Absence. The pair of faded leather shoes, a half size too small, pieces of the rubber soles peeling away. They would rest beside the bed when not in use, track in mud in the summer and snow in the winter, elicit half-hearted grumbling from the room's owner.
Absence. An old-fashioned robe, patched and darned in seemingly innumerable places, the stitches on one sleeve fraying with wear once again. It would hang on a peg on the wall, the peg that wasn't occupied by the jet black robe belonging to the room's owner.
Absence. The closet is only half full of black clothes, all cut in nearly identical styles; it is missing the pairs of old brown trousers, the colorful but faded sweaters, the ratty cardigan that smells faintly of mothballs and cocoa and the natural scent of a particular man.
Absence. One side of the bed is cold; there are no frigid feet pressed against him at odd hours of the night, no warmth generated from the friction of bodies, no soft breathing against his chest, no feeling of a rough chin rasping across his own clean-shaven face.
Absence. There is no pleasant countenance smiling gently across the table at him over the morning's tea or coffee. No need to feign indifference at the firm pressure of a hand against his own. No tender expression to hide under a mask of gruffness when caring words are spoken to him in parting, accompanied by the press of lips and the promise of another evening to come.
These absences are caused simply by presences: those of bitterness, anger, suspicion, and stubborn pride that possess his heart and mind. Only their banishment will give him the opportunity to experience a friendship and possible love he has never thought himself capable of. If only he would let go of the past and reach for a future.
But most days, it seems he never will.