“No One Cares That You Studied in 1952,” by Michael Augustine Dondero

Dec 20th, 2018 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

Gabe’s been super annoying ever since he got back from studying in 1952. Just the worst.

Look, we get it, Gabe. You spent a semester living in Wisconsin in the 1950s. Well, guess what: not all of us can afford the new Live History program. Some of us have to settle for good old fashioned study abroad. (I did a semester in Seville; a truly transformative experience.)


Take the other night while we were out for dumplings, for example. He took one taste of the garlic eggplant and: “It’s so hard to really enjoy food ever since I got back. Like, I can taste the GMOs! Everything just tasted different back then. I lost eight pounds back in ’52.”

Can you believe that? Back in ’52. 

Or this: “I’ve been really into ’50s fitness. All this stuff today like Cross Fit, it’s just so excessive. I’ve been focusing on calisthenics. All these advancements in nutrition today but you know, I rarely saw any overweight people in ’52. Not like today.”

I said, “Well, you know,Gabe, maybe obesity rates have gone up but there have also been major advancements in medicine. For example, polio is extremely rare but that used to be a serious concern for families back then.”

“Ugh, yeah. Don’t even get me started. I knew some families affected by it. So sad. But I guess I just mean like people just lived healthier lives back then.”

“Way more people smoked.”

“Yeah, but even cigarettes just felt healthier back then. They load them with so many more chemicals now. And we walked more.”


Gabe engages anyone with grey hair to find out precisely when they were born. Once he confirms they make the cut-off, he chats them up about the ’50s like talking to an old war buddy. I actually once heard him say, “No, I do like music today, Estelle. I do.But I’ll take Buddy Holly over Post Malone any day.”

Does he even know Buddy Holly didn’t make it big until the late ’50s?

Or what really annoys me is the way he asks every other student whether they studied abroad. Then he proceeds to ask a series of questions all in anticipation of the inevitable follow-up question. “What about you?”

“Oh, yeah…I actually studied abroad in America.”

He dangles that bit of intrigue, forcing the person to inquire further.

“What do you mean, ‘America’?

“I studied abroad in Wisconsin,” he smirks coyly, “in 1952…”

Oh, and the other day, I had this conversation with him on the subway:

“I forgot how rude people were in the present,” he said. Everyone looking at their phones. So few people value conversation. Everyone was just so nice when I was in ’52. I sometimes wish I could’ve stayed.”

“People were nice. But you’re also white. And a man.”

He sucked in his lips, closed his eyes and nodded softly. “I know. That’s the one drawback. The racism and misogyny. It was so painful to really live it. That’s really the most frustrating part of studying abroad in the past: not being able to really change anything.” He cocked his head, narrowed his eyes. “You know what I did while I was there? I quoted MLK often. Just to plant the seed. He wouldn’t even come to prominence for a few more years. I know, I know. I know it won’t have any affect on the present. Those are the rules of Live History,but you know what? I like to believe that somehow, some way, my actions spawned some alternate universe where racial intolerance really did improve. I just know deep down that I left 1952 somehow better.”

I told him about when I ran with the bulls in Pamplona during my study abroad in Spain.

He said, “I love Hemingway. I was actually there when The Old Man and the Sea was published. The running of the bulls has become so commercialized, though, since Papa’s time. Now it’s all about the Instagram post. I wish people would live more in the moment.”


Michael Augustine Dondero is a writer, podcaster and filmmaker based in Brooklyn, NY. He is the co-creator of the The Lost Signal Society, a horror and sci-fi podcast that premiered in fall 2018. His film and television credits include producing historical documentaries for PBS and working on TV shows such as Mr. Robot and High Maintenance. As a bass guitarist, he has rocked out alongside dozens of great albums in his basement. His previous works in Defenestrationcan be found here and here. You can reach him at www.augustinedondero.com.

Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.