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The warm side of the fridge

In 2014, I moved from Redford to Saranac Lake, an hour’s drive from there to here. When I moved, I moved from my friends, an old hand-built house that I called home, my neighbors, everything. Over time I’ve come to accept that I’m going to be in Saranac Lake for a long time.

For the first three years, I went to St. Bernard’s School, a small, crowded, odd-smelling Catholic school. The smell in question was reminiscent of a kindergartner’s BO and a librarian’s closet. The teachers there were kind, and the principal had his own kind of honor.

At first, I didn’t know anyone. I was socially inept in the full sense of the phrase. But then She started talking to me. And by talking to me, She showed me a whole other side of the world. She was the smartest, goofiest, funniest, strongest and most linguistically gifted person I’ve ever met. She encouraged me to swing higher on the swings, run faster on the field, play soccer, talk to new kids and take stupid risks (like hanging upside down on the monkey bars for all of recess, or hour-long staring contests), and see the little oddities in the world. In return, I taught Her about the trees, and the animals, and the purpose of the whisper, and a bunch of other idiotic poetry. We were about two years into our friendship when we stumbled upon the warm side of the fridge.

Now, having a small school meant that we didn’t have much space at our disposal, for students or faculty, other then, in this case, the school refrigerator located by the fifth-grade table. On one particularly hot day after a fervent game of soccer, I went to the fridge in hopes of cooling down. As I placed my back on the side of the fridge, I noticed that I felt no relief. I invited her over to come inspect and put her input into the matter. She concurred that the fridge wasn’t cold; it was, in fact, warm. We both thought at first that the heat from our bodies put it in such a condition, but after repeated studies and experiments, we found that that particular side of the fridge was indeed warmer than any of the other sides. We checked that side every day. And every day it was warm.

But over time, we got over it. We moved on to a new school. We found new things to obsess over. And then She left. She moved on. And She found new things to obsess over. And once again, over time, I came to a state of acceptance. I can’t lie; I sometimes miss her. But when I do, I think about all the fun we had, all the adventures, and I think about the warm side of the fridge, and what She opened me up to.

For me, the warm side of the fridge isn’t just some manufacturing error. It signifies all the weird, crazy, fun, stupid things in the world that you can’t explain, and even if you can explain it, it’s the things you don’t want to. You want it to keep its magic. I believe in the magic in this world, whether it’s real or not. I believe in strays finding good homes. I believe in underdog stories. I believe in the established kid who sits next to the new kid without prompt from teachers. I believe in boxers from Philly becoming world champs. I believe in two people coming together for no reason but luck. I believe in beagles flying doghouses in World War I. I believe in the improv of the greater powers. I believe in the weird stuff that happens every day. The little oddities that we sometimes need help to see. I believe in a fridge with a warm side.

And at one point or another, we all did. At one point or another, we all believed in the wondrousness and the goodness and the randomness of the world.

I’d like to think that I still do.

This essay was written for teacher Jason Smith’s seventh-grade Literature Appreciation class at Saranac Lake Middle School.