There were stickers on the windows of my grandparents’ house. The kitchen was cool and smooth and calming, made of white cabinet that cast long shadows over me. I stood there behind someone’s legs for a moment, to escape the sun. The kitchen, it felt, was the only place in the world where my eyes wouldn’t burn. It was morning, because it was only ever morning in the house, and light flooded the living room. I wasn’t tall enough to touch the shutters, but I still tried, standing up in my favorite chair to reach for them while sunlight fell on me. I climbed down before someone caught me, and walked squinting to the sliding glass doors. Through them were the docks and the water and the glaring sun. If I watched long enough, I would see an alligator. I didn’t watch long enough. I reached into the plastic box in the corner and took out a roll of stickers bigger around than my arm. I selected a green one and pressed it to the glass.
My grandfather allowed the stickering of the house, or so I was told after he died. The
stickers were all over, red and green and blue and yellow smiles, plastered sideways and upside- down. As the house was very smooth, there were many opportunities for sticker-sticking, but the sliding glass doors bore most of them. My mom let go of my hand when we came in. She pointed into the living room. Remember how Papa let you put the stickers there? I wasn’t sure that I did. I walked to the sliding doors and pushed toys around in the box until I found the roll of stickers, not quite as big as my arm. I thought I might remember, actually. In my mind it was morning, and there was a lingering smell of Old Spice. I looked again at his recliner, across the room. He wasn’t there. I picked a sticker off the roll and pressed it to the glass, wondering when he’d be back.
We went back to the house on a Saturday to move everything out. We aren’t selling it, my mom told me, like it was my choice too. We’re renting it out. I sat in a corner and practiced my spelling words while the house slowly emptied of furniture and people, until only she and I were left. She vacuumed, and I halfheartedly swept the white kitchen. Papa let you put those stickers everywhere. I hadn’t seen them in a long time, but I remembered faintly that I liked the yellow ones least. The dark ones, red and green and blue, were brighter when the sun came through the windows. I abandoned my broom to go and touch one, and it was papery and worn. The glass was vaguely dirty, and I rubbed my fingers together. It occurred to me then that the doors would have to be washed. The stickers would have to be scraped away. Maybe my mom had said that earlier. I hadn’t been paying attention.
I cleaned the doors myself, though I still couldn’t reach the top. The stickers were mine, red and green and blue like little scars in the cool, smooth house, and I thought I should be the one to wipe them away. It took less effort than I anticipated. Less scrubbing. They slid off like they’d been waiting for me to reclaim them, or like they lost their stick without my grandparents there. The house felt too full of artificial light. The kitchen wasn’t shadowed, and it wasn’t morning in the living room. The stickers smiled at me as I peeled them away. I tucked a green one in my pocket. When I’d cleaned as high as I could, my mom took over. There were more stickers up there, far above my head. It led me to believe that my grandfather had not so much allowed the stickering of his house as had participated in its stickering. I tucked the thought away in my pocket with the green smile. My mom and I locked up the house, clean and smooth and dimming, and I like to think we forgot a sticker somewhere.