He woke up in the morning like he always did. Made the coffee. Picked out the clothes for the day. His shoulders may have been heavier, but that was normal. It was always more of a challenge to get out of bed these past few weeks. He liked to surround himself with pillows, clutching them tight. He didn’t want to think he was alone. He liked the lie. Some people are used to it, some people never know what it’s like. He didn’t want to know a life with an empty bed. But here he was, facing it. Day Five.

Go into work. Take meetings. Figure out what to eat for the day. Make plans with friends. Choose to stay home. Come back to the apartment. Whatever was on his mind that day is gone. This it again.

The chair where they used to sit, with Michael on his lap. Reading their respective books. Michael would always have his head buried in a romance novel, trying his best to push back the tears. He always caught these little emotional fits when a good part was coming up. Joel preferred political books.

Joel took off his coat. He pulled the belongings from his bag. He moved to the chair. He set down the trashy romance novel onto the leather cushion. He wasn’t ever going to read it. He just needed to have it there. Maybe someone would come and read it. Maybe Michael would be back.

No. That’s the fool thinking again. He wasn’t coming back. He was never coming back.

Joel moved to the kitchen. The dishes were piled up. The countertops, covered in flour. He never got around to cleaning in the timely manner one is supposed to. He grabbed a few paper towels and wiped down what he could. Good enough. He’ll come back for them when he needs to eat again.

The bedroom. He hated going in there. Hated picking out his clothes, touching the nightstand, watching tv. It all reminded him of what was gone. The curtains, the way the wind would catch them on cold nights like this one. The candles they would light. The home design magazines they would strewn out on the blankets.

All the dreams and plans and wishes and thoughts and moments they had crafted in their hearts. They danced in the air like a ghost in a graveyard.

So much good for so long, and then – just like that – it’s gone. A few words, a talk over a cup of coffee, and nothing more. The families you built that you no longer see. The friends you made that you must cut ties to. The presents and occasions. Where do memories go? The time simply stops.

Joel stopped at the door to the bedroom. He went to the floor, pressing his back up against the door.

Can’t go in yet. Just can’t. Not now.

He opened up his computer. He would do work here. On the floor. Easier that way.