From the eighth CVC (Carter V. Cooper) Short Fiction Anthology Series. Published by Exile Editions in 2019.

Accidents are, by their definition, unpredictable affairs. But let’s be honest, to a point. Funnily enough, Diana worried about the elevator in her own rundown building. She was on the 12th floor of a 26-storey building (in reality only 25 since there was no 13th floor), although of course there was also a basement and a parking garage that Diana wouldn’t enter because there are no gates on her apartment building and people frequently sleep, have sex, and do drugs there. Isabel sometimes went to the parking garage for a cigarette—but most likely as a tempting of fate to see if someone might kill her and absolve her of the responsibility of doing it herself. The elevator was old and sometimes out-of-order and when the out-of-order sign was removed Diana was even more anxious because whenever the plumbing was fixed in her apartment it inevitably leaked, so she didn’t have much faith in repairs in her building. Or repairs in general, if her family was any indication—her mother and her estranged father were broken people—they didn’t deny it, in fact they flaunted it like shamelessness is flaunted during Carnival—a gigantic “Hey, we’re all fucked up and we’re all going to die too soon anyway so we might as well drink and dance and shake all our private parts in the name of Jesus—Christo—because life is a parade that brings you little bursts of magic every so often to seduce you into the daily suffering of your life.”

This is why Brazilian women wear high heels, and why when the elevator snapped in the twelve-storey building of Diana’s chiropractor she was wearing the very shoes that made her feel she’d attracted a little bit of magic into her otherwise suffering life.

In fact, when the elevator cables—both at once—snapped, Diana was momentarily suspended in the air—like an angel—her feet dangling below her, arms rising as if in a long feathered glorious motion of flight. A flash like celestial lightning appeared before her eyes (it was only afterwards that she understood this was an electrical surge which caused all the numbers on the console to light up at once and then burn out). Strangely enough, Diana thought about her father, Fernando—a man she tried to keep out of her mind as much as possible. He was a hopeless coward who had run away from their mother and started another family with an Amazon woman who spoke no Portuguese. He said it was so they could never argue. When Diana was a very small child, one and two, her father had tossed her like a volleyball into the wide blue endless Brazilian sky.
Up and down.
Up and down.
Like an elevator.
Until the cables of his mind snapped.

It was with a bit of disbelief that Diana—tinged with intense nostalgia confronting a situation that might have ended with her death—oh, how Isabel would have been supremely jealous—was surprised by the force of love hurtling inside her heart during those moments inside and then outside her father’s arms. Which was better, she didn’t know: leaving his arms to be caressed by the wind, to be for a moment an element safe and miraculous among the elements, or to be caught, warmly and securely from that illusion of eternal protection in the conscious and all-too-human hairy, sweaty, but sturdy arms of her father? She never doubted the sky.

A third floor is tricky in terms of elevators. A third floor is a decision-making floor—should you walk?—not if you are a Brazilian woman in your high-heeled shoes, and if you are a Brazilian woman you are definitely in high-heeled shoes. That is the distinction that absolves you of all responsibility when you decide to take an elevator to floor number 3.

Because there was a basement and two levels of parking garage, Diana’s elevator hurtled down somewhere between four and five floors, crashing to a halt on the concrete of the lower parking garage.

I forgot to mention there were two other people in the elevator at the time: a happy accident for one and an unhappy accident for the other.

was on his way to the 12th floor to surprise his girlfriend, who has a psychotherapy practice in the building. Passenger #1 found it exhilarating to date a psychotherapist because he felt she’d be comfortable talking about all kinds of sexual fetishes and desires without judgement. Passenger #1 didn’t really have any perverse desires—he liked to dole out a spanking now and then and he wouldn’t say no to nipple clamps—but he liked the idea of talking to his psychotherapist girlfriend about sex play. In fact, he was on his way to surprise her with a cock ring he’d purchased in a sex store that was conveniently located across the street from her practice. “Every woman wants a man to give her a ring,” the voluptuous dyed-blonde clerk joked as she punched in the price. He was already sporting a hard-on in the elevator when the cables snapped.

Happy Accident because his girlfriend was in the middle of an afternoon tryst with the other psychotherapist in the building—and this man was into being smacked around and whipped. His moans could be heard down the halls of the floor.

A month later, after Passenger #1 had completed the majority of his rehab for a broken hip, he asked his psychotherapist girlfriend to marry him. She agreed and he put a white gold and diamond ring on her finger. The accident had spurred the psychotherapist to take a good look at her life and even though she was an open-minded progressive psychotherapist who didn’t mind whipping a man wearing a ball chain inside his mouth she thought God had given her a sign about the sum effect of promiscuity. Besides, she was pregnant, and she wasn’t entirely sure who the father was but she knew she didn’t want whipping boy involved in the raising of any child of hers. Two psychotherapists were not better than one.

(When they were finally rescued by paramedics, the cock ring—found in the corner of the elevator by Paramedic #2—elicited a steady supply of laughs and speculations for months to come from a group of people whose days needed a laugh because it mostly consisted of overdoses and projectile vomit and cardiac arrests.)

an obese man, he happened to be holding onto the elevator railing when the cables snapped and so his hang time was considerably less than Passenger #1’s and Cousin Diana’s. He had acted as a kind of cushioning mattress to both—like the rubber corners on a pinball machine (which is ironic because he did enjoy playing pinball—a Beatles-themed pinball game at his local beer pub—the beer of course contributing to his obesity). In fact, when the cable snapped, he’d been humming “I Wanna Hold Your Hand,” while thinking about the nachos he was going to order as a treat after seeing his dentist on the 8th floor. He’d been putting off coming in for months because the dentist had ordered a special set of X-rays and Passenger #2 did not want to know the results. The receptionist kept calling. She said they would charge him if he cancelled another appointment. Although the X-rays were clear of anything more serious than gingivitis, Passenger #2 felt the rug of the world getting pulled from under him.

His obesity gave him little balance and he belly-flopped forward making a star on the elevator floor.

Passenger #1 hit the ground two seconds before Cousin Diana and crushed Passenger #2’s arm—breaking it in three places—and then he fell backwards onto Passenger #2’s legs—breaking them, too, causing a blood clot that would eventually turn into a fatal hemothorax.

Cousin Diana landed on both feet, and for a split second she thought she’d performed the perfect gymnastics dismount—when both ankles snapped.

Diana fell on Passenger #2’s spine, which, covered in fat, provided Diana with a cushion not unlike the blue gymnasium mats she remembered jumping onto as a child. Diana sometimes had dreams of her sister Isabel jumping off buildings and bridges—even though jumping was not Isabel’s preferred suicidal ideation—to be saved by one such blue gym mat. Diana bounced back up and then back down on Passenger #2’s spine.

(The cock ring had, at first, also landed on Passenger #2’s spine, but Diana’s bouncing caused it to roll over Passenger #2’s shoulder and into a corner. To add insult to injury, the dentist would send Passenger #2 an invoice for his missed appointment while he was still an in-patient at the hospital.)

You hear about people, perfect strangers, who suddenly find themselves in a dangerous or traumatic or life-threatening situation—who end up bonding with each other, confessing secrets they’ve never shared, not even with a sibling or a psychotherapist—keeping in touch and sharing special psychic wounds for the rest of their lives.

You hear about it but then you don’t really meet these people so you doubt it.

After the paramedics lifted Diana onto a stretcher—her Rainbow Open-Toed Ankle-Strapped Studded Accent High Heels miraculously intact with her ankles caved in the opposite direction—she never had another thought about Passenger #1 or Passenger #2—the female paramedic who gave her an IV—“we have to give everyone an IV out of principle”—had said, “those are the most fabulous shoes I’ve ever seen—where did you get them?”

Diana wasn’t in the habit of lying. When your sister is openly suicidal and your father has abandoned your family, conversations about all kinds of things that other people would consider touchy or inappropriate don’t faze you and Diana didn’t need to lie to save face. Maybe it was the shock of it all. But Diana replied that a famous rapper had given them to her as a gift. “You know ___________?” Diana nodded with flirtatious pride. “I work for him. He’s a true gentleman. And has a great eye for shoes.”

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Priscila Uppal was a poet, fiction writer, memoirist, essayist, playwright and a professor of English at York University. Her work has been published internationally and translated into eight languages. She died in 2018.



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