Corners are invisible. We see them and we fail to see them. When I was a kid, feeling cranky, put-upon, ignored, or some other melodramatic condition I semi-created, I’d disappear underneath the end table of the L-section sofa in the living room. The sofa was far enough away from the wall that I could wedge myself behind it, drop on all fours, and crawl into the tiny space beneath the end table, where I’d curl up, curse my fate, and promise myself that I’d only speak when spoken to once I dramatically reemerged into the maelstrom of family life. That wouldn’t last, of course, and soon enough my adolescent funk would end and I'd be laughing and right again. But my strategy felt sound: no one could find me because no one sees a corner. It’s transparent. I’m transparent. There and not. You'd have to train yourself to see me, because I’m not talking.
My interest in marginalized people and things — from indie bands, nerds, loners, and local drunks whom I must resist romanticizing, to gloomy service alleys and the backs of buildings — continues naturally from my childhood interest in corners. The fear of a vanishing point in the dark end of the dimly-lit upstairs hallway always gripped me, but so did the commonplace corner of the back yard, where forgotten parchmenty leaves and last years’ missing notebook page broke my stupid heart. I risk sentimentalizing the ordinary here, but that’s a risk that any essayist takes. I like Bachelard’s charge: “But life in corners, and the universe itself withdrawn into a corner with the daydreamer, is a subject about which poets will have more to tell us. They will not hesitate to give this daydream all its reality.”
Bottom photo of a corner via Flickr Creative Commons.