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  • Cleaning your apartment is boring; cleaning your apartment that you don't live in anymore is awful; cleaning an apartment with your ex-boyfriend that you were once building a life in together is just excruciating. But we've left the place empty for two months now, and the landlords want it back: there's a new couple moving in soon.

    I hope they're miserable here, I think, as I vacuum under the bare beds. I hope they break up! I hope they both get hurt!

    "Do you want these?" he asks me, holding up a packet of condoms he finds in a drawer. I don't even answer; just glare at him. No, I don't want the horrible condoms that were handed out at the festival we went to last summer. What am I going to do with them? Make mint-flavoured balloon animals?

    "What about this?" he asks. "Do you want this fridge-magnet that I bought you that time we skipped through Copenhagen thinking we were really, truly in love with each other?"

    Well, he doesn't say that, in fairness; he just holds it up and I glare at him again.

    "No, I don't want that," I sigh. "What am I going to do with that kind of crap? Take it all the way to Hollywood with me?"

    I say that word — Hollywood — just like that in italics, as if to show him hey, I am going places! Without you! Boo hoo! But it just sounds stupid, and he quietly drops the fridge-magnet in the bin.

    "Well, I thought you might at least like this," he says, and I turn around, about to snap at him again, when I see he's holding up our old jar of coins from the bookshelf. "I thought you might want to give it to a homeless person," he says. "You were always going on about doing that one day."

    I take the jar off him and turn it around. I can see fifty cent pieces and whole euro coins — there must be at least 50 quid in there! And it's true, I'm always talking about one day dumping a load of cash into the hands of a homeless guy, and then watching the happy smile on his face as he picks up his blankets and hurries off to buy some crack.

    "Well, thanks," I say, reluctant to come out of my sulk, but melting a little despite myself.

    "Do you want this?" I ask him, holding up an old toenail clipping that I find under the bed. He backs away, and laughs, and then I laugh, and then we have a very long hug, and I cry for a while, and he holds me very tight. I wasn't expecting to be sad today, I tell him, spilling tears all over his shoulder. It's been some time, at this point, and we'd done so well moving on. And he knows, he understands, he says that he's sad, too.

    And as the evening sun shines in through the windows of our old home I remember how there was a time when we were pretty happy here, together, nesting and stuff, but that it never really felt right, somehow. We had fallen for each other in a heady mess of restaurants and sex and exotic locations... but when it came down to it, sharing a kitchen and a bathroom and a living room, we'd had little to really say to each other. We were twenty-six years old and we'd been playing at being grown-ups, and now it was time to let go.

    So I untangle myself from the hug, and I pick up an old comb that I got for him in the supermarket once, and I sing into it, to the tune of the song that's always on the radio: "Look at this comb, I bought this comb for yoooou, and all the things that you doooo..." and we laugh again and he says hey, you know what? Let's forget this cleaning stuff and go for a beer. And I look around the apartment and all of a sudden I am filled with something that feels suspiciously like love, and I hope that the next couple who live here really are happy together: happier than us.

    And so I say yes, let's do that, let's go for a final beer together, now that this chapter in our lives is shut.
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