The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer – Years 5-7 (1988-90)

[spoilers for potentially EVERYTHING Twin Peaks]

LAURA AND BOBBY: Laura and Bobby begin to drift further and further apart by this point, as Laura is consumed by drugs as well as sex with many other people. It seems that their ‘relationship’ at this point is being held together due to momentum and the desire on both of their parts to maintain certain images of themselves, Bobby the football hero and Laura the homecoming queen.

Laura’s diary establishes this drift as being cemented on New Year’s night 1988, when, while stoned, Bobby asks Laura to have a real conversation with him. ‘I can’t speak for you,’ he says, ‘but I feel like sometimes you and I are so close…Other times – I don’t know what the hell is what. It’s like I’m doing all my life stuff . . . all of Bobby Briggs’s stuff . . . but it doesn’t affect me like maybe it should. You know?’ Which seems to jibe incredibly closely with Laura’s perception of herself as (at least) two people. The fact that he speaks of ‘Bobby Briggs’ in the third person, as someone other than him, is fascinating.

Perhaps for the first time here, it might occur to her that she’s not the only person whose outward life is performative and distinct from her inner one. The next logical leap, of course, is that this is true of everyone, which is one of the major reasons her character resonates so strongly, even though she’s in a much more heightened situation than most people.

Bobby goes on to voice worries that Laura loves coke more than him, as well as concerns about her not sharing anything of her private life. She responds, ‘I can’t tell you anything, Bobby. I just can’t. I understand if you want to leave me because of it, but I just can’t tell you or anyone.’ In response, Bobby kisses her passionately and then,

I say this with all honesty, we made love.

No games, no control, no ego, no bad thoughts or thoughts about anything except what was happening. It was amazing. Both of us agreed.

I knew I loved Bobby at that moment, and I know I love him now. I just wonder if I can let myself feel any of these wonderful, pure feelings without getting myself in trouble with BOB.

This is a beautiful moment for both of the characters but also all the more sad and ironic as, while it confirms Laura’s love for Bobby, it’s more of a goodbye for him, not in the sense that they break up but it is what seems to allow him to drift emotionally from Laura and into Shelly’s arms. Laura’s words seem to definitively confirm for him that she’ll never love him enough to let him in. For him, their sex here is like the sealing of a mutual understanding.

Another thing that seems to rend them further apart is a horrifically scary night for Laura in which she finds herself in genuine danger due to her sexual exploits, when she hitchhikes in order to get to one of Jacques and Leo’s parties and is picked up by four truckers, who swiftly overpower her and force her to a hotel room, clearly intent on raping her. She manages to outsmart them by the skin of her teeth, pretending to play along with wanting to have sex with them, using her seductive powers by dancing erotically, and getting them drunk and stoned into unconsciousness on beer and Quaaludes, other than the last one, who she has to physically knock unconscious before escaping, in a sequence as frightening as it has a dark fairy tale charge—as I’ve mentioned before about other sequences in the novel.

When Laura tells Bobby about it, however, he seems to blame her and pulls even further away. Which might be problematic, particularly from a modern-day perspective, but is also understandable to a degree on a character level. Laura thinks that he’s angry at her for dancing for these men, but we only hear her perspective. It’s just as likely that he’s angry about the entire scenario, that she once again chose to put herself in danger, hitchhiking with truckers in order to do drugs and have sex with others, rather than simply being satisfied with him. Again, on paper, it walks a fine line of victim-blaming, but as usual, Jennifer Lynch writes it in a way that refuses to judge or moralise about Laura’s behaviour.

And it should be noted that morality is never simple on Twin Peaks. The very thing that put Laura in danger—her sexuality—is also what allows her to get out of it. (It’s also, of course, a very dark foreshadowing of her final night alive, but again, even in death, she does manage to triumph over her oppressor, as she does here.)

But due to these things, Bobby and Laura’s relationship changes. They only see each other about twice a week outside of school, when they ‘used to see each other every day…The funny thing is we were voted “best couple” this semester by the student body…I think we care for each other very much, but we have become objects of convenience and comfort to one another.’ This once again underlines the split between public facade and inner life. It will be interesting to rewatch Fire Walk With Me and the early episodes of Twin Peaks with this in mind to see how well this bears up with the depiction of their relationship there. My gut feeling is that it will.

Again, the diary is fully from Laura’s POV, and I can imagine her interpreting Bobby’s reactions as being entirely shut off from her when she still has a stronger grip on him emotionally than he lets on. Her death clearly affects him a great deal. At the same time, the fact that he is seeing Shelly and seems to think of Laura less and less as the show goes on indicates that they weren’t a solid couple anymore. But Laura was his first love. That coupled with her seeming obsession with self-destructive behaviour and, from his perspective, death wish explains both what continues to draw him to her as well as repel him.

The diary also contains a fascinating passage in which Laura, while coked out, tells Leo that she thinks Shelly and Bobby might be having an affair: ‘I had to beg him to calm down. I’ve never seen such violence come up so suddenly.’ This seems to flirt just on the edge of brushing against continuity but, at the same time, I think it might just work. I like how it reveals to Laura for the first time that Leo’s violence isn’t just relegated to the more controlled sort of BDSM she’s experienced in the past. At the same time, it’s possible that Leo could have largely written off Laura’s words as coke-fuelled ramblings. Leo seems suspicious of Bobby and Shelly later so it’s possible he’s disregarding Laura for now but has kept his guard up. But it’s something else I’ll keep an eye out for when I rewatch.

But ultimately, Laura’s suspicions ironically reinforce her lovely side. ‘Personally, I hope Bobby and Shelley are having a relationship. . . . I don’t like the idea of being alone, at all, but worse things could happen, and I think Bobby and Shelley are good for each other’, she writes. She has a generosity of spirit that is at odds with ‘bad’ Laura and is ultimately what saves her soul, if not her life.