“Corners” by Jonathan David Sanchez Leos


I was born on a bathroom floor, in a first-story apartment, on the corner of 56th and Avers.

Although it was hoped that I’d be born in a hospital, my mother couldn’t get to one, as she was waiting for my father who was drunk at a bar on 58th and Pulaski at the time. My father—as my mom later told me—later made this up to her with a bouquet of plastic flowers, purchased at the Dollar Store, on Pulaski and 63rd.

It has been 19 years since, but they are still sitting in a vase on top of the kitchen table.

My first ever memory was on the corner of 54th and Lockwood, coming home from a church carnival, and sitting atop my dad’s shoulders. As we crossed the street at 55th and Cicero, a squad car pulled up, sirens blazing. Two officers came out, screamed, and drew out their guns.

My dad’s been at 26th and California ever since, but I’ve never visited him. It always seemed just too far away.

But sometimes I wonder if I hadn’t been on his shoulders, if he could’ve gotten away.

I went to school on 58th and Kostner, a few blocks from where I lived. I rode my bike there everyday until it was stolen on the corner of 59th and Harding. They threw me to the pavement and rode off with the bike before I could do anything.

I received four stitches on one eyebrow and two on my lip at the clinic on 55th and Keeler. My mom had to pay fifty dollars for the visit. We ate macaroni and cheese for a week.

I walked to school from then on.

I smoked my first cigarette when I was thirteen at a park on 55th and Kolin. My friend had stolen the pack out of a big red truck sitting in the parking lot of the 7-Eleven across the street.

It was menthol and it hurt to inhale, but I still pretended to like it because, well, there was this beautiful girl with us… and from that day on, I tried to be with her whenever I could.

She lived on the corner of 52nd and Keeler, in a small house that held too many people. We would sit by ourselves in her garage after everyone had gone to sleep, turn the lights off, and kiss. We listened to B96 on a portable radio covered in stickers and drank the beer that her dad hid behind his tools. We thought we were the coolest people in all of Chicago.

I don’t think I was ever as happy as I was that summer.

A year later, I saw her walking in the park on 60th and Karlov with a boy I had seen once at a Day-Time[footnote 1] on 47th and Kedzie. He was shorter than me, wore too much Axe deodorant, and had a stupid rhinestone earring in one earlobe.

I found her later that night in the alleyway near her house, by 52nd and Kedvale. I had just wanted to talk to her, but for some reason, I couldn’t. I could smell him on her as she came closer. By the time she was standing in front of me I couldn’t think straight. The smell of him filled my nostrils and I couldn’t stand looking at her face with that fucking stench covering her.

It ended badly. I’ll never forgive myself for kicking her while she was crying on the ground.

I graduated from Kennedy High School on the corner on 56th and Komensky, at the age of eighteen. I celebrated with my family in the backyard of an uncle on 65th and Luna. He had just bought the house and thought my graduation was the perfect excuse for a party.

When I was already pretty drunk, I walked down the street and counted the number of For Sale signs. There were nine on one block.

After graduation, I got a job at the Jewel on 48th and Pulaski. I stocked and it sucked, but it paid the bills. Even though it was pretty close to home, I still drove to work every day. I’d hated walking ever since elementary school.

When I was nineteen, I got into a car accident turning left onto 55th from Pulaski. The other car was gray, but I’m still not sure whose fault it was. According to the police report it was around one-thirty-eight in the morning when it happened, which makes sense since I had worked the late shift that night.

I was taken to a hospital on 68th and California, and held out for a couple of hours. According to the hospital, I died at six-fifty-one in the morning, but that’s just speculation. I mean, I’ve never owned a watch so I couldn’t really tell you if those times are accurate or not.

I was buried at a funeral home on 58th place and Pulaski, right across the street from the bar where my dad used to drink. I’m guessing there’s probably some type of irony there.

Everyone I had ever known came to the funeral—cousins, friends, and family. They all wore black, smoked outside, hugged my mom tightly, and tried not to laugh. Afterwards, they all ate at a taqueria on 61st and Pulaski and later, celebrated my memory by drinking and juking at a club on 63rd and Harlem.

My mom walked home from my funeral alone, after refusing a ride. She shook her head the entire way, trying not to let the neighbors see her tear-strewn face.

I know that her only regret was that I didn’t have a daughter to leave behind, who she could’ve taken care of now.

She had always wanted me to know what it was like to be a mother.

BACK[footnote 1] A smoking party during school hours, a Chicago public high school tradition among students.


Jonathan David Sanchez Leos lives his life on the southwest side of Chicago, relishing in the plethora of taquerias and stunning sunset views of Midway Airport. He enjoys writing, reading, and being Mexican. Recently, Jonathan has returned to the University of Chicago to pursue a graduate degree in a very non-marketable field, and has learned that writing doesn’t always have to be fun.

To read Jonathan David Sanchez Leos’ comments on Thania Rios’ “The Lost Art of the Horror Story,” click here.

Notes from Chad Peterson, Associate Editor
I found myself extremely moved by this story, which combines a wonderful simplicity with a great deal of depth. It’s got an innovative format that grabbed my attention, and the repeated use of locations/intersections kept me interested while also driving home a larger point about the entirety of this person’s short life taking place in just a few blocks. All told, this made it a very gripping, interesting, and moving, but still quite terse story, and the little reveal at the end made the whole piece resonate with me for some time after reading. It can be incredibly hard to tell so complete a story with such simplicity, and that this did it so successfully made it one of my favorite pieces of this reading period.

Comments on this story by Chris Schafer, author of “In Search of Life on Alameda VIII”
Reading “Corners” is like being a detective standing in front of a city map, and after every few sentences you press another push-pen into a cross section. The clues begin to paint a picture, and you can start drawing lines from pen to pen. Soon, a shape begins to form, and when the story comes full circle you begin to see the outline of a life, like a chalk outline, but not of a body, of an experience.

This story grabbed me from the start with its immediate intimacy, and Jonathan’s use of numbers kept me hypnotized. There is a mystique to it and the reveal at the end sends a shock wave back through the entire story, illuminating every detail, the way the sun does when it shifts across the sky.

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