cygnoir.net

cygnoir.net

refrigerator

The dead woman’s refrigerator is in the space between our buildings.

I call her the dead woman although I admit I am guessing. A few weeks ago, a couple I did not recognize stopped while opening the door to her flat and asked me if I knew her. I didn’t, so I said no, and then immediately wondered if I should have said yes: what does “knew her” mean? I knew her to pass her in the hall and say hello, offer a brief word about the weather, and pet her dog, Kelly. I once helped her call Kelly out of the backyard bushes, minutes and minutes I called the name of a dog of a woman whose name I do not know and now she might be dead.

I first noticed the refrigerator after a Saturday morning of thuds and whacks and grunts coming from her flat. Under the guise of taking out the oft-neglected recycling, I peeked down the space between our buildings and saw the refrigerator.

There were still magnets on it. Magnets pinning photographs. Photographs of people she knew, of a little girl in a school photo, and one of her laughing and holding a cat next to a woman also laughing. They were turned toward each other, almost the same height, and from all I could see, waist-up, dressed the same in plain collared shirts. Scattered across the blank face of the fridge were tiny sparkly star stickers in all the colors of the rainbow.

These things, due to wind and rain and time, are now escaping the refrigerator. I take out trash more regularly than I ever have before, just to note the progress of the escape. The other day, I heard the same couple talking to the building manager about foul play, a murmur his gruff tones interrupted and uncomfortable silence followed.

Her flat undergoes its slow transformation from someone’s to no one’s; smells of bleach and paint mingle with the rest of our more human scents. I wonder if she died inside, and if she will haunt us, and where her dog went.

Some nights, before bed, I stand in front of the dead woman’s refrigerator and I try to think of her name.

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I acknowledge that I live and work on stolen Cowlitz, Clackamas, Atfalati, and Kalapuya land.
I give respect and reverence to those who came before me.

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