The Break-Up Story


When you think of this story, you’ll remember the look of hurt on their face when you got rid of them. That dull look of pain and surprise, like someone had been trying to stab them in the leg with a butter knife. “Hey, why are you trying to stab me in the leg with a this butter knife,” they’ll say — or rather think. “…Because you stabbing me with this knife; it doesn’t hurt the maximum amount, but it hurts enough.” “…I don’t know why I’m doing it,” you’ll say, or rather think back to them.

Good taste isn’t always so kind, is it? And you have good taste, you think. Of course, everyone thinks that they have good taste, so how can anyone really know if they have good taste? But you have good taste, you think. And these people, this person to you is like an ugly sweater freshly opened on Christmas morning. Try them on for size. …Nah. Not good. Not good from any angle. And those colors! How could you ever wear colors like that. And what is that; are those sequins… is that glitter?

So you dump them. The way they chewed their gum, you think. The way that they chewed their gum drove you crazy; it wasn’t the chewing, per se, so much as it was the stretching. Taking from it between their teeth, grabbing the gum between their forefinger and thumb, and then stretching, still holding the gum clamped between their teeth like a vise, but then stretching the gum, taffy-like, holding it between the two fingers, stretching, pulling the gum out, then doubling it back on itself in a loop — the grossest part, re-feeding the loop to themselves in their mouth, the flavorless loop; for the gum itself, chewed for so many hours, then pulled and stretched, was itself entirely pale white and flavorless now, bland, all the taste chewed out — really, what better metaphor could there be?

“Every break-up story has the heart of a sad ballad,” someone will say to you in a bar. A trite and obvious saying, you think, and you try to make it better in your mind. “Every break-up story has the heart of a lonesome cowboy,” you think. There. That’s better. No; wait. “…The heart of a lonesome Jewish cowboy,” you think. There. Much much better.

The heart of a lonesome Jewish cowboy — or maybe just a lonesome Jewish cowpoke. Packing up his gear, and his neuroses, and his fears, and then headin’ on down the trail. Every time you break up and you leave, you leave them and you move — not necessarily move on, but move. …So you move from them, in mid-winter. Why is it always mid-winter when these things happen to you? Or mid-summer? Or mid-autumn? Or spring? “…Get out,” you say to them, or, “…I think it’s absolutely disgraceful,” you say. Then you pack up your gear; your busted harmonica, your cast iron pot for coffee and your cast iron pan for beans and your cast iron heart, as well. Throw your gear in a duffel bag. Tip your hat to the falling sunset. And head on down the trail, driving your herd of dull animals before you; gone again, renewed again, lost again, renewed. Git along there, lil’ doggies. Hi yo, Silver, and away.