We all have vices – they’re what make us human, right? The thought resonated through my head as I walked briskly to meet my friends at the Avenue, a popular weekend hotspot for us. I was late – AGAIN – but figured on a Friday night no one would notice my absence in the midst of winding down from a long workweek with a few drinks.
With a flourish, I pushed open the heavy wooden door and walked in to be greeted with familiar faces – yes – but not the ones I had expected to see at the bar tonight.
My whole team of coworkers was there, down to the very last Period. Comma, Semi-Colon (whom, upon just getting married, was quite the feminist and still refused to fully take Colon’s last name, all in the spirit of individuality), Dash, even Caret –that weird character that everyone thought was the Tom Cruise of punctuation because it was so self-absorbed with gaining higher powers* – was there.
(Oh, hold on, Asterisk has something to say, and if it doesn’t speak now and instead waits until the end of this story, we’ll forget why it even attempted to interject in the first place.)
On cue, but slightly off topic, Asterisk shouted, “Math is dumb! Down with numbers!”
Well, no disagreement there. Everyone in the room nodded in approval.
Anyway – as I was saying – I stopped dead in my tracks, looking bewilderedly at the caring faces surrounding me, those who had been with me throughout my lifelong passion for reading and writing. And there –drooping slightly sideways from the rafters – a hastily-written, sharpie-riddled sign:
Oh, what the eeeeeeeffff…
“Guys, let me explain. I know my drinking has been frequent, but if it’s not slow-pitch softball, it’s karaoke night, or Ribfest, or Tuesday…” I started to explain feebly.
“Its not that, sweetie,” said Comma, putting a gentle hand atop mine.
“Well, I mean, maybe I HAVE been late a lot, but have you seen THIS?!” I asked, pointing in the direction of my derriere. “I have to MacGyver the shit out of these jeans just to get them on! And you guys know how hard it is to be punctual…”
Silence hung awkwardly and abruptly in the room like a hyphen mid-sentence.
“Um, still no,” said Parentheses with a deep sigh.
“Look, I know maybe it’s not for everyone, but I really feel like my use of the word “rage” isn’t out of control, because we’re like, constantly raging, you know?” I said, sure I had nailed it. Which, conversely – as far as interventions go – this was anything but raging. I mean, I hadn’t even been served a drink yet. Seriously – were these jeans even doing their job?
Instead, Exclamation Point served me the biggest, unsettling thought of all.
“Your use of the hyphen has been…to say the least, a little out of control recently!” it pointed out – quite energetically, I thought, given the seemingly dire mood of the crowd.
“How about we go around the room and read our pre-written letters to Cassie?” interrupted the intervention leader, which fittingly was Long Dash. “Ellipses, how about you start?”
“Cassie, I miss us,” Ellipses began. “What happened to US?! You used to be so indecisive…” it trailed off mumbling incoherent words.
“Guys, I could stop anytime,” I said carelessly, waving a hand casually – just to get them off my back.
Whoops. Ok – so maybe Exclamation had a point. I didn’t want to hear any more. It’s one thing to diss one’s creative writing style or their overly excessive use of certain words, but was I really doing anything wrong? The hyphen got me from A to B faster.
“A to B faster, like if a train was traveling at 60 mph in one direction from Point A and you could take a shortcut to cut off five minutes of travel time, you would,” interjected Caret unhelpfully. “If so, at what time would you reach your final destination, or Point B?”
A beer bottle thrown at Caret’s head from the back of the room solved that problem quickly.
Then, from the back of the room, a voice.
“I have been feeling a little abused lately,” said Hyphen quietly.
“Hey, thanks for the shout-out man!,” yelled Italics, fist-pumping Hyphen for added emphasis.
OMG, Hyphen’s actually here?!?! Hyphen’s here!!!! The voice in my head screamed with the exuberance of a 12-year-old Justin Bieber fan. Or, for that matter, a 40-year-old Justin Bieber fan. Or, really just any Justin Bieber fan.
I looked down at my outfit, feeling suddenly frumpy. Man, if I had known Hyphen was going to be there, I would have put on a cute dress, I thought nervously, smoothing back my bangs. “God, it looks cute tonight.”
Wait, did I just say that out loud? Maybe I did have a problem.
The room went fuzzy as I broke out in a cold sweat, unable to think about anything but my desperate need to use Hyphen in a sentence – as soon as possible. God, that felt good. If this was addiction, I didn’t care. It was also love.
Friends say I blacked out after that. When I woke, I was in bed, shivering from my lack of using the hyphen for two days. After that, I quit cold turkey. I knew that if I were ever to use the hyphen again, my coworkers would leave me to fend for myself, casting me into a dark, unpunctuated place full of rambling sentences. (Read: Hell) Oh, and the other forms of punctuation? Well, once formal figureheads in my life, they once again became simple place settings within my stories.
However, those who know addiction know it is a never-ending, uphill battle. I still get the itch every now and again to use the hyphen recklessly. When I do, I take a deep breath, look down at my keyboard, choose another character and remember that I own my punctuation use – it doesn’t own me.