Words With Black Key Friends


Clichés. Crying. Bargaining and acceptance. Breakups are so woefully unoriginal. Then you have one. But you recover. Somehow. An iPhone game. An obvious song. Goes something like this.

Breakups are boring. Unoriginal. Predictably cruel. They compress months or years of sex, laughs and fun into a few canned, clichéd lines. People watching seem OK with that. Happens on TV all the time. Get over it. You’re better off.

Don’t tell that the person who’s going through a nasty one though, right? Those people feel. Go places. Consider stuff they didn’t know they could conjure up before. That’s me. Gaping emotional hole in the chest. Naivety to the Nth. Try it out sometime. Get dumped just as you fall in love. Get back to me when you crawl out that hole. Tell me how predictable it feels.

You’ve got to crawl though, don’t you? Heal. Usually happens in strange little ways. Corny ways. Obvious ways. Sexual ways, although that didn’t help me. Terrible rebounder. Never feels right. Read into that how you will. Sometimes getting semi-normal again happens as suddenly as the breakup itself. Maybe with the words in a silly iPhone game. The Black Keys on Spotify. This happened to me.

Well, the look of the cake, it ain’t/ It ain’t always the taste/ My ex girl, she had such a/ Such a beautiful face

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Thirty years on this rock and I’d never been broken up with before. #humblebrag? #humblemaybe. Take that more as a statement of fact, not arrogance. A lucky streak and certainly not one anchored in any kind of relationship expertise or skill. It was a nice little run.

Haven’t had that many girlfriends over the years, either. That probably helped. That’s beside the point. One breakup or ten, this pain is the kind I’m perversely grateful for. Learning pain. Black and white pain that changes people—safe people. People who thought they had all of life’s little angles and intricacies figured out. F-ck that noise, son. Those swollen red eyes in the mirror tell me you haven’t figured out sh-t.

I wanted love/ But not for myself/ But for the girl, so she could/ So she could love herself

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Eventually, “acceptance” will happen. The illogical nature of the severing will “make sense.” That it will be “for the best.” This is “how it goes.” We’ll be “great friends, in time.” Again, boring. But clichés exist because they’re convenient, prepackaged little ways to dance around the whole truth. We’re moving too slow. You’re not interested in family. Why are you so quiet when we have sex? We will never see each other ever again. You are easily forgotten.

But why bother with all that heaviness? Brevity is in equal measure the key to wit and breaking hearts. Wrap it in “love but not in love” and “best friends not lovers” and both sides understand. Not at the same time. Eventually. It’s so much cleaner. Lazier. Easier. I’m beginning to understand.

All that work, over/ Over so much time/ If I, if I think too hard/ I might lose my mind

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Regrets. I got some.

Someone said that once. When my chance came, what I said was, “I almost wish one of us had cheated on the other, or that I had hit you or something.” I never thought about actually doing that, of course. It was a moment of weakness. Moment of panic. A paper tiger spouting words. Filling the silence. An attempt to get an answer. The big WHY?

Never came. Wasn’t interested. Nothing worth fixing. More clichés. Tears from me; coldness from this sudden stranger. One week to think about things and the future was enough. Probably by design. No room for error. Or hope. Snuff out all chance at reanimation. Puppy in a sack on the side of the road. Almost done.

Oh, my next girl, yeah/ Will be nothing like my ex girl/ I made mistakes back then/ I’ll never do it again

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It’s amazing how people can die without dying. Not like vegetable people. Not Schiavo. Like the people we were from when things worked. The quirks and the kisses and finding each other in the dark. Knowing bodies by touch. The trips. Laughing. Four-hour conversations. Losing track of time. Hands.

Then it twists. Where did they go? New people appear. Hand-holding feels clammy. The laughs forced. Lounging around is laziness. Life’s passing us by. Touching in the dark is interrupted sleep. Tomorrow’s a big day. Project at work. Unbelievably, sex becomes routine. That first time together—its awkwardly awesome alcohol-fueled heat months distant now—is an ember. Forgetfulness about family and friends is damning uncertainty. At this age, we cannot be uncertain. There are rules.

It ends. You die without dying. That first date and Newport and the lazy summer days in the Common are sinking. Dying. Not for you anymore. The first kiss that floated you home in April rains is a husk. Let it go.

“I’ll miss you.” “You’re an amazing person.” “We will be great friends, in time.” More lies, but necessary ones. Necessary to move on. OKCupid awaits her. Good luck out there. Again. Not me though. Something different this time.

I don’t feel like myself anymore. Something broke with us and something broke in me. But I fix it. I change. Finally. I welcome this. Thirty years. Looks like he’s all grown up.

Oh, my next girl/ She’ll be nothing like my ex girl/ It was a painful death/ Now, I got a second chance.

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image – The Black Keys