In Which We Have Been Trying To Live Without You Now

Breaking Up and Breaking Down

by Tyler Coates

Call me a pessimist, but I think I have an unnatural obsession with romantic disappointment. Most of my favorite songs are about failed relationships, and my favorite album is Exile in Guyville, the quintessential Liz Phair album, which is almost entirely about fucked-up relationships.

Liz Phair

Some of my favorite novels are similarly depressing (Sophie’s Choice and Lie Down in Darkness by William Styron; The End of the Affair and The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene).

Styron was brilliant, happily-married, yet still incredibly depressed.

I have a thing for movies with climaxes that are particularly bleak (despite the frequently awkward, comedic moments).

There’s Broadcast News, my absolute, all-time, favorite-favorite, in which none of the main characters end up together (uh, spoiler alert), or Annie Hall, the most realistic film about a relationship I’ve ever seen (and about which Molly has written). The latter of the two provided inspiration for the only poem I’ve written that I will unabashedly share – as opposed to tearing it up or locking it away in a diary (read: a “friends-only!!!” Livejournal post).

Dead Shark

Placing the paperbacks on the crease of her inner arm,
Annie carries the collection across the room to fill
the empty brown boxes with books without
noticing whose name is on the inside covers.

She picks out the classics, the novels, the volumes of poems,
leaving behind the books that he bought her
in an effort to teach her more about life and death.
She turns and stares at the sturdy oak shelves,

still packed and crowded with cardboard and paper.
The boxes of books still half-empty,
Annie wonders if he will notice the
slivers of air tucked inside the library.
She returns to her cargo, packing it with

lobsters, rollercoaster rides, tennis lessons,
and Bergman films worth repeating.
She folds over the flaps, fitting them into place
and seals the break with the flimsy, yellowing tape.

I don’t think these two could have made it.

It seems appropriate that the only poem I wrote was about a breakup, since my previous forays into creative writing (which took place in my two semesters of undergraduate creative writing) produced a overdrawn, completely autobiographical story about a girl on whom I had a crush in college.

Looking back on it, it’s really embarrassing, as I didn’t even bother to change the names in the story, and when you go to an average-sized liberal arts school, you find that things like that get around. It’s more embarrassing than blogging about yourself.

To give myself credit, the story had a lot of style: it was based around songs that reminded me of the girl, so it read like liner notes to an album. I also told the story backwards (I had watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind a LOT during that time). I will not post the story here.

Whenever I am irrationally obsessed (but the good kind of obsession) with someone – and when I went through my first major break-up a year ago – I listen to exclusively heart-wrenching music, eventually associating those songs with the object of my affection. I’m sure I have a stockpile of mix CDs somewhere that serve as historical accounts for the dramatic and sad moments in my romantically-confused life.

The Sid and Nancy of blogging

I’m used to being the dumped one, or at least the person whose feelings were unrequited. While some (*cough*Julia*cough*) might turn to blogging about the situation, I’ve learned (through, well, blogging about the situation) that publicly revealing your mistakes, as well as your partner’s shortcomings, proves fatal, especially if you’re in a city like Chicago, where the young, post-collegiate, middle-class crowd segregates itself to one small section of the city.

Instead, take this blogger’s advice and stick to sad music.

A lil’ bit of emo never hurt nobody.

There’s the awkward nature of an amicable break-up, one where both parties decided together (or peacefully, meaning that no dishes were hurled and no insults were shouted) that things had to come to an end. One comes out of such a situation defeated, sometimes for the sake of feeling defeated. There’s no torch to carry on, no immediate need for rebound sex. There’s the inevitable guilt that comes with accepting a failure. I haven’t yet figured out how to come out of that funk; if you come up with any ideas, feel free to share them on your own blog.

Tyler Coates is the contributing editor to This Recording. He is a blogger living in Chicago.

My name is Tyler and I have feelings.


“A Case of You” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)

“The Last Time I Saw Richard” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)

“Help Me” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)

“Down To You” – Joni Mitchell (mp3)


Tess’ debut post/poem.

Nobody moralizes like children.

We did heroin just for the glamour of it.

One thought on “In Which We Have Been Trying To Live Without You Now

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