I DON’T REMEMBER much about my twenty-first birthday besides being heartbroken. A few weeks before my birthday, my boyfriend and I split up, and I was too preoccupied with the fallout to celebrate anything. We’d been together for nearly three years and were each other’s first loves, and like many first loves, we believed that we would be together forever. We planned to travel the world visiting relatives and learning new languages. After a few years, we would get married and settle down. Kids would come along after we bought a house. He wanted two children, because a pair was manageable, and I wanted more, because I loved growing up in a loud household with my four siblings. We could never decide on a number and when we found ourselves arguing too earnestly about the subject, we became uncomfortable and fell silent. But the point was that we had a plan. So when our relationship fell apart, I began drifting.
My ex-boyfriend moved overseas and I stayed in Brisbane. In the immediate weeks afterwards I wandered around my apartment, occasionally stopping to stare at myself in the mirror to remind myself I existed, or to make a packet of two-minute noodles. I took long, hot showers to ready myself for the outside world, and then I would collapse into my bed and cry. On the days I willed myself to leave the house, everything reminded me of what I had lost. We’d eaten at that restaurant to celebrate graduation despite the food being beyond our budgets. We’d stood at that bridge and watched the city lights reflected in the river the night he found out his grandmother died. At that park, he’d sat me on his handlebars and biked us up a steep hill until he had an asthma attack. I needed to escape, so I took a trip home to the Sunshine Coast.
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