day 14: a punctuated affair

There is something deeply romantic about punctuation marks. They direct; they gather momentum; they are like fingers beckoning.

Several years ago, I was wooed by a question mark. This stunning curvature twisted around me and we made love without answers. We crossed borders on our tiptoes, twirling our tongues over mountaintops and forest hikes. I proposed marriage to this question mark and we spent our days researching our way toward a comeback.

But what started as alluring, slurred into frustration. Breath became an elongated interrogation and suddenly we found ourselves apart.

On a Thursday morning while coffee spilt into my mouth, I looked to my right and immediately felt the heat emanating off an exclamation mark. I was captivated by the volume of their speech. A week later and they plunged their screams inside me and questions were no longer a part of me. I gave up on wondering. I gave up on trying to understand what suffocated inside me. Instead, we yelled. We wrapped our skin inside howls and shrieks. This love was exciting, but. Overwhelming. And unpredictable. At times, unsafe.

We parted and I realized how difficult it can be to get over an exclamation.

I had an affair with an M-dash. This floating line asked me to undress it as we found our way inside a tiny bathroom stall in a bar on Delancey as we both tried to forget the haunt of our significant others. This extra-long dash was taller than I and so beautifully feminine. I gathered up their soft. They stained my neck with red and blue. It was only that night, but I could feel myself expanding.

I had been searching. I had an idea of what I was looking for, but could not seem to find the right shape. I met a period, but they were too controlling. I almost thought I had met my match with a comma until I realized we were in search of different ways to pause.


On a Sunday. Past the point of cold but not exactly warm. New York City. Lights. Overpriced whiskey. A semi-colon walked into the room; suddenly, I could feel the elocution of my lungs. And for once, I felt at home in my body. Perhaps because I was seeing another so comfortable in theirs. We spoke and even in our shynesses, I had a sense that I had finally met the other half of my sentence. An independent clause.

There is a pause inside us and a need to (be) complete as well. This is what is so beautifully complicated about a semi-colon. We are complete without the other half; and yet, so much more profound and elucidated by the other.

what sits inside your question may sound like an exclamation.

At an Andrew Bird concert in Prospect Park, Brooklyn two summers ago…..the crowd of hipsters and mustachioed beer drinkers congregated around the instrumentation of whistling and suddenly I could not take my eyes off the shoulder blades of a human drenched in sun-tanned skin. At the bottom of her shoulder lay the most romantic and sexiest of exclamation marks. Titled: semi-colon and this is the one which separates two complete sentences or independent clauses. I later learned that it is also used as a symbol for those survivors of suicide. It reminds those who wanted to punctuate their end, by creating more of a continuation. It represents something on the other end…. I like that.

I think of my grammar as semi-colon. It separates two independent selves (probably more than that). It feels far more clear than woman or man.

I’ve got semi-colons sewed into all of my scars and perhaps one day I will make one of these period/comma combos more visible with ink, but for now, I grow deeply enamored when I see them. They are a reminder that sentences — like life — can continue even in the moments you thought you were done speaking or writing or breathing.

Recently, my pen pal gave me insight into a punctuation mark I was not familiar with. It is titled: interrobang.

Imagine surprise stuffed into a question wrapped in disbelief. What??!!  ‽

I like the idea of emotion being birthed out of two shapes living inside each other. We interrobang all the time, though we often don’t speak with thoughts of punctuation at each sentence’s end. We also don’t announce it either.

“I cannot believe you never told me that, interrobang

You love me, interrobang

To me, grammar is dirty talk. It turns me on to know others think about  the construction of language as much as I or that they contemplate words as buildings. Scaffolded syllables. Welcome-mat’d words which desire feet to be rubbed into them before entering. It’s amazing to know the impact of these symbols, collaborating with our letters. Even in the moments I channel Gertrude Stein and let go of the question mark, the sound of it still exists……as does the exclamation