Calle titled her collection of conversations Exquisite Pain (2003). Each piece includes text from her part of each conversation, with the photo that she took after the breakup—a sad hotel bed with a bright-red telephone—and the stories of the strangers, with their own photos. When she finished the recordings, Calle seemed to be done talking about the breakup. She put the work in a museum, turned it into a book, and then, when she finished showing it, she put it in a box. She had tired of the story.
When I first saw Exquisite Pain, I knew it already. My boyfriend and I also had a trip planned. The day he ended it with me, he booked us a hotel room in St. Louis. He only became my boyfriend after we broke up. When something ends and it causes you heartbreak like that, it deserves a traditional label, so everyone knows what you’re talking about when you explain it—which I did, over and over again. When he ended things between us, we went on our trip anyway.
Afterwards, I talked about it incessantly: the trip, the sex, the breakup, the way I hurt. I always talked about us incessantly, but this took it to another level. I heard myself and I couldn’t stop it. I simply told the same stories again and again. I sighed into my phone, “Heartbreak is the most boring emotion on Earth.” No one disagreed with me.