The Northville Review
an online literary journal
Love Affair With Comma

Heather Fowler

Comma didn’t want me anymore. Said I was too blank. Said I was badly suited for her plush line and soft curves. Said I didn’t understand the need for gentle transitions and sweeping speech. Plus, I was often pushy. I was hard. Period was more my style. Maybe Dash. Had I tried Exclamation?

She said all this while bent around herself like a hurt mute. I told her she was wrong. I was Exclamation angry. Serious. Wanted to straighten her line and recurl it. Said I wanted to use her until I felt the spoon of her close contact with my white space and foreign font. I told her that I loved her and that I loved full-stop to a lesser extent. Always had.

“Liar!” she said.

“That’s true!” I replied. “Look at me–not even calling Him by name!” I didn’t like so much full-stopping. He was vulgar and bled in hemophiliac dark drops. I fragmented without her. I begged her to come back. I said: “Please believe me.” She said– “No. Period. Go to Period.”

I told her Period had his uses. Her I adored. She was a continuum. Could combine two full ideas with the aid of coordinating conjunctions to leave them startlingly linked! Her subtlety was everything! Her slope of smooth round.

I said I loved her like men love a hot ass. More.

She said Colon linked thoughts just fine. He did this with more of my own aggressive open style. She said I needed that for my words–but she didn’t say this like I say it — instead muttering with more and gentler words shoved up around her like pillowing bodyguard blockades.

“I’m fragmenting worse—” I told her. “I see you in the upside down possessive. The fall of old lashes. But they’re not stamped on. They blow from the page.”

You don’t need me she whispered. I am nowhere here.

I said you are shifty near font. It’s true you are hard to use right. Others have treated you badly. You have been dropped into inappropriate situations. Abandoned when needed. You’ve made things run on and on that had no end. People have judged you for this. It wasn’t your fault! You’ve been used decoratively and without meaning. We are alike! I’m a light page.

White and pale and clean! Any idea how hard that is? Any rat-bastards’ thoughts can fall on me. I can sit in drawers for years. With passions I am kissed and ripped and rained on. Did you see how I just needed you above?

She told me talk to Colon. He combined thoughts. He was everything I needed. She said to look for her in Quotes. They came in sets like her. And that her x2 would always make parentheses–unless she did what Colon did. Or helped. She told me he was good to her. Said she would always let him come before her.

I agreed that I adored Colon. But he was abrupt and prone to pointless lists. Colon was pretentious. Colon was Double Period. Up-ended. Period on a bad day. Yet even he needed her. He had admitted this in a long and windy diatribe with many dangling exceptions to simplicity.

Oh precious Comma. We all need you I wanted to say. Why couldn’t she see it was her that I wanted? Her again and again with all kinds of good things in between? This is what I asked.

Go after Semi she replied. She’s like me. You might like her. Combo. Best of both worlds. Period and Comma.

I said no.

Better yet! Go for Exclamation! A dash and a period! She was falsely enthusiastic when she said the preceding; but she was sarcastic when she said the following: “Exclamation is two measures within one that could have deeper power when disassembled since the garish dandified emphasis comes from double-strength punctuation used to bolster one unnecessarily amplified thought!” She said this breathlessly. Then she said: “You are good with things in multiples of

I said: “No. It’s you I miss. Simply.

She replied: “You lost me by saying I was not enough. I couldn’t complete anything. You can’t use me anymore.”

I told her: “I don’t use you. I love you. I meant you were not enough alone to complete something. We all have failings.”

She murmured that both of us together were not enough for anything.

I argued. Railed. Whispered: You gave me hope about the softer things like modifiers and introductory elements. You gentled me. I needed gentling. You attached many subtle meanings.

She laughed. Said: I’m bent. I’m a ripped circle. I’m fucked up.

I said: I love you beyond doubt or reason. I said that the way Semi-Colon resembled PERIOD and HER together turned me off. Alone Period bored me. Period was repulsive. I told her come back.

She told me Questions might be inspired choices for my next lovers. I liked asking them. I could have an open relationship full of Questions.

I said I save my Questions to give you like door prizes or bouquets of uncertainty. I said: Questions are what I do when I don’t have time to ponder your riddle. I said: Comma. Dear Comma. Cradle me in your black soft line. I’m blanching.

She said to look for her during my lifetime as all things seek memories lost in pasts—via verisimilitudes. She said I would know I was over her when someone like her came but I stopped seeking her in them. She said: Dear Page—Don’t you know we all need things? We’ve always tricked each other and ourselves into thinking that just one solution was the only one we
needed. But this solution has caused suicides and hangings and lifetimes of unnecessary longing. Dangling participants and participles. Please hate those for me. Hate them a lot. I hate them.

Then she said: I complicate you. Simpler is happier. Be free. Brevity is the soul of lingerie and curvature and free will. Semi-Colon. Colon. Semi-Colon. Words. Quotes.

Exclamations. These are your world.

I’ll let you see me one last time. Maybe it will be like the first time. It’s not my job to make you suffer.

Love, Comma.

About the author

Heather Fowler writes a lot, reads a lot, and sometimes teaches. Her collection of magical realism stories SUSPENDED HEART is forthcoming in late December from Aqueous Books. Please visit her website for news and recent publications at