“Idiot,” she murmured when she saw the white Whirlpool refrigerator standing condemned on the curb with a sign scotch taped to the front: “I’m Yours.” Who would want to get rid of that? For a second, she let herself believe in divine intervention and even promised to say a prayer or write a thank you note or go to church or do whatever you are supposed to do when you get what you asked for. That was before she had to wrangle the hundred- and twenty-pound mass of the refrigerator with the help of a borrowed dolly down 163rd Street in the oppressive summer heat. She had to shimmy it down the six steps to her basement apartment and turn it on its side to get it through the door, and then she realized the freezer didn’t work, but she had a refrigerator, damn it, and she would never have to eat canned pineapple for dinner again.
It was her second piece of furniture, if a refrigerator can be considered furniture, and if a sheet on the floor can be considered a bed. When he came over and his gaze called her place shitty, she defended her four hundred square feet with a fierce solemnity. She wouldn’t trade it for his studio on 110th Street.
Eventually the freezer became her dresser. She invested in a two-dollar pack of magnets. This she deemed the best spent two dollars of her life because every day she woke to the magazine cut outs of a Bali sunrise and a bustling street in Sri Lanka and the Ausangate Rainbow Mountains of Peru.
By the end of her first summer in New York City, her refrigerator bore not only foreign places but also three polaroids, an eviction notice, two unpaid bills, a photobooth strip from the time he took her to Coney Island and the “I’m Yours” sign she had found tacked to the unwanted Whirlpool.
He too had added his contributions inside and outside the fridge. Two days before, she had found a size zero Bordelle lingerie set wedged beneath his bed. Not hers. As an attempt at reconciliation, he had arranged Crayola-colored alphabet magnets on the fridge to form the chorus of her favorite song, Cry by Cigarettes After Sex. And inside her fridge, he left a chocolate cake from Pierre Hermé, which she ate in fistfuls on the floor. She was relieved briefly of her insatiable hunger.
The eviction notice became a court order but she didn’t care. The apartment was a hell hole anyway. The walls could be cut with a butter knife. The window was so close to the ground that the only thing visible were people’s shoes. Plastic flip flops and sneakers with holes in the toes. There was no air conditioning, just the noise of neighbors fighting, laughing, drinking. She had saved enough tips to afford half the rent of a walk-up in East Harlem. She would be closer to him this way. And maybe, because of proximity, he would see her more. Eventually, she told herself, she’d be able to afford an apartment like his, in a building with a doorman. She prayed she’d be able to find a roommate on Craigslist who wasn’t a user.
Packing took fifteen minutes. He let her borrow his 1998 Saab. The last thing in the room was the Whirlpool. With the magnetic letters she arranged the words: I’m Yours. And with his help, they put the fridge next to the trash cans.
Aviva Nathan is fifteen and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She's a religious reader of the New Yorker and hopes to eventually live in Manhattan.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels