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He couldn’t come and pick me up and asked me if I was OK making my own way home. Sure, had he been to the shops or should I go on the way? I knew the answer, but was asking it of habit, or as I later realized, I was keeping our conversation going. I had noticed how short and practical our phone calls had gotten. I asked another useless question before hanging up. I checked the phone call length, 2 minutes 31. Better, I thought.  That was when it started, or at least when I noticed it started. Us falling apart. He always picked me up from Monday night netball practice. In fact, he always picked me up from anywhere. On Mondays, he finished work at 6pm, went to the gym, then picked me up. I wasn’t bothered that I had to get the bus that Monday. I usually caught it home after book club on Wednesday night, he had poker night on Wednesday’s. What bothered me more was my utter lack of curiosity as to why he couldn’t pick me up. I used to want to know what he was up to, I thought. I used to care how he spent his time. Oh well, I was meeting him at the shops in 30 minutes, he’ll probably tell me then. That night I chopped the sweet potato while he made the quinoa. We had our weekly lunch preparation down to an art. 5 portions for him and 3 for me. My work provided us lunch on Fridays and the BT Broadband guy was coming to switch our internet in the morning, so I was going to work from home. I thought back to when we moved into our apartment, a couple of years before. When he would hug me from behind while I made us dinner. When he would kiss my neck and would compliment the cooking. I wondered when that stopped. I wondered when I stopped expecting it. That was a happy time. I was still happy, I thought, but I was busy. We both were busy. It’s just what happens, I suppose. He forgot to ask me how my bus journey home was and I forgot to ask him why he couldn’t pick me up. We both forgot to ask each other a lot of things, it seemed. It was only when we met for coffee years later that I bought it up, why he didn’t pick me up from netball practice that night. He said he just didn’t want to. The beginning of the end, and our descent into sadness.



I packed an overnight bag four times that week. I used it once. I think that’s good odds. He text me at 11.04pm on Tuesday, when he was leaving the Kings Head. He ask if I was still in Soho. I was still in Soho. I had been in Soho with friends since 7pm, and alone since 10.30pm. The same routine as the night before, without a text. I said I was ready to meet him whenever, left my full drink at the bar and ran to Oxford Circus. If I was late, he might leave. And, if he left, I would never see him again. It was a brief dying romance, this was my last shot at resuscitation. He didn’t smile when he saw me, maybe he was drunk. Or not drunk enough. I couldn’t tell nor did I really care. We commenced the underground journey. Oxford Circus to Bethnal Green. This was our journey. The same journey as the night we met, a few in between, and now this, the last I would do with him. I would think of him when I would catch that line, years later. He sat at the end of the bed, sweat on his back. He didn’t want to lie back down with me, I could tell. I asked him to pass my bag and I pulled out my toothbrush. He smirked, the idea of me being so predictably prepared was humorous. I wanted to cry. The next night I sat on my bedroom floor and wondered what top I should pack in case I needed a change of clothes for work the next day. I had a meeting, so it would have to be a smart one. I kept checking my phone. No text, but it wasn’t even 10pm yet. There was still time, he never usually texted before 11pm.



Did he tell you he was going? Did he ask you if it was ok? How did their relationship end? Are they still friends? Yes, no, don’t know, no. Frustrated and lacking answers, I shut my laptop before reopening it and closing the tab. I felt pathetic in that moment, and extremely useless. Not as pathetic as the time I googled ‘am I in love’, or ‘I just ran 5k’, but still pathetic. I shouldn’t have lied I thought as I lay on my back, the fridge battery whizzing. I should have said it was unfair, that it was weird, that I didn’t see the point in it. But he loves the fact I’m ‘happy-go-lucky’ so I lied. I looked up at the ceiling fan and laughed I actually told him to ‘have fun’ as he went out the door. Useless, I thought . It was a hot day. She was probably wearing a strapless top and shorts. Or maybe a summer dress. I thought what I would wear if I was meeting my ex. Not that I would, but I let my mind wonder and didn’t feel bad about it. Jeans, not ripped, and a casual t shirt. Maybe with the Ramones, or Rolling Stones on my chest. Keep it casual I thought, not like her. She wouldn’t be casual, she’d be in a strapless top. I closed my eyes and tried not to cry. In the days leading up to then I thought of her constantly. I thought of him thinking about her constantly. I thought of how they met, what she said, if he used to text her every morning saying ‘hello beautiful’, what perfume she wore, if he had cooked her shepherds pie, how many books she had read, if he took her to our tree. when it was their tree. if he could rest his chin on her head when they were standing. he can’t with me with me. if he let her hold his hand, and massage his back, and wear his socks, if he played her the one song he knows on the sax, if they had a song, ours was ‘baby I’m yours’ - Arctic Monkeys, what he got her for Christmas, if she’s with someone new and if she loved him as much as he loved her. I know he loved her. It was cruel of him to do this to me, I thought. I turned on my side, and squished an ant under my thumb. We had an infestation that summer. That night I lay on the floor thinking of how he loved her, until he came home. And for a few more years after that.



The train stopped somewhere between the Italian border and Vienna to let on more passengers. I had a sleeper carriage, the top bunk. I knew someone was in the bunk below, I could hear them turning pages of their book, but they had come in while I was sleeping. The minutes after I first wake up are my favourite minutes of the day. They never used to be. I used to enjoy evenings, especially evenings where we would go drinking then dancing then laughing then loving. But, now, those first few minutes, actually those seconds are the only time in the day that I don’t think of him. Seconds of freedom. I wake up and I think the way I thought before I knew him. I think of my dream, of the day ahead, of what to have for breakfast. Then I think of him. I remember he’s not beside me, the clouds in my head appear and his face pushes my dreams aside to reclaims the space in the forefront of my mind. We had text three times since I left. The first was on the day I was leaving, I was at the airport and he said he would miss me. Even though we had broken up months before I went travelling he would still send me texts like this. Or he used to anyway. I said I would miss him too. I did mean it, but a lot less than I meant it before. I felt deceitful. It was just something we said to save us from having to say anything else, anything more painful. The second was at the end of last month, I had lost my wallet and felt very alone in a very big city. I texted him for comfort and care, after all he did say he would always be there for me. His response was short and closed. At the end he put ‘I hope you are well’. I hope you are well. My stomach sank, how has it come to this? We used to have it all. Now strangers, doing our love an injustice.



It was a really good first date, or at least I thought so. He’d given me all the signs that he thought so too. Leg touching under the table, walking me to the tube, hand on my lower back, a kiss on a Camden street corner. Admittedly I had lowered my expectations over the past few months, the frequent disappointment took it’s toll. But this one had promise. Yet I had another restless night sleep ahead of me, I knew it. Disjointed dreams, waking to check my phone every hour. ‘Surely he will text first’, I thought earlier that day. Now, a few hours and a lapse in self discipline later my internal monologue had to change to ‘surely he will text back’. I kept repeating his words to me as we parted ways, me underground and him in a Uber. ‘See you soon’. My lifeboat of hope. I turned on my side and turned my phone on loud, preparing for sleep. Or lack of. Praying for my phone to ding. ‘See you soon’ my mind whispered. My heart was already sinking.



I miss stones underneath my feet, I miss working in a bar, I miss every hamster I ever lost, I miss birthday presents, I miss swimming in the sea, I miss breakfast in bed and head after that, I miss gentle touches and stolen glances, I miss driving, I miss not knowing you, I miss learning to know you, I miss pre-drinking, I miss not having to work, I miss school holidays, I miss essay deadlines, I miss kissing strangers, I miss loving you, I miss you loving me, I miss my parents, I miss my brothers, I miss 3am, I miss not knowing what I’d become, I miss holding hands, I miss bunches of flowers, I miss our first apartment, I miss caring about your ex calling you, I miss drugs, I miss apple juice, I miss my friend who moved east, I miss being sure, I miss my dance mat, I miss crash bandicoot, I miss learning to play the recorder, I miss heartbreak, I miss queue jumping, I miss receiving love notes, I miss a ring I lost, I miss wanting to work for Greenpeace, I miss you looking at me with love instead of sadness, I miss the early days



Where were you when you found out? I was at a roof top bar in Soho. How did you find out? I had my suspicions so asked if he was fucking her. He said yes. What did you say? I asked if he was joking. He got angry ‘why would I joke about something like this’. How did you feel? Betrayed. And numb. What did you then do? I got the waiter and paid for our drinks. We got in the elevator together. I started crying. Then what? I asked him not to follow me, and walked away. I called him 30 minutes later and he came round. We chatted to my housemates in the kitchen, they were happy to see him. My heart was tearing, but I made it look easy. Why did you invite him round? I already said, my heart was tearing. Then what? We got into bed and I was wailing, I was clinging to him. So many tears. I threw up twice. What did he do? He wanted to leave, said this was too painful. But, gasping for air, I begged him to stay. The next day? I was sent home from work. I was a wreck. And him? We don’t speak anymore.



After graduating Oxford in 2013 I moved to London and joined a consulting firm. I would wake up at 6.30 and wear a suit. I was the only woman in the office and spent most of the day analysing numbers on spreadsheets and asking my colleagues how to do excel shortcuts. I didn’t understand it. I didn’t understand why I was doing it or how I ended up in the office at 10pm for five nights most weeks. I didn’t enjoy it, I didn’t get how anyone could enjoy it. I quit within 5 months and found an internship on Twitter for an assistant role in an independent tv production studio. It was my job to make the coffee. Between making coffee and speaking to the receptionist I would develop ideas for new tv shows. I loved it. It was that summer that I had to turn down a holiday with friends as I couldn’t afford it. I started to wonder where my career in live tv production would take me. I would say things like ‘Oh I want to be a commissioner for channel 4’. But it wasn’t true. I fooled people into thinking that I knew what I wanted to do with my life. That I had ambition. And that the choices I made were right. I moved to Canada the summer of 2017 and got a job in a bar. I cleaned tables, I took people’s orders and I would empty the dish washer. I was an amazing time in my life. But I felt like I was being left behind - I was drowning in waves of regret, ‘you had so much potential’. Maybe I should have stuck with my consulting job. I wonder how much money I would be making. Probably enough to buy a house. I sometimes think about becoming a teacher, at least then I would have a steady income and a reputable career. I now work as a Producer at TED Talks - I love it. I have dreams of becoming a full time artist, with a published book and a clothing line. Who will I be when my friends are becoming managers, who will I be when they are going on holidays to the south of France, who will I be when they are buying their second homes. My career, my regrets, my choices. They keep me awake at night.



Sometimes love doesn’t work. No matter how much you want it to. Or how hard you try. He would hold me against his tired drained body and whisper he loved me. These were loveless nights. I would feel his heart beating. If I listened close enough I could hear it breaking, too. We would lie for hours, hurting together. Hurt was all we did back then. We knew there was nothing else we could do. We had yet to let go but we had definitely given up, I remember that much. We would fight with the planets, reason with the gods to give us more time, to make us more happy. It felt so big. So out of our control. Now, with only memories of how hard we tried to fight, I move on. I don’t think of that time often but when I do I cry. I cry for me. Because my idea of love was change in those nights. Because love wasn’t all we needed. Because it wasn’t enough. Because we weren’t happy but we wanted to be so badly. I left him different from how I came. A little harder. A little more sad.



When he gets home I am on the sofa, where he left me that morning. I don’t look up as my gaze fixed out the window, on the old man walking up the road. Why is he out? Is he going to the shops? Why has no one offered to go to the shops for him? I wonder if he has any children and if he is scared. My heart breaks a bit. Without turning I ask him how his day was, it may not look like it but I am trying so hard to keep the energy up. I really am. His day was fine. I don’t expect him to come over and kiss me on the forehead anymore, that stopped when the virus started. We are both on edge, and both really sad. He asks if I have seen the numbers in America. Of course I have, look at the numbers is all I do during the day, alone, on my computer. He sits down, not getting too close. He’s been out all day, earning money for us. And he has picked up food for dinner, he is the hero in this apartment. It’s only a matter of time before he loses his job he says. Then we will both be home. A few months ago I prayed to the universe for us to be alone together, by each other’s side for an eternity. I look up at him. He is looking at his phone. I take my prayer back. Instagram live tells me this is a time to feel more connected, but I feel so distant. From him. How is it only day 16, I’m so tired. I go into the other room to do a Jay Shetty meditation. This is bullshit. I don’t like meditating. Why am I meditating.

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I listened to a podcast the other day. I usually listen to them while in bed, going to sleep. But this time I was listening while I was making cookies, in the kitchen. It was about a young couple, who had grown old of each other. She complained how she was living a small life, travelling to another city to visit him each weekend. No friends, no hobbies, no life in his city. She preferred her city. The one where she was fierce, where she called home, where she left the bars at 2am and would skip down the streets linking arms with her friends, singing Robyn. She knew those streets, and they knew her. He would complain that all she did was complain. He worked hard, he didn't have any energy to give to her when he got home. He was grateful she was there. But she may well have not been. The third person in the podcast held the girl by the shoulders, looked her in the eyes, shook her so gently. ‘Life isn't something that happens to you. You create it. You chose this life. You are free to try and make it better and you are free to leave. But you are not a victim in this life and you cannot complain’. I was crying, tears dripping into my cookie mixture. Since when did I make cookies? When did I start finding enjoyment in doing baking of any kind? Did I find enjoyment in it? I thought for a second about what I did enjoy. The big ones came to mind; friends, family. What else? Travelling, socialising, birthdays, partying. I looked out the window, endless green forest, then snow capped mountains, then blue sky. A far cry from my view from my tiny flat in London that I shared with 4 friends from University. That view was grey, buildings, dirt, tv satellites, empty beer cans. The voice of one of my housemates showing the girl he had picked up the night before out the front door. That's the way guests would come in and out. Not us, we used to climb the drain pipe onto the balcony and enter through the unlocked sliding door. We didn't need to lock it. We didn't own anything anyway. Or, after the local skater group smashed the kitchen window because we kicked them out of our party, we would jump through that. My focus is back in my kitchen, my present, not my past. I shook my head ‘ I think about the past too much’. I looked in the pantry. We needed more onions, olives and fresh spaghetti. I was going to make bolognaise for dinner, it was my husband’s favourite. I grabbed the car keys and headed out, making sure to lock the door behind me. My husband would go mad if he found out I left the door open, he has lots of expensive things other people would love to have given the chance. The shops were not far away, but I drove. Everyone drives. Because we could. Because this is suburbia. I bumped into Sarah at the fresh fish counter. She was the wife of my husband’s friend, one of the closer people I knew here. She didn't look too pleased to see me, I wasn't too pleased to see her either. Maybe she felt like she was in a prison too. I invited her and her husband for dinner. I invited them because that’s the done thing. But I also felt like trying. Trying to be a bit happier. Trying to make some friends in this life I've been living for the last 8 years. I get home and FaceTime my brothers. It is my younger one's birthday on Wednesday. I calculate it. If I really wanted I could be back home, I still call it home, in 12 hours. The flight would be comfortable, first class. I could make it. Should I do it? No, my life is here, I should really try and make more effort here. I chose this life.