And You Thought Your Last Breakup Was Bad

Five love stories by Matt Leibel

And You Thought Your Last Breakup Was Bad

“The Power Couple,” “Jigsaw,” “City of Exes,” “Foiled by Language,” and “A Falling Out” by Matt Leibel

people flying with capes

“The Power Couple”

When the power couple broke up, they squabbled over who would get to keep which powers. He wanted invisibility; his lawyer made a good case that he’d been invisible for much of the marriage. She wanted superhuman strength, since it’s what she’d been using to endure the last 5 years. They negotiated a split of time travel: he got the past, and she got the future. They’d never have to be present for each other again.


A man went through a terrible relationship. It broke him down into pieces — 500 to be exact. Now, he’s been repackaged as a jigsaw puzzle, for advanced solvers ages 8 and up. When you put him back together, you’re rewarded with the image of a man with all his cracks and seams plainly visible. In some versions of the puzzle, when you fit the final piece in place, the man begins to cry a single, puzzle piece-shaped tear.

“City of Exes”

She downloaded the breakup app on her phone. It was designed for busy single professionals who don’t have time for relationships, who’d prefer to skip to the bitter end. Within a month, she’d broken up with 400 partners. She didn’t know their names or what they looked like. But how much less lonely to move through a city of exes — of would-be strangers with whom she’d briefly shared, if nothing else, a moment of code.

“Foiled by Language”

“You’re amazing,” he told her.

“What’s so amazing about me?” she asked.

“Just…everything,” he said, stumbling.

“That’s not very specific,” she said, “and anyway the word ‘amazing’ is almost criminally overused.”

“I’m not good at elaborating,” he confessed.

“Well, that could be a problem,” she replied.

“You’re unbelievable,” he added.

She let that word hang in the air for a bit, until, amazingly, it floated away.

“A Falling Out”

In the city, there are a million windows. Inside each one is a story. The stories can be anything, even stories where the window is the hero. Or, where a man falls in love with a window, then falls out, after he and the window have a falling out, and the window becomes a widow. Or maybe there’s just one story: each of us staring out our windows with busted hearts, consoled by dreams of lives more broken than our own.

About the Author

Matt Leibel lives in San Francisco and works as a copywriter. His short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Portland Review, Quarterly West, Redivider, DIAGRAM, and Wigleaf.

About the Illustrator

Sara Lautman is an illustrator in Baltimore. Her most recent book, I Love You, was published by Retrofit in 2018. She contributes regularly to The New Yorker as a cartoonist and teaches comics at The Maryland Institute College of Art.

“The Power Couple,” “Jigsaw,” “City of Exes,” “Foiled by Language,” and “A Falling Out” are published here by permission of the author, Matt Leibel. Copyright © Matt Leibel 2019. All rights reserved.

About the Author

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