In the Back of the Fridge
by Holly Varni
April 21, 2022

Another friend of mine passed away. It shouldn’t come as a surprise when you reach my age, but nevertheless, it somehow always does. There’s sadness, disbelief, and then, to protect our fragile hearts, acceptance, which is accompanied with the consolation that my friend had lived a long life. Death seems less devastating if the individual was old. When it happens to a young person, it is nothing but tragic for the unfilled life they were cheated of. But for those fortunate to grow white haired and wrinkly, it’s viewed as inevitable as dessert after a wonderful meal.

Death is a funny thing. Some die way before their time and others, like me, are given a pass like the contents in the back of the refrigerator. Spoiled milk, moldy cheese, or mystery leftovers that have gone bad boldly draw attention, but the fancy mustard you’ve had for four years that sits far back, nearly out of sight and reach, is left alone. I’ve had a jar of hot fudge topping in my fridge for nearly as long as I’ve had the refrigerator, and when I catch a glimpse of it, I think, “That never goes bad,” and throw out the mashed potatoes from last weekend instead.

I’m beginning to feel like the forgotten condiments in the fridge, where people around me know I’m either hovering over my expiration date or living completely on grace. They keep an eye out for the signs my time is near, like week-old Chinese take-out.

The other night was heavy with humidity so that I couldn’t sleep. I normally love to have my window open to hear the pulse of the night, but instead of it lulling me to sleep, it called to me. I tiptoed barefoot in my nightgown to the back door and went outside. I stared up to the sky that met the treetops with a different light. It was beautiful and serene, and the vastness went on forever. I couldn’t take my eyes off it. The bluish, dark light filled every molecule of space around and above me.

The chirp and trill from the frogs and crickets competing for the spotlight could not compare. And in that moment, the magnitude of it all did not make me feel like I was forgotten but very much a part of it all.  

I thought of my friend and wondered where she was among the twinkling lights and the deep, miraculous space and felt so connected that, if I wanted, I’d be able to reach out and touch her. How silly am I to focus on the four walls of my home when all the universe is outside my door? Knowing my friend is out there and as vibrant as the sun that will rise in a few hours gives me a peace about someday joining her. I haven’t been forgotten. I just haven’t been moved up to the front of the fridge.

I went back inside, hungry for a treat, and settled on a bowl of ice cream. And wouldn’t you know, I had the hot fudge topping to go with it and it was still good.