Trapped In The Break-Up Jeep

The most unnecessarily painful way for this conversation to happen.

Joanna Harkins

February 1, 2014 | Sweat | February 2014

goddam jeep

Life can be imagined as a cycle of getting dirty and coming clean. I’m not talking about it in the context of sex or religion, but in the context of our own mental health and the experiences we gather over a lifetime.

It was through a romantic comedy-esque breakup that I learned a little bit about that process.

There we were, in suburban Connecticut of all damn places. After spending a particularly hot and equally sparkling summer watching our relationship blossom in the East Village, we spent the weekend at his parents’ house. I was meeting his extended family and spending some quality time with his old high school buddies. We were in a good place.

Which brings me to the break-up jeep:

Sunday morning we awake after an uncomfortable night of sleeping on a couch at his best friend’s house. Beers from the night before have left our heads ringing. The drive back to his parents place is quiet; we sip our Starbucks and make small talk.

I suddenly remember that I’m riding in THE Jeep. I smile to myself. The Jeep, his parents Jeep, represented some kind of an origin story to our relationship. Three years before we had ever met, I had been introduced only to his voice. Living in a small college town, he spent his time doing whatever it is artistically-inclined kids do when they end up going to a state school – he started a band. A quippy line in one of the songs talked about rolling around in the back of his parents Jeep with a girl. It was hard to keep that daydream out of my head.

Eventually, I somehow managed to get myself into that Jeep. Be careful what you wish for.

He clears his throat and lowers the music. I barely noticed before this moment, but “Oh Comely” is softly playing from the old Jeep’s speakers. I wonder about the song’s origins and make a mental note to Google it when I get home.

“Don’t you think it’s kind of weird that we’re not going to see each other for a while?” he says.

“Yeah… but we talked about it, we’ll make it work. It won’t really be that hard if we try.”

“I just… feel weird…” For someone who calls himself a songwriter, he seems to be a bit lacking in the word department in this moment. “I just don’t know if I can do it”.

Rather than turning left off the main road into his driveway, he keeps driving straight.

I realize what’s happening and the winding roads are making me angry. My palms are perspiring and I can’t get a firm grip on the armrests because my hands keep slipping off.

Ten, twenty, thirty minutes pass. We’re still driving. Talking. Jeff Mangum continues to sing from the radio. I listen to the words of the music and realize it’s depressing as shit. I’m starting to tear up, and I try to think about anything other than what’s happening in front of me. I think about the fact that I’m supposed to be meeting his grandparents in a few hours and get even angrier. What are you going to tell your grandma?

We spend an hour driving in circles before he takes us back to his parents house. It’s an hour of awkward and bumpy relationship talk, and I force myself to put a smile on before getting out of the Jeep. He thinks a hug will help. Everything feels grimy for the rest of the day.


He once asked me if I was “over it” – over living in New York, over all the hustle that comes with it. I told him No – I embrace the way this city makes me feel. The black grime under my fingernails is my way of knowing I’m getting the most out of life.



Joanna Harkins

Joanna just graduated from NYU with a degree in Food Studies and French. She hopes to one day be a big fancy restaurant critic/food writer/ the next Oprah. Her interests include Elvis Costello, diners and hoarding magazines.

1 Comment

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