Percy had been back for a few days. Her mother was talking at a quick pace. “How do you deal with the traffic up there? I couldn’t stand it. Half-an- hour to get the corner store is too much for me.”
Percy blinked at this, then looked around the house that had once been home. Knick-knacks of all varieties cluttered more places than she last remembered. A cheap snow globe on the coffee table, stacks of dusty paperback page-turners next to Percy on the couch, and a drawing Percy had made when she was nine adorning the wall, unframed.
The paint on the walls was beginning to peel and the smell of dust pervaded the entire house. Through the thin rays of light squeezing through the blinds she could see fat motes of dust bobbing to and fro. Percy thought back to her memories of the place. Grandmother had kept it clean then, everything had its place. She couldn’t remember a speck of dust on any surface.
She turned her gaze back toward her mother. She was different then too. Less gray in her hair, less strain in her voice, she was withered now. Clothes a mish-mash of different colors, hair held up in a bun, more wispy by the day. Percy remembered how long Mother had once worn it. She remembered how she would play with it when they watched TV, coiling and uncoiling it around her fingers after her mother fell asleep during the late night shows.
“Have you been out to the senior center? Like we talked about,” Percy asked.
“I’ve been meaning to dear, I swear,” her mother said with a laugh.
“I’d really like it if you went.”
Her mother’s smile faltered, “I don’t have the time, dear.”
“You should make the time, since I can’t see you as much as I’d like these days.”
Percy looked at the wall behind her mother. The drooping slivers of paint waved at her.
“I don’t like you being alone up here,” Percy said.
“It’s not so bad sweetie. I’m just fine on my own,” her mother said, voice lifting just a little too high on those final syllables.
“I just want what’s best for you Mom, that’s all.” Percy said, “Please, just go out and try to have some fun.”
“No fun left around here anymore, dear. Everyone is gone.” The tinge of sorrow in her voice was startling. Percy looked toward the glut of pictures on the wall. People whose names and faces she remembered, once moving. There was Percy’s grandfather, standing with her grandmother. Their hands were placed on her Mother’s shoulders. There was her father, embracing her mother in Tokyo, amid a sea of others.
They reminded her of an ant farm she once had. She could see all their paths, all their toils and triumphs through a little bit of glass. All the evidence of their passing was there, held between two panes less than an inch apart. After they were gone those little tunnels were all that remained.
“Would you like some coffee?” Her mother asked.
Percy smiled. “Yes, I would love some coffee. Extra sugar, please.”