50 ways

There must be 50 ways to leave your lover.

“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is a song by Paul Simon I first heard on a mixtape that my mom was given by Joe. In some way or another, Mom and Joe were unfaithful to each other and with each other. I was too young to know what cheating was, but whether it was a stray text or slip of the tongue, I knew something was off before I even knew what it meant to be faithful. Just drop off the key, Lee, and get yourself free.

It began with a repeated, easily-recognizable drum riff done by Steve Gadd. Groovy, compelling lyrics and vocals; it began the same way it ends.

It began with my dad and my mom meeting at a party where she thought she knew what she was getting into, and hoped that hope would be enough to ensure a happy future. They got married within 6 months of meeting. Mom didn’t know any better.

It ended with finding the divorce papers on the family computer. It ended with Dad taking me to meet the new woman of the week for the hundredth time.

Three days ago, someone showed me this song again. Mom played that mixtape to death — I mean, over and over in the car on the way to school and rehearsal and soccer practice. I know it very well. When it was put on a playlist made for me, I felt internal conflict of some sort.

It wasn’t cliched thoughts like is this boy who showed me this song indicative of infidelity? No, it was — I am so glad to be hearing this song again.

It makes me feel like it’s a rainy night in the backseat of an SUV my mom is driving, my sister in the passenger seat complaining about her dress rehearsal going poorly for a concert she will be singing soon. We are in Downtown Charlotte, they want to call it Uptown there but to me this song sounds like Downtown. And I wonder about the mom driving her kids back and forth wondering about love like a little girl.

I’ll repeat myself, at the risk of being crude — there must be fifty ways to leave your lover.




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Isabella (she/her) writes literary nonfiction and creative memoir. She currently resides in Greensboro, NC, and intends to pursue an MFA in creative writing.