Few things say more about a man than the state of his refrigerator and what it usually says is that he is the same as all the other men. A woman's refrigerator is cleaner and has more available space, even a woman with a complicated relationship with food. This is because the female knows to throw out items that are expired or spoiled, whereas the man merely shoves them to the back of the appliance, usually with the leading edge of a packaged steak or a six-pack of beer. Forgotten, the aging food item molders poignantly until the refrigerator is discarded or the man changes addresses, in which case it is transported in a cardboard box to the new residence and shoved into the back of another refrigerator.
Everything the man needs is cooled on the front of his appliance's shelves. The central shelves are a metaphor for a man's torso. Here lies the meat of him; the beef, the veal, the pork, easily grabbable for barbecuing. Here too are the beverages; milk for the morning cereal, cooled sodas for the weekday lunch, fascinating microbrews for all other meals and occasions. There are usually at least three shelves, unless one has been removed because the man prefers the economy of purchasing his beer in a 30-pack or a mini-keg.
On the inside of the refrigerator door the man keeps the spices of life. Relish, ketchup, salsa, pickles, half-empty jars of spaghetti sauce, chocolate syrup, maple syrup, ranch dressing. Little Solo cups of condiments may be stored here, to flip Louganis-like onto the floor when the door is yanked open too vigorously. The man notices he has a jar of black bean paste in his door, a residue of a relationship that reached its expiration date. He keeps it in case in the future he wishes his black beans to adhere to one another.
Speaking of residues, they represent the man's intellect, his ventures into art and philosophy. The spray of spilled barbecue sauces on the white walls, the delicate filigree of dried eggnog on the bottom surface, the existential stillness of the squat dabs of mustard that appear mysteriously on the racks, all these speak of a life of the mind that is far too numinous to interrupt by commanding the hands to get a paper towel.
The meat drawer is the drawer of a man's sex. Here are the coils of bold Italian sausage, the neatly circumcised kosher hot dogs, the uncut salami.
The vegetable drawer is a haunted place, seldom opened. Inside are mere ghostly hulks—a dried head of cabbage, a wilted bunch of celery, some carrots fragile with age, all resting on desiccated wisps of onion skins. There is bok choy in the drawer, the man notices, left over from his dalliance with the bean paste woman. The man wonders briefly if Bean Paste Woman would be a good song title. Doubtful. He realizes he knows nothing about bok choy, except that its name is easy to pronounce, compared to some other Asian vegetables.
It is necessary to bend over to pitch the bok choy, which causes the man to fix his eyes on the back of the refrigerator. This, he discovers, is the Marley's ghost of his love life. There is the rice wine, the sesame seed oil, the bouillon paste, some peanut sauce, a collection of foodstuffs that he never bought and has no idea how to use, rowed up against the white enamel of the appliance's rear wall like tombstones. In his mind they whisper "Nevermore," like a flock of chilled ravens. He is struck by how much this appliance contains the marks of his past loves, much like his psyche and his credit card balances.
Overwhelmed, he cannot finish. The bok choy falls from his grip, back into the drawer. He closes the door. In his hand is one of the beers.
There's more where that came from!