From the Archive: Emily Gordon (CAROUSEL 29)

Staff/ October 19, 2020/ Fiction


Exhibits, Reflections

A ring lies on the bedside table. A gold band, set with a small diamond, an unobtrusive story. It lies almost at the edge of the table, as if at any moment it will skim off the edge of polished wood, a boat sailing over the edge of the world. Beside the ring is a glass half filled with water, tall and rippled so that as I bend down and look at its surface nothing is reflected or refracted properly. The room becomes just a blending of colours.

One of the shoes has been kicked under the bed. It takes me a while to find it, although the other one lies on its side in the centre of the rug, black against the bright colours of the design. She called it her flying carpet, laughing over her shoulder as she showed me in, filling the room with laughter, which now, silent, seems especially empty. They are low heels. They are polished, neat and dark, but each toe shows tiny scratches in the leather. I study them, holding them close, thinking about how quickly the dust appears under the bed, coating the shoe as if it has always been a part of the floor.

The only mirror is a small one on the dresser. It is flipped face down, the back a jet black, shining in that way only cheap plastic can. Two earrings lie beside it, little cats, their tails curled carefully about their paws as they sit serenely. One is on its side. The other is upside down, balancing on its ears. I bend down, noticing the cat hair on the carpet and chair, threads of black and white. Each one is a memory of a tail wrapped around a bedpost, a paw being washed in the sunlight, as graceful as a queen on her royal blue cushion.

A page from a letter. It is being used as a bookmark, resting between pages 152 and 153 of Ondaatje’s The English Patient. The book is on the shelf, resting in its proper place, alphabetically by author’s last name. The letter is on lined paper, as if waiting for chemistry notes to be jotted down beside the words. It is scrawled in pencil, smudged at the edges. The words are on every other line, on only one side of the numbered page, which is folded into three.
     Would phone me. This time I know I would fix everything. Please just phone. Remember that day last year we walked across the bridge and you saw the way we were reflected in the water, side by side, smiling up at us smiling down. You said — it’s all so fragile. All it needs is a pebble and everything breaks apart. I didn’t understand then. See, I admit that, but now please just phone — I can’t reach you — phone me and we can start
     This was page eight.

Bright shirts hang in the closet beside jeans and bright cords in green, purple and chocolate brown. The vibrant clothes are sorted by colour, so that opening the door I am overwhelmed by a rainbow. Then I can pick out individual shirts, noticing the zippers and stripes and bright silk-screened designs. There are few suits as well, dark blazers with skirts and pants to match, silk blouses in rich shades, wine red, midnight blue, forest green. They hang to the side, the rainbow’s shadow.

A book is under the pillow, so thin that I don’t notice it for a long time. Finally I catch a glimpse of the cover’s edge of black and startling green. Timothy Findlay’s The Wars. A bookmark is near the end, this one with a picture of a cat sleeping on a stack of books.
     The type reads:
     There is a hole at the top, where a tassel once hung.

A page had slipped down the side of the dresser. I fish it out with a hanger, catching my hand against the rough edge of the dresser where a cat sharpened its claws. The paper is proper letter paper and the message is in black ink, but the writing is the same. Once again it is the cramped cursive:
     know that of course you are concerned. I understand that. Please let me explain. Give me a call. I want to talk to you.
     The signature is short and illegible.

There is a photograph behind the bookshelf. A man stands with his arm about a woman who looks up at him smiling. She is wearing a bright shirt and there is a ring on her left hand. The man’s face is impossible to make out even after I carefully fit together the ripped edges of the different pieces.

The bathroom door swings unevenly, the wood warped where it was forced open. Here in the bathroom there is a little disarray. The tap drips slightly. The kitty litter spills over one edge of the box resting by the toilet. There is an empty pill bottle, uncapped, lying on its side behind the garbage pail. The shower curtain droops, pulled off one of its rings. Everything else is now neat, as if it had never been disturbed.

In the garbage pail there is a sheet of paper. Several short phrases are written on it in her own spiky hand, each one crossed out with dark, thick lines. The rest of the page is blank, the only marks the creases made when it was crumpled up before being thrown away.

Emily Gordon, at the time of publication, had studied English literature on both coasts of Canada and had found herself living, working and writing in Toronto. She enjoyed tea, disliked rain and dreamed of the day she would have a cat. Current whereabouts unknown, but we hope she has fulfilled her cat dreams.

Exhibits, Reflections
appeared in CAROUSEL 29 (2012) — buy it here

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