faintly remember her: petite, short sandy hair, pretty smile and plain-speaking directness.

So Jim, Dick, Brian, and I stopped over and knocked on her door. The journal continues:

“She was in, eating graham cracker cookies with chocolate cake frosting—she dipped them in a glass of milk. She said she wanted to know if we were having a quiz in Literature. No, we weren’t. I nosed around her room: a large in-the-wall bookshelf loaded full with books on literature and film—a bean-bag chair, study area above which suspended her bed in a loft arrangement, an aquarium meticulously clean—only two fish.”

She talked with Jim as I plopped myself down into the bean bag—Dick and Brian were already scouting around upstairs. A guy came in looking to rent a room. “She seemed to be in charge of securing rents for a sublease, or sublet, whatever it is,” the journal states. “He said he ‘talked with some guy on the phone yesterday,’ and she said, ‘yeah, that was my boyfriend.’”

The journal lays it bare:

“I was sitting in the bean-bag chair, or rather, sinking in the bean-bag chair. Never, never be smug about a girl. No matter what she looks like, or what her personality, or background or environment, Law dictates that she must have a boyfriend.”

Here was the first time I’d ever met Laura Speaks and I had such a strong feeling that I was, well, nearly livid: “…there’s still the Man,” I ranted to the journal, “that Wonderful Guy that always has a name.” I told Jim I had to get going and we all said goodbye.

The next day, as I hoofed it into Literature class, Laura “cheerfully smiled at me. Of course, I smiled back. But I didn’t, and really don’t plan to, talk to her. She has a friend. What more could anyone want?”


Rick had an artsy, movie-loving friend named Jane.

He knew I loved movies, too. So he invited me to join them at a screening of Woody Allen’s Annie Hall at the Bijou downtown. But something more was going on, something weird, as the journal reports:

“Rick’s always placing Jane next to me. Now, Jane has a boyfriend, a tall, lanky guy named Greg—who’s now—just now, I take it, dropping out of school. So Jane fits the category … of ‘attached’—supplying another case to the maxim that ‘there’s no such thing as a single woman.’”

A long-haired brunette, Jane was apparently shy, but “once you get her to talk,” the journal reveals, “she’s lively and interesting. We’ve got somewhat similar interests: she reads classics; she likes art, as well as draws. I fantasized myself as Alvy Singer to her Annie Hall. But that won’t work. Who’s kidding who?”

After the movie with Jane and Rick, there was a party at Dolphin’s, “but I didn’t see Jim, or Dick, or Laura for that matter.”

It was the end of April.

And there were blossoms on the trees just outside Currier Hall.

~ by completelyinthedark on September 11, 2015.

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