“Turning Corners,” by Joshua Heinrich

Apr 20th, 2013 | By | Category: Fiction, Prose

John had turned a corner. Not figuratively so much as literally. As in he was headed forward and had taken a sharp 90 degree turn after passing the end of the wall to his left. As people turning corners often do. Anyway, John had turned a corner, and what he found around the bend changed his life forever. Wait, I guess that means he sort of turned a corner figuratively, as well. Okay, forget that first bit, then.

So, right, we have John, the corner… Oh, and the girl. There’s always a girl, isn’t there? But she was no ordinary girl. In fact, you might say she was extraordinary. Although that word’s never really made sense to me. Extra ordinary? Wouldn’t that just be especially plain? So let’s stick with special. Although special’s usually used to refer to someone whose affliction you don’t want to openly discuss in public. Which she wasn’t. No offense to anyone who might be that variety of special, of course.

So, yes, John, the corner, and a girl. Actually, the girl was quite literally around the corner. Like, you know the phrase “I bumped into her the other day”? Again, another thing that was literal rather than figurative in this case. She was a Leo, by the way. Not that it really matters, per se. It’s just that this is the point of the story where one typically throws out some sort of random descriptive feature, and, to be frank, I’ve never met her. John had, though. Somewhere around four dozen words ago, give or take contractions. That’s what this story is about. Well, we’re only three paragraphs in, so perhaps it’s a bit presumptuous to assume that’s what this story is about. It’s always possible that the climax could reveal some sort of universal human truth. That would be something, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, backing up a bit, John was staring into a bag of M&M’s, preoccupied with the fact that they all said “3”, “w”, or “E” instead of “m”, when they suddenly skittered to the ground. I know skittering sounds more like something Skittles would do, or at least that combination would be better suited to a tongue twister, but they were M&M’s. Or 3&w’s. That skittered. When John absentmindedly walked right into the girl, bumping his chin on her forehead. Well, he wasn’t paying attention, but that’s what his aching jaw and the round red mark square in the middle of her forehead indicated (not to be confused with the square red mark round in the middle of her forehead, which was from something altogether different). They exchanged, then promptly returned, introductions.

Her name was Heather. She walked the line between waitress and actress, except the line was more like a wall she repeatedly walked into headfirst while balancing three glasses and four plates on a tray. His name was John. He was an artist. Well, he was more like a captivating spectacle than a true artist, sort of like a wheat penny in that everyone keeps saving it waiting for it to go up in value, but it’s still worth next to nothing and primarily serves as a vehicle for people to go “hey, look, I got a wheat penny!”. Let’s just say that, if John were a kumquat, she’d be a snap pea. Don’t think too hard about that. It really doesn’t make any sense.

John found himself drawn in by Heather’s…let’s say blue…eyes. Statistically, brown is the most common eye color due to genetic inheritance and gene dominance and all. But I’m not really a fan of dominant genes. They’re just way too pushy. So blue it is. Heather, on the other hand, perhaps even on the same hand, was fixated on John’s smile. Or was nervous and staring at his mouth to avoid his eyes. Either way, she said he had a nice smile. Score one for orthodontists. I guess all of those years of ridiculously expensive sadistic mouth torture paid off.

When starting a conversation with someone of the opposite sex (or so he hoped after that one encounter in SoHo, but that’s an entirely different story), John often fell back on an arsenal of sarcastic charm and topical misdirection. In the same way that crimes of passion, apparently, often involve kitchen utensils, most commonly forks and spoons. Although it seems the latter is too blunt to be effective as a murder weapon because accounts of spooning, unlike forking, rarely involve penetration.

Going against the well-established grain of etiquette and ignoring the adage “never ask a woman her age” (I guess that would make it an “age adage”) completely, John asked Heather’s age. I know, given the beginning of that sentence, the conclusion was a complete surprise. Just call me M. Night Shyamalan. Except nobody was dead. Or the devil. Or being attacked by environmentalist trees.

At any rate, Heather replied “27.” Then, after a few seconds clearly involving some sort of excruciating inner conflict judging by the expression on her face, added “Err. 28. Gah. Fuck it, what’s the use? 31. You?”

“I just turned 357 a few days ago.” said John.

“You look good for your age.” replied Heather.

“Thanks. Everyone mistakes me for 354.” That was John that said that, in case you’re easily distracted and already lost track of the conversation.

“Did you do anything special?” (Heather again there).

“Ya, we had this thing that was kinda like an upside down cake, but sort of flipped the other way. I think it was called a cake.”

“Right.” Heather quipped (hmm…quipped…wait a second…triple word score!)

John took a step to the right.

“Huh? Where are you going?” puzzled Heather. Out loud.

“Oh, I thought that ‘right’ was imperative. My bad.” thought John. Also out loud, as if speaking to someone else, which he was.

John found himself inexplicably and unequivocally smitten with Heather. It was a surprising and refreshing turn of events, John coming off of a recent bout of confusion over his sexual identity and all. He’d recently visited Europe and met a homeless backpacker on a train heading toward France. She apparently wandered from place to place getting odd jobs, and he found her irresistible, leading him to wonder if he had latent hobosexual tendencies. Then again, when he got to the airport in London to fly back to the states, he couldn’t take his eyes off of some of the women waiting around him at his gate, so he definitely felt he had more Heathrow sexual leanings. Oh, wait, John and Heather were talking all this time. And here I am babbling on. We now join the conversation already in progress.

John continued. “Then I walked in on a bunch of people mass debating, and…”

“Wait, WHAT!?” exclaimed Heather.

“You know, talking about an issue in a large group with opposing viewpoints? Mass debating. Anyway…” John trailed off.

From there, I take it the conversation carried on for a long time. No, I said it carried on, not carrion.  Why would I be talking about carrion? Although I do remember John mentioning something about steak hoagies and gerbils. Not sure if those two were related. Come to think of it, I hope they weren’t.  Oh, and they talked about art of some sort. Or all sorts. Or the sum of all sorts. Or the sort of all sums. Or the…oh, wait, I’m not being paid by the word. Damn. Forget that last bit, then. Anyway, Kim…err…I mean Heather. Wait, WAS it Kim? No, no. I still want to say Heather. She had to run off to work. Places to set. People to feed.

John gave her his number. Heather scribbled down an illegible note with her left hand. Technically, her right hand was dominant, but she’d always been an anti-establishment type and sort of felt the same way about dominant hands that I do regarding genetics and eye color. On the other hand…once again, as in the figure of speech…not referring to one hand or the other or the other other… Wait, that’s one too many others… Yes, on the other hand, if she had written it down with her dominant hand, perhaps she wouldn’t have spent 23 minutes later that night staring at an upside down crumpled piece of paper wondering just what in the hell BOBS OLE means.

In situations like these, this is usually where the awkward goodbye comes in. You know, an attempt at a handshake turning into an accidental copped feel or a phrase absentmindedly uttered in some rudimentary form of pig Latin. Luckily, this situation was nothing like itself, and after saying their goodbyes without incident, John and Heather walked past each other, each unable to stop thinking of the other. They each turned a corner, then another. They walked smack dab into each other on the other side of the building. They reintroduced themselves. I guess if you let go of something and it finds its way back to you, it’s meant to be. Or maybe you’re just walking in circles. Either way, John had turned a corner. Again.


Defenestration-Joshua HeinrichJoshua Heinrich is a writer, artist, and musician best known for his long-time solo project, fornever. He’s also made of atoms. Other things made of atoms include rocks and Gobstoppers (which, incidentally, are sort of like rocks but edible and delicious). He also writes his own biographical blurbs, in case you couldn’t tell. I guess that would make this an autobiographical blurb. In the third person. That’s not weird at all. And…scene.

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