In our series Writers’ Fridges, we bring you snapshots of the abyss that writers stare into most frequently: their refrigerators.
Do you see that half-eaten can of tuna on the top shelf? That was a mistake. Most of the food in my fridge is inedible. It would be inedible even if the stink of tuna hadn’t penetrated through it all, because it’s old. I’m almost never at home in Los Angeles, where this fridge lives. I travel a lot, and when I’m in California, I go to Luke’s house, two hours away. Luke’s fridge is a lot like Luke: exploding with deliciousness. Who could be luckier than me? Luke opens his mouth and whole chocolate cakes fall out. He snaps his fingers and voilà—chicken cacciatore. One time he rolled over in bed and left in his wake an entire patch of strawberries. I don’t know how to explain it. He’s the most wonderful man in the world. I’m always well-fed when Luke is around.
Then I come home, alone, to this—rotten lettuce. I just tried pouring that Soleil carbonated water over ice, and even the ice smelled like fish.
Actually, the lettuce isn’t completely rotten.
It’s a boring story, how I ended up being someone who hates to go to the grocery store. I used to love it. But then I found an apartment in East Hollywood with such limited street parking, I very rarely drive anywhere—I don’t want to risk losing my parking spot. And I have spinal stenosis, among other back problems, which makes carrying heavy things, like groceries, difficult. But the Vons supermarket near my place is kind of great, when I actually get there—it’s huge, and the cashiers are really nice. One woman told me she takes a ninety-minute bus ride to and from work every morning. Three hours per day on a bus to work at Vons? Unbelievable. Another woman said her boyfriend had dumped her on Valentine’s Day, and that he’d been dodging her calls, and that he owes her money. One man with long hair who reminded me of a friend who died last year talked to me a long time about tonic water. I try to look unfriendly when I leave my apartment, to avoid these interactions. It’s not because I don’t like people; it’s just—who can move on with her day after having her heart broken so easily by a stranger? With no man to pull waffles out from behind her ear like quarters? No, no. When I’m home at night, I look in my fridge, and I end up ordering some vegan garbage from Grubhub, and it’s always disgusting—everything tastes like old salad dressing, just like that two-year-old bottle of Wish-Bone Italian you can see in the fridge door. You see those containers of takeout? They were all disgusting. But don’t pity me. If you know me at all, you know that I like it when things are a little disgusting.
“What did you have for dinner?” Luke asks me over the phone.
“Salad,” I answer. “I think there’s something wrong with my teeth. They’re all soft now.”
“Soft teeth, that’s a symptom of anxiety—insecure realities.”
“What did you have for dinner, Luke?”
“Roast pork loin, mashed potatoes, fresh grilled asparagus, pesto pasta, a bagel and lox, a goat-cheese omelet, a plate of tiny cucumber sandwiches, apple pie my great-great-great grandmother baked, a glass of milk, a glass of Perrier, a glass of pineapple juice, a glass of tonic water with olives, a three-tiered passion-fruit wedding cake, nuts and dried berries found buried in King Tut’s tomb, a vegan hot dog … ”
I didn’t buy that pancake syrup. It’s not real maple syrup. As a native New Englander, I take maple syrup very seriously. I also didn’t buy that squeeze bottle of grape jelly hiding in the door. That huge jug of Crystal Geyser was left by a dear friend, Matthew Lessner, who stayed in my apartment last year. I keep it as a memento. He sent me a bumper sticker he designed a few weeks ago: “HONK IF YOU DON’T EXIST.” What else? You must see all the vitamins and supplements in the door. I haven’t been taking any of them. That copper pitcher is my favorite thing in the fridge. I went to visit my sister a few months ago, and she looked five years younger. “It’s the copper,” she said. She’d been drinking distilled water from a copper pitcher. She explained that the fluoride, which the government uses to poison our tap water, leaches the copper out of our bodies. Drinking from a copper vessel is one way to replace it. She really looked revitalized and healthy—and beautiful as always. So I ordered a copper pitcher off Amazon from an Indian distributor. It arrived covered in black dust, with a handwritten note about how to keep it. “Fill with water and keep somewhere chill, a peaceful place.” So I keep it in the fridge. In the cool darkness there. It is peaceful. Not much comes. Not much goes. Don’t disturb the vessel please. Just keep it cool. Keep your voices down. Don’t get all hot and bothered. There is nothing to eat, so go out and get a taco, and when you come back, shut the door quietly and go straight to sleep. Magic is brewing. And you don’t want to mess with magic, do you?
Ottessa Moshfegh is the author, most recently, of My Year of Rest and Relaxation.