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Soundtrack for a Breakup
The five songs that got me through the first terrible week.
By Leonard Marshall
April 21: The Smiths, "I Know It's Over"
I hang up the phone and sit in bed, staring into space. It takes a minute to start thinking again, but once I do, I cry for a bit. When I manage to get up, I walk to the kitchen to tell my parents, who, characteristically, turn down the radio and stop chopping vegetables mid-slice. They'd listen for as long as I felt the need to talk, but right now, I can only manage a mumbled recap before shuffling off to bed. It's only seven o'clock, but nothing else seems especially doable. I'm twenty-two years old, and my girlfriend has just broken up with me. For the past two weeks, I've come home from work and spent the evenings on the phone, having horrible, exhausting conversations and trying to convince her that I'm a worthy partner. I guess that part is finally done. After a year of debates and anger, tenderness and sex, food, airports, buses, and trains, my relationship is over.
Pop culture almost always gives grief too much respect. (Steven Seagal's brow furrows as he buries a friend; John Cusack walks poetically in the rain.) For me, it mostly feels like wanting to throw up, accompanied by numbness — punctuated by remembering over and over again the awful thing that just happened. It doesn't feel like death, exactly, but like nothing pleasant or even interesting is likely to happen between now and then.
I guess that’s what Morrissey is getting at in the song that lowers me into sleep. "Oh, mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head," he croons, endlessly. But in his words, it feels less nihilistic than comforting. He puts some of the dignity back into this feeling, reminding me that "It takes strength to be gentle and kind," a nice thing to remember when you feel like shit.
April 22: Megadeth, "Tornado of Souls"
MP3: Tornado of Souls
Nice try on the sleep thing — I get up red-eyed, after tossing and turning since two in the morning, unable to shake the thought of my (ex!) girlfriend having sex with other people.
In fact, she's already sleeping with someone else — an ex-marine, of course. ("I'm sleeping with someone else." Long pause. "Is it that guy Phillip?" Long pause.) Her explanation was that it didn't matter — sex means nothing, and I would understand that if I'd slept with more people. (This happens to be a bit of a sore spot for me.)
When I get to work, I try to focus, but my rage won't go away. I spent a year building a house with someone, and she spontaneously burnt it down. Besides wishing I still had the shelter, I'm also really pissed about the betrayal. I sort of wish that all houses would burn down. When I try to distract myself by reading an old Carl Sagan essay on the projected effects of a full-scale nuclear war, I find myself relishing the thought.
I should add here that I have the least existentially comforting job in the universe: I temp... at a temp agency. Nothing could be less permanent. It's also not a place that welcomes a lot of feeling — I've already seen the boss dressing down a teenage employee for talking about herself too much — so I hold it together at my desk for fifteen-minute periods, then run to hide in the bathroom, and cry my little eyes out. My coworkers must think I have some kind of bladder problem.
Driving home, I crank the volume on "Tornado of Souls" as high as it goes. Metal to the core, Dave Mustaine once described this song as "Dave meets girl, Dave loses girl, Dave kills people." His characteristic wail fills the car: "This morning I made the call — the one that ends it all..." The end of the relationship, the end of the world — all the stupid and damned, consumed in the same whirlwind of death. Needless to say I am not driving very responsibly.