The smallest things become imbued with meaning when we are living in a state of emotional distress: when we are leaving our home for good, or dealing with death, or living as one half of a failing relationship. Everything seems portentous, pregnant with omens. Erin Franklin illustrates this feeling of weary divination with skill and grace in her 2011 comic Sorry Sheets.
Done in her trademark black-and-white linework, Sorry Sheets quietly directs the reader's gaze to a modern woman lacking in love from -- and maybe for -- her partner. The action is simple enough. She attempts to take a relaxing bath, but slips and falls, breaking her glass and cutting her finger. Her partner comes in to perform his morning routine. He doesn't notice her, sitting on the floor, bleeding; or worse, if he does, he doesn't say anything. He takes her towel and walks out. She goes to follow him, but can't find him in their room. She takes his pillow from their bed, smells it, and then -- in an act of defiance, or revenge, or catharsis -- throws it out the window.
What makes this story aesthetically exquisite is Franklin's masterful grasp of pattern and motion. The sweep of her hand in the bathtub, the flow of water from the faucet, the etching of his beard, the padding of her feet down the hallway, the darkened hatching of dampened sheets all are woven together to create an intricate tapestry of sadness.
Sorry Sheets shines as an impressionistic collection of symbols that, together, feel like a cold hand slowly creeping around your heart. A torn book, a broken glass; a drop of blood in water. Hair, teeth, naked bodies with no hint of sexuality, confidence, or affection. Empty rooms and a sheet stained with the wet impression of a woman's body. A pillow. A bandage. The heart breaks.