Love and Other Puzzles by Kimberley Allsopp

SATURDAY

This would be the third window I’d climbed out of in my life. The second this week. The first where I was escaping myself.

This had all grown out of good intentions. I’d click on the app when I was waiting for the bus or if I was watching a particularly drawn-out episode of The Great British Bake Off – you know, one of those where nothing actually happens, so the whole episode is just fake tension about whether or not Pietro’s soufflé will rise (it does) or Janet’s croquembouche will topple, crushing her spun sugar village (it does not).

The app was a daily habit. Hardly something you’d lump in with vices like smoking, refined sugars or sticking with your chair instead of a standing desk. If anything, I thought it was an exercise in self-improvement. I’d listened to what people who loved me best had said about my narrowing life choices and I’d done something about it. I should be awash with applause, not shame. I certainly didn’t see the app as the monochromatic noose it had revealed itself to be.

But here I was, huddled in the corner of what had been my bedroom for the past two years. Listening to boxes being scraped across the wooden floorboards, paintings being parted from hooks and work-in-progress Post-its with Stephen King Prawn and other literary edibles being delicately untacked from corkboards.

The smart thing would have been to go for a walk. At the very least, I should’ve brought my earphones in from the kitchen counter so I didn’t have to hear our life being heaved out the door. This could be a new reality show for the property porn channel: Renovate Your Life with One Easy Mistake. When dismantling everything you’ve spent years building, don’t forget to force yourself to listen to the convivial banter of removalists talking about which team was playing on the weekend, interspersed with gentle grunts and heaving huffs. It’s a must.

I listened to Lucas good-naturedly agree that the refs had been completely biased in last Sunday’s game, even though he would rather have been caught at a Peppa Pig concert and stayed for three oinkcores, than watching organised sports. He continually apologised for the half-arsed attempts he’d made to properly secure the boxes with packing tape – he hadn’t had much time. It was a last-minute decision. He made a joke and the only word I could decipher from the punchline was ‘women’, delivered in an exasperated tone. I hoped the removalists’ laughter was feigned in a ploy to get back to their van faster; going along with sexism was a real time suck, and they had another job today. I could tell they were now uninterested in the conversation because they’d realised that Lucas wasn’t ‘one of them’ – as if his sockless brogues hadn’t given it away – and had no sportsball insights to offer up.

Nobody commented on why half of the furniture wasn’t being removed. Why the grey three-seater was still sitting pride of place in the lounge room – though now facing an empty white wall instead of a mounted television screen. Why a novelty mug that I’d been gifted in my first and last participation in the office Secret Santa, declaring its owner ‘Utterly useless until I’ve had my third cup of coffee!’, lay abandoned in the sink. Why the framed poster of Tom Hanks as Woody was taken off the wall but Tom Hanks as Joe Fox remained hung.

Maybe the good folk of Movin’ On Up Removalists were sartorial spiritualists and thought it didn’t matter anyway because the pilling grey sofa didn’t really go with the pristine leather recliner that was being hoisted onto their shoulders.

The removalists were right. They had been gathered as individual pieces, in the apartment that we stood in today, with such hope and joy. They made sense in that early iteration of ‘us’. Now the recliner was collateral damage, from an obsession that I’d lost hold of. It was no longer a happy union.

I couldn’t take this anymore. I cracked open the bedroom window, careful not to make any noise and draw attention to the only room in the apartment with the door closed. His bedroom belongings had been scooped out the night before. I threw a black hoodie over my pyjama top and climbed out, avoiding the loose nail, whose purpose I never fully understood.

I felt the distinct squelch of a fallen jacaranda flower under my bare foot. I turned around, hoisted myself onto a wheelie bin and climbed back up the way I’d come, taking particular care to gather any remaining spider webs that I hadn’t picked up with my face on the way down. I slid on my ‘if there’s a fire’ pair of shoes that lived under the bed and climbed back out again.

I couldn’t care less what people on the streets of Sydney’s inner west thought of a grown woman wearing her pyjamas out in public at 11 am on a Saturday. Let them judge me over the tops of their steaming cups of ethically sourced coffee beans. I might have been in a position to join them on their lofty perches a week ago.

This was not a week ago.