It smells like old people.
We silently take the elevator to the second floor; her room is 205. Mom has the key, so she opens the door. The apartment is so empty. No little old ladies with white hair and a waggling crooked finger.
There's still newspaper on the floor by the door. Mom and I remove our shoes and put them on the newspaper, lest her ghost throw shoes at us. Or, maybe, hit us with a broom. She never did it to me, but Mom says she used to.
The pantry is full of food; mostly Fig Newtons. We always brought her Italian cookies when we came to visit, but she'd make us eat them while we were there. We would insist they were for her, but what good were cookies without someone to share them with? Italian cookies, Fig Newtons, and tea.
The cookie jar on the counter is full of tea bags. You could never have Italian cookies and Fig Newtons without tea. Or, coffee, though Mom always said I couldn't have any. Tea with milk and sugar for me. The taste still reminds me of her.
We venture into the bedroom. The bed is made perfectly; the covers don't move, even when we sit on them. I wonder who made the bed. Was it her, or did someone else come and make it after the fact? Did she make it that morning before she fell in the laundry room?
Jesus is staring at us from His cross on the wall. I stare back. He looks sad. I guess I wouldn't feel happy, either, if I were nailed to a cross. He's with her now. I bet He's smiling over her. There's a rosary on the dresser.
Mom is opening the dresser drawers now. The top drawer has no clothes; only pictures. Ninety-five years of pictures. Flower shops, grandchildren, sisters, daughters. A deceased son; he never left home. Died of a stroke nine years before. She found him when she came back from grocery shopping. I still remember her weeping over his grave.
We put the pictures away and get up from the bed; the covers still don't move. I follow Mom into the living room. The new television we bought her sits on top of the old one. She liked the old one; it had the dial to change the channels, but you couldn't get cable on it, and it was so old, too. She didn't like the remote control at first, but she got used to it.
There are pictures everywhere. Almost a century of love and memories on the walls and almost every surface. The glass cabinets are full of trinkets; the key is still in the cabinet door. Mom says I can take something. I take a little plastic elephant, but nothing more. It will go nicely with my collection. I don't even collect elephants, but somehow I got a collection. I just have so many that people think I do, and they give me more.
I guess I did collect this one.
There's a wedding picture on the wall. It's black and white, from seventy years ago. She looked so young and so beautiful. She must have been so happy.
The are albums full of pictures in the drawers here, too. We take some. She won't mind.
I look in the pantry on the way out; the orange juice isn't there. She told me once that she kept it there, and after that, I was always glad I never drank any.
We pick up our shoes from the newspaper and leave, and the apartment is empty once more.