The Thaw and Alton Ellis, ‘Breaking Up Is Hard’

Trying not to fill too many of this month’s output with stuff that’s appeared around here before, so going to borrow from my college course this time. We had to write a short ‘character without words’ piece recently, based on watching a couple have a conversation through a café window. We had to rely on body language alone to explain what was happening, and this was my effort.

The Thaw, by Alyson

Waiting for the bus in the biting cold, I spot a young couple seated by the window in a nearby café. Rivulets of condensation run down the glass, blurring the scene, but I am transfixed.

The boy sits bolt upright like an angry meerkat, his canvas satchel slung over his shoulder, but the girl is hunched over the table with her head in her hands. I can tell from the rise and fall of her shoulders that she is sobbing, but he remains immobile, his eyes fixed on the doorway that leads out onto the pavement. His badly bleached and tousled hair contrasts wildly with her long dark braids, but they are both from the same tribe, dressed alike in jeans, ribbed sweater, and ethnic scarf. Her earrings are large silver hoops threaded with beads. In his right lobe, he wears a red stud.

Moments later the girl sits up and becomes animated. She tries to reach out for his hand across the wooden table, but to no avail. Her mascara has started to run down her pale cheeks, but she lets it happen. Still the boy sits immobile.

Someone comes along to clear their empty mugs, but obviously thinks better of it and leaves them be.

The girl starts waving her hands in front of his eyes, but he barely blinks and continues to focus on the pale blue doorway. She slumps back in her chair and reaches for a napkin. Dabbing her eyes, and then her cheeks, she appears to recover slightly although her face is still awash with sadness. The boy loosens slightly and turns to face her. He too seems to have shed tears.

Eventually the boy takes off his satchel and slowly heads to the counter. He returns with another two mugs and he sets them down on the table. This time he lets her hold his hand, but still no words are spoken. They sit like this for some time then the girl picks up her large mug and drinks. When she lowers it, a big blob of milky foam rests on her nose. The boy tries to fight it, I can tell, but then he starts to laugh. The girl smiles. I smile. My bus arrives at the stop.

The obvious song choice to accompany this piece for me was Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, but it has featured here before, when sung by both Neil Sedaka and The Partridge Family. It was a pleasant surprise therefore to find another song of the same name (almost), this time by an artist I had never heard of before called Alton Ellis, a Jamaican singer-songwriter. He died in 2008 but it seems he was one of the innovators of rocksteady and was given the informal title, ‘Godfather of Rocksteady’. Alton was inducted into the International Reggae And World Music Awards Hall Of Fame in 2006.

Breaking Up Is Hard by Alton Ellis:


How beautiful is that? Breaking up is hard, of that there is no doubt, however the couple in my story fortunately seemed to have made up by the end of it. Looking through a café window we can’t be sure, but when the narrator gets on the bus, that milky blob of foam has her reassured.

Until next time….

Breaking Up (aka Breaking Up Is Hard) Lyrics
(Song by Alton Ellis)

When you turned
And you walked through that door
It hurt me so
Said it hurt me so

When you looked at me
And you said goodbye
You made me cry
Said you made me cry

So listen to me
While I say to you
Breaking up, is hard to do
Breaking up, is hard to do

I cannot let you go now
For my love is strong
My love, is so strong
My love, is so strong

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

8 thoughts on “The Thaw and Alton Ellis, ‘Breaking Up Is Hard’”

  1. Ah, this is lovely, so descriptive and I can picture the scene exactly. Fabulous writing!
    (Trying to do a bit of catching up myself at the moment as completely behind with blogging, just not enough hours in the day, but love reading posts like this so many thanks for sharing it. )

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the kind words. Sorry for the delay in replying but like you, life has suddenly got quite busy and not just down to this punishing challenge either. I will no doubt share on the blog soon.

      Good luck with your workload too – I know we shouldn’t complain as many struggling to find work at all right now, but it can get quite stressful so we shouldn’t be afraid to have a moan.

      Like

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