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Saved from a deep freeze

By DAVID WOOD
Published March 4, 2007


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Darlene, my girlfriend when I lived in Eugene, Ore., loved her refrigerator. It was old and rusty, and she had bought it for only $10 five years before, but it had never stopped running, and every time she moved she found some way to take it with her. She nicknamed it "Frosty." It always had magnets holding recipes all over the door, and its rough hum sounded like a lullaby once you got used to it. Darlene always talked about us moving in together, but I always found excuses not to.

I was living at the time in Carolina's large house, renting a room for $75, along with three other people. Carolina had become a dear friend over the years, so when Darlene lost her apartment and couldn't find another place, Carolina suggested she move in with me for $25 more. At the time it made sense.

At first Darlene and Carolina got along like sisters, shopping together and going out to movies. I was beginning to feel neglected. Carolina was vegetarian, unlike Darlene and me, and taught Darlene how to make different dishes with tofu, beans and vegetables. Darlene taught Carolina how to play backgammon, and they often played into the early morning. Though the whole situation seemed bizarre to me, I relished the warm atmosphere of our serene family.

The warmth turned cold somehow when I wasn't looking. It started when Carolina put all of Darlene's recipes into a recipe box to make the refrigerator look neater, then threw out the magnets. It was bad, insensitive judgment, but even after Carolina halfheartedly apologized, I could sense I was now living Milton's Paradise Lost, with an epic battle coming up. They either argued or didn't talk, and the temperature dropped 10 degrees whenever they passed each other in a room.

Each confided in me her complaints about the other. Darlene resented the messy way Carolina left the living room and the friends she invited over. "I have to clean up after her! And I can hear her guests all night long through the walls! We pay rent! She needs to show some courtesy to us!"

Carolina didn't like how Darlene left her stockings drying in the bathroom. "And after she cooks, the kitchen smells like burnt meat! It makes me sick!" She called Darlene a carcass eater, and Darlene called her a hippie Nazi. They each referred to each other using that B word. I knew I should have taken Darlene's side, but I had lived with Carolina for two years before I met Darlene, and up until then we had been very close friends.

One night they confronted each other in the living room, screaming so loud the other tenants hid in their rooms. Dishes were broken, chairs were smashed, holes were punched in the walls. At one point I stepped between them to prevent a real fight. In the morning Darlene and I moved out, barely able to pay for an apartment a mile away but grateful to get it. Though Carolina didn't want me to leave, she understood.

Darlene and I started our new life together with everything we needed.

Everything except for Frosty, her refrigerator.

Somehow we both forgot her refrigerator during the move, but now neither one of us was speaking to Carolina. I eventually sent her a letter, asking if I could come by and pick up the refrigerator. After all, she had two in her kitchen and only needed one. I didn't mention that we would end up with two at our new place.

Carolina wrote back, listing a number of expenses, including the electric bill and the cost of patching the walls and replacing broken items. I wrote back and mentioned she still owed us some rent and the deposit, that she had caused half the damage, and that our amount was larger than hers. That ended our communication for good. Darlene wanted her refrigerator back, but even she wasn't willing to pay for it. We agreed to forget about Frosty, a casualty of the war.

After six months, though, I missed my friend, and even Darlene began talking fondly of the good times she had spent with Carolina. We both forgave Carolina but couldn't bring ourselves to contact her. We weren't even sure she wanted to hear from us.

One day we were carrying groceries out the door of a health food grocery store when the pay phone next to the door rang. We looked at each other; then, for no reason I could fathom, I picked up the phone.

"Hello?"

"Who is this?" The voice was rude. I didn't know why I answered.

"David."

Silence. Then, "David Wood?"

It was Carolina. Apparently someone had used that pay phone to charge a long-distance call to her phone number and she was trying to find the culprit. She began talking as though I had never left, and for a minute I answered, feeling odd.

"Who are you talking to?" Darlene asked.

"It's Carolina."

"Is Darlene with you?" Carolina asked. "Put her on!"

Darlene took the phone, her eyes never leaving mine. "Hello?"

Darlene never said a word. For two minutes she listened and nodded as though Carolina could see her. Finally she said, "Okay, I will. See you then." She hung up. Tears were welling up in her eyes.

"She wants us to come by," Darlene said. "She said she was sorry." She buried her face in my shoulder. "She said every time she looked at the refrigerator she missed us both, and she missed the magnets on the door. She wants to give the refrigerator back to us and help me buy new magnets for it."

David Wood is a writer in St. Petersburg.

[Last modified March 3, 2007, 19:13:27]


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