It’s 7:16 a.m., and I’m waiting for my friend, anticipating our occasional morning run. Instead of stretching, I stupidly do some jump squats to wake myself up. In the corner, four square legs of a wooden chair stolen from some suite also squat sheepishly as if the chair’s in trouble. “Timeout Chair” read the Sharpie-on-printer-paper label taped to the chair’s back.
A picture in my mind, framed by four sturdy corners: me, sitting in the Timeout Chair, fist clenched, tears streaming down the sides of my face, causing the corners of my paper to crumble. I feel the neatly written words “I AM SITTING IN THE CORNER BECAUSE I SLAPPED ALEX. I AM SORRY FOR SLAPPING ALEX. THAT WAS WRONG. I WILL NOT SLAP ALEX AGAIN” a little bit more with each additional rewriting of the apology devoid of intent my elementary school teacher forced me to etch into the paper with my triangle-grip pencil.
I can feel the way that even meaningless words sink down, deeper and deeper into my chest — all the way through my heart. They hit bottom. Maybe it didn’t matter that Alex cut corners on the long division assignment and finished before me (although it still hurts my pride a little bit). Sitting in the Timeout Chair in the corner of the Bingham C rotunda I allow my teacher to forcibly make me really sorry (whatever that means).
Startled, I open my eyes and lift my head to find a bruise — not sure how it got there. I look up and realize I’d hit my head on the corner of my nightstand and had somehow slept through it. To my roommate I mutter a “I’m so sorry about my alarm” as my phone takes a hard fall and its corner hits the wood floor.
I continue with my jump squats. Wake up! Scratch that. I’m sitting in my computer science lecture, and the upper left chalkboard corner catches my attention. My professor only writes below and to the right of this corner. I look down at my piece of paper: “I WILL NOT SLAP A–”
Everything’s bounded by a corner. An ID card, a room, a piece of sheet music, a swimming pool, Yale Old Campus — the whole world is bounded by its corner, especially for the flat-Earthers. I mean, look at any map.
There’s nothing written on the chalkboard in my computer science class, but my eyes follow the horizontal wood beam until it hits that upper left corner. My eyes shut, I reset my mental paintbrush to the bottom of the chalkboard and paint upward until the two lines I’ve just imagined meet at a corner. I can’t go any further. Corners are boundaries. They tell me what I can’t do and where I can’t go. I even sit with them when I’ve overstepped a boundary by breaking a rule. We learn this when we are very young. How else do I escape the confines of my crib when I keep hitting my head on its corner when I try? Cornered and scared and sheltered.
Corners mark boundaries. But turn the corner, and it’s easy to see that corners also mark intersections. After all, the two paths unite at that upper left chalkboard corner and form a connection that hadn’t existed before.
I’m standing at a red light on a street corner, and I see an unfamiliar face. “How are you?” My least favorite polite small talk but a connection nonetheless. I’m drawing a concept map for my math class and see all the connections at the nodes — or corners — between ideas.
I’m pressing my back into the corner of my common room’s sofa chair. Soft chatter and animated laughter punctuate the silence, all our different pulses seeking a common rhythm, and I stand up to search for my laptop charger (my laptop’s at 10 percent.) Of course, I stub my toe on the wardrobe corner. Wardrobe → Change (clothes) / clothes → change = turn the corner but on the condition that I’d approach it from around, not directly into the corner → boundary and control (that you’re receiving) and not change or connection.
Corner. Corner. Corner. Corner → Cornier? C or near? See or near? I repeat the word under my breath. Weird. I’m not going on the early morning run, but I can feel the way that the meaningless word sinks down, deeper and deeper into my chest. I’m not sure what it’ll mean when it hits bottom.
Phoebe Liu | email@example.com .