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.

5 thoughts on “refrigerator

  1. Weird. I’m fairly certain my neighbor also died. Or dying, at the very least.

    He used to be in his garage every morning, smoking a cigarette, when I left for work. I would come home from work or class and he would be standing in the driveway, smoking. Not every time, mind you, but more often than not. He was a loud man and always had something to say to me when I walked from my garage to my mailbox. I didn’t like it. He would park his car on the street, the front corner slightly eclipsing the edge of my driveway. I didn’t like that, either.

    It’s probably been about six weeks since I’ve seen him. His once-obtrusive car now sits idly next to his garage. He was an older guy and lived with his daughter and her family. I’ve hardly seen them since he vanished. I’m not chummy enough with them to go over and ask if everything alright, when I can expect to have to resume looking out my front door to make sure he’s not outside before going to get my newspaper on Sunday mornings.

    I don’t miss him, but his absence is certainly noticeable. I sort of feel like a monster, though. I breathe a little easier getting my mail because someone else has likely stopped breathing altogether.

  2. Update: old guy next door being dead = confirmed.

    I was raking leaves this afternoon and saw his granddaughter in their backyard. I said hello and she responded in kind. I asked if her grandfather was alright, as I had not seen him in several weeks.

    “He died,” she said. “He got lung cancer.”

    RIP, old guy.

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