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My refrigerator broke last week, about the same time my heart did. It lost its cool slowly, kind of like me: water puddled on the kitchen floor, frozen pizzas drooped, soda cans started sweating. I was aware that something was amiss on Sunday night, but decided to sleep on it and hope whatever was wrong fixed itself by morning. I hoped my heart was fixed by morning too.
Alas, the kitchen floor was sloshing when I walked onto it at 6 a.m.—melted ice—and the food in the refrigerator was warm. I knew that I would lose most everything inside, which hurt because it was fully stocked. Soon it would be as empty as the heart in my chest and the relationship I was no longer in.
Hours later, a repair guy showed up and replaced the control board in back for $300. “You better throw everything out, ma’am.” I wished that could include a man.
I hauled garbage bags full of soggy boxes, not-so-fresh fish and a million splendid leftovers out to the Dumpster behind my house. I moped around all week, not hungry, which was good because I had no real food and no desire to get any. I threw back a couple handfuls of Parmesan cheese. I boiled a bouillon cube once.
Finally, this past weekend, my niece Shanna (rhymes with Ghana) drove up from Tucson. She always comes when the chips are down…even the tortilla chips. “I haven’t been able to get to the grocery store yet,” I confessed when she walked in.
“We can order a pizza,” she said cheerfully.
One stitch formed in my heart.
“We can order a pizza and talk and play cards,” she added.
Make that three stitches.
Several hours later, sitting outside under the stars in my backyard, we tried to kill the last bit of so-called love I had for the man who had called me Horsewoman.
“He called you what?” Shanna said.
“He called me a horsewoman,” I said.
I could tell she was as offended as I had been. “He said I had the shoulders of a horsewoman,” I explained. “He said he meant it as a compliment.”
“What? You don’t tell a woman she’s got the shoulders of a horsewoman. Why did he tell you that?”
“Because I have broad shoulders,” I said, sitting up and throwing them back to demonstrate. “He said he loved my shoulders because they make me look so strong.” My shoulders have always been my least favorite body part; I’ve always felt more like a linebacker than a horsewoman.
“That’s ridiculous,” Shanna said. “You are very well-proportioned. I bet he was just intimidated by you. What an ass.”
We sat back in silence for awhile, enjoying our mind-haltering substance. A few more stitches tugged my heart back together. Then Shanna added: “You wouldn’t want to be saddled with him anyway.”
“Oh my God,” I said. “Just stop it. Stop it now. Let’s go in and order another pizza.” I reared up from my patio chair, all rippling muscles and barrel-chested, my shoulders suddenly able to bear the weight of the world and ready to pull three plows.
Shanna was still cleaning up the patio table as I stood in the open door, letting the moths in and the air conditioning out. “You better hoof it,” I called to her, following her lead.
Shanna left yesterday, and today… one week after my fridge was fixed…I finally went grocery shopping. Sometimes it seems like such a chore to shop by myself, haul everything into the house, then put everything away. Not this time though. I had washed out both the freezer and fridge and was excited to restock them. As I did, I remembered something the repairman had said: “You got off easy this time. New refrigerators are costly.”
So are broken hearts, I thought, setting my Texas toast onto a freezer rack.
So are broken hearts.