"What?" She gives me that blank look, challenging me to break her heart.
"Don't. Just - I'll do it."
"You want to keep these?"
"No. I don't want to keep them. Of course not. Just, let me."
I take the sponge from her and she steps back from the wall, letting me bend to get the sticker she's dislodged. I cradle it in my palm. If there were a breeze, it would blow away.
"I thought you were going to do the kitchen?"
"I am. In a minute."
"If you want me to save the stickers, all you had to say was..."
"I don't want to save the stickers, Mom."
"Well, what then?"
"I just... don't like them on the floor."
Wouldn't that be eerie for the next tenant. Tiny window frames holding two sets of tiny eyes, staring up at them from where our tennis shoes had ground them into the carpet. Sort of like being on TV, if you could make eye contact with all the viewers.
She scoffs. "So I'll get the garbage can! I didn't realize you were so concerned about your carpets."
"Good lord, Christine, what the hell is the problem?"
I stare at the wall. There are dirty handprints from him slapping it in his sleep. I sold our bed, but it sat right where I'm standing.
"How about we trade. Ok? I'll do in here, you can do the kitchen."
"Fine," she growls.
I follow her halfway out the door. "Mom, I really appreciate you..."
"Where's your oven cleaner?"
I can see now that I've offended her.
"In the cupboard above the fridge."
I return to my wall. There are I don't know how many stickers, stuck in a sort of sunburst radiating from the corner. Almost every time we went out, he was hustling me into the curtained NeoPrint booth. Because I was so pretty, he said. When we came home, he'd hop up on the bed and add the new sticker to the corner.
Stepping up on a stool, I can look all of the little washed out faces right in the eye. His puppy dog grin, my hundred mile stare. There are about three years' worth of Saturday nights. I can tell by the changes in my outfits. He always wore the same black metal t-shirts.
"It's not there. What are you doing?" She's come in behind me.
"Nothing. I'm cleaning."
"Don't you think I'm going to clean your whole house for you while you mope around spacing out about your stickers. I'll get back in the car right now."
"I'm not, Mom."
"Then what are you doing?"
"I'm cleaning them!"
"That's not what it looks like."
I slide my fingernail under one of the stickers and flick it from my fingernail into my palm. I do this with the next and the next, quickly making a little pile of frozen television viewers. I slide my fingernail under. The sticker rips as I pull.
"Fuck! Goddamn it fuck!"
"Do you want me to..."
"No I'm doing it!"
I work hastily. I lose a few more, peeling off the colorful top layer of the sticker and leaving white ghosts of who we used to be stuck to the wall. Once I've gotten them all, the wall looks worse than it did with them up. I step backwards, off the stool, but miss the next rung and land on my ass, the stool hooked on my foot.
"Fucking goddamn it!"
I open my palm. As I landed, I smashed all the stickers into a big ball. I peel what was a whole one off, and it rips.
"Do you want me to..."
"No. Never mind."
I stand up and go to the bathroom, where I dump the ball of little faces in the trash.
She comes in behind me and puts her hand on my shoulder.
"Christine... Your landlord's going to be here in two hours."
"Well, so we can't fuck around with every little souvenir. You don't want to lose your deposit, do you?"
F the deposit. I've been here almost five years. All this shit is my shit and all this dirt is my dirt. How fucking arbitrary, that at 4pm he'll come and I'll hand him the key and then I won't live here anymore. At 3:55 I'll live here and at 4:01 I will not. At 4:01 my mom and I will be sitting in her Kia out in the driveway, backing out onto the street I've driven down every day for the last half decade of my life.
She hands me a bottle of Windex.
"Just get to work, honey."
She walks back out into the kitchen.
"Try under the sink," I call after her.
I hear a hiss that means she's found her oven cleaner.
There's one more sticker. I don't know why it ended up on the medicine cabinet, but there it is.
I shoot Windex at our faces, soaking them. The solution breaks down the image and our faces melt away to reveal streaks of white backing like big milky tears. I shoot it again, and a little more of us washes away. I shoot it until the sticker is just a white square. The white noise once the show is over and they've played the national anthem and all the actors and news anchors have left the building.
I clean the bathroom and the bedroom and at 4:01 we get in the car and roll away.