Period, Ellipsis, Full Stop

What happens when your new start comes to a halt?

Photo: hudiemm/Getty Images
Photo: hudiemm/Getty Images
Photo: hudiemm/Getty Images

On Tuesday at around noon, while Elliott was at work, Cora found a jagged circle of bright red on her white underwear, like a botched Japanese flag. Nine weeks into her pregnancy and blood was coming out of her. She sat on the toilet, knees shaking, afraid to look at the toilet paper to see how much more showed up. She’d read those parts in the pregnancy books that discussed bleeding early on, covering the bases from normal spotting, to miscarriage, to the rare but potentially life-threatening wrong turn of ectopic pregnancy. That is, from the possibility that nothing was wrong to the risk that everything was.

Cora pulled off the underwear and ran water over it in the sink, squeezing her legs together as she searched in the cabinet for a panty liner, and then hobbled into the bedroom to get a fresh pair of black underwear. Lying in bed, she thought about what Elliott might be doing right now. Cooking up event plans and budgets at his desk, his shaggy brown hair mussed into a frenzy. Leaning back in his executive chair on the phone, his hazel eyes lively and warm, as he sweet-talked a potential donor who couldn’t even see the expression carefully crafted for her. Five months ago, they’d moved from Philadelphia to this small Midwestern city so that Elliott could take the helm of an up-and-coming nonprofit. It was supposed to be an exciting start to the next chapter of their lives: new jobs, their own house, a baby.

A heavy ache began to bulldoze through Cora’s abdomen. The past few weeks had been full of pangs and proddings. But this was different. More ploughing and constricting than stabby and stretchy. An email popped up on her phone, and she consulted it as if it might answer the question of what was happening to her.

Dear Cora,

I have reviewed all your edits. I would appreciate the chance to debate them with you. Can we meet later this week?

Best wishes,

She was trying to start a freelance editing business, with the hope of working on more stimulating books than she’d encountered at her previous job with a textbook company. The kind of books she liked to read— fiction, memoir, something with a strong narrative—books where the language was not governed by the need to deliver information or sell something, but was dedicated to stirring the senses, the soul. In her glummer moments, she thought that reading was the only thing she was good at, and what sort of skill was that for an adult to rely on in this world?

She’d reached out to everyone she knew, looking for potential projects; she’d made a website with a hopeful “Contact Me” link that no one had been clicking on. A few weeks ago, an acquaintance of Elliott’s had introduced her to Kurt. A sixty-something retired entrepreneur, he’d written a draft of a novel and wanted it edited. “It tackles themes of justice and honor, interwoven with a great romance,” he told her, when they met at a coffee shop. She was excited to edit her first novel, doubtful as she was that it would be any good. And indeed the opening chapters Kurt sent confirmed her doubts. The plot was absurd, the pacing completely off, the characters a grab bag of clichés, and the sentences like fence posts: all made the same wooden way. Still, as Cora worked with the text—tinkering with the prose, offering diplomatic critiques and cheerful pleas for more development—she felt the sheen of her own competence that she’d been missing since they’d moved and she hadn’t had regular work. Now here was Kurt’s response to the edits she’d sent: I would appreciate the chance to debate them with you. What was that supposed to mean? Didn’t he know to trust that a professional’s practiced eye could see what you couldn’t? And that if you disagreed with some suggested changes, you just politely ignored them? It wasn’t a matter for debate.

Her finger hovered over Elliott’s number. If she told him she was bleeding, he would be concerned but calm. In that manner that made him so excellent at his job, he would tell her to go see a doctor right away: he wouldn’t be ordering her, just making it clear—soothingly, persuasively—that he understood what needed to be done. She hadn’t even met the doctor yet; her first prenatal appointment was two weeks from now. Apparently, in early pregnancy, you weren’t supposed to need anyone to monitor your progress. You could keep it to yourself, hold it inside: a familial secret, a private triumph, belly not yet giving it away. A woman’s body was supposed to know exactly what to do.

She put the phone down and closed her eyes, the bloody flag of her underwear waving behind her eyelids. The last time it had scared her to see such a thing she was twelve years old. She’d been told what to expect from the booklet they handed out to the girls at school, and from the reports of her faster-developing friend Kari; both sources made menstruation seem like a sophisticated and wondrous event. It hadn’t fully registered somehow that having your period meant you’d bleed actual blood, and a lot of it. Discovering her stained underwear early one morning, she felt that she must have suffered a mysterious injury in the night and her life might now be draining out of her. When Cora’s mother found out what was going on, she didn’t get all teary and bake a cake, like the mother in a book Cora had read. “Well, it’s a drag, but I don’t get PMS too bad, so hopefully you won’t either,” she said. “Just carry a pad with you always, and you’ll be prepared.” She bought Cora a pink zippered pouch to keep in her backpack and said nothing more about the matter.

For the next seventeen years, her period came every month, a dependable nuisance. At times Cora had even found it comforting: a scapegoat to blame her moodiness on, an assurance that her birth control methods were working. And then, when she and her husband of two years wanted to have a baby, she had stopped taking the pill. When her period didn’t show up, the absence of blood was a reminder of its whole purpose. That monthly flow of waste product finally proved useful, stockpiled inside as nourishment for a new life, her body the womanly wonder described in the For Girls Only booklet after all.

Cora pulled her laptop off the nightstand and googled bleeding pregnancy nine weeks. The internet responded with its typical outpouring. The generically informative articles that collectively revealed nothing, mixed in with the queries and pleas and stories that told too much: the play-by-play of anxiety and confusion and prayer and nightmare and everything-turned-out-okay and my-life-is-ruined. The bad grammar and misspellings and weird punctuation and melodrama that was for the most part numbing, but sometimes some anonymous person’s naked account of their experience could get to you, and you might weep, without being sure whether you were weeping for this anonymous person or for yourself. Cora immersed herself in it for almost an hour, toggling between empathy and panic, and then she made herself go to the bathroom, where she found a splotch of blood on the panty liner, a smaller blot than last time. The tainted underwear was still in the sink. She dropped it in the trash and went back to bed.

Unless things got worse, she would wait and call the doctor tomorrow. Would count herself in the camp of first-trimester women for whom bleeding was just a symptom of pregnancy, not of its imminent end. The ones who reported happy news to the online forums: All’s well! Alive and kicking! Just a bit of spotting, nothing more. Not the others, not the sad ones, the desperate ones. She was going to close up her computer and shut those women away inside it. But there was still the matter of Kurt to attend to. She clicked on his email and donned a pleasant, casual-professional tone, while her uterus throbbed.

Dear Kurt,

I’d be happy to meet. How about Friday at 3:00, at The Whole Bean again? There’s a slight chance I might have to reschedule, but if so, of course I’ll let you know. Looking forward to talking.


Then she drove to Walgreens for maxi pads, which she hadn’t worn since she’d learned to use tampons at fifteen, but if you bled during pregnancy, the internet had just taught her, you weren’t supposed to use a tampon. The elderly cashier who rang up Cora’s purchase put the maxi pads in a plastic bag and said, “Here you are, sweetie,” as if she were tendering sympathy.

When Elliott got home, they had a dinner of baked potatoes and steamed vegetables, the only thing Cora could bring herself to prepare and eat. He was full of work gossip, a welcome distraction, but also a trigger for her jealousy: she didn’t have colleagues, she didn’t have complicated projects she was trying to get off the ground. Elliott asked how her day was, and she hesitated before telling him about the email from Kurt.

“So you’ll debate him,” Elliott said. “No big deal. Your arguments will be stronger than his, and either he’ll realize that or he won’t. His problem, not yours. It’s his book.”

“But maybe it’s my fault if I don’t communicate things in a way that gets him to understand.”

“That’s not in your control. Think about it. You show a climate change denier solid evidence of the rise in global temperature and warming oceans and shrinking polar ice sheets—and they’re like, then why was it so cold last winter?”

He was right of course. But she was not in the mood for him to be right; she was intent on feeling bad and she wasn’t going to let him stop her.

She went to bed early while Elliott watched TV in the living room. Virtuous TV: a documentary special about wildfires. She hadn’t told him about the blood, the cramping, the internet sisters she’d sought out and then tried to forget. He would be on her about that too, and even though it would be out of care, she didn’t want to have to reveal how her body might be failing both of them. In the bed that felt both luxuriously expansive and lonely without him in it, she pressed her legs together, trying to imagine that if she clenched tight enough, nothing could spill out between them. As if she could say sternly, You’re not going anywhere young lady, young man, whoever you are—and that would be that—the matter decided through her own sheer determination to keep everything inside.

The next morning, after Elliott left for work, Cora called and described her symptoms in response to the nurse’s questions. How much bleeding? A teaspoon or a tablespoon’s worth or more? About a teaspoon, Cora guessed. Pain? Cramping? Yes, but worse yesterday than today. She was glad not to be asked to quantify the pain on a scale of one to ten, which always struck her as more of a measurement of stoicism or self-pity than pain itself. The nurse was noncommittal. Cora could come in today; she could come in a few days from now. They scheduled an appointment for Monday, after the meeting with Kurt, after she’d have the weekend to talk with Elliott about what was going on—or not, depending on how things went.

And now what to do? She felt too stuck in her own reality to enjoy where a book might take her. She could call a friend, but she hadn’t told anyone yet that she was pregnant, and didn’t want to have to conceal her current uncertainty. She could do errands. Over the past month, she’d started thinking of the baby as a silent companion, accompanying her to the grocery store, the library, the bank—these ordinary places made slightly more interesting by pretending that someone else was experiencing them with her.

She made herself put on a jacket and go out for a walk. On this late September afternoon, the trees ran the gamut from a still-full leafy green, to lion’s-mane yellow, to the circuslike surprise of orangey-red. Cora didn’t know anything about trees, didn’t know their names. But on a residential street near her house, she identified a particular tree that could have been included in a field guide to her life. That species of tree had stood in a courtyard inside her high school: a serene pocket amid the teen clamor. She’d never seen anyone in the courtyard, but one day during her free period, in the fall of junior year, she tried the door and it opened. A bench flanked by those glorious trees called out to her to lie down there and read. All through that fall, she lifted nineteenth-century novels up to the sky—Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre—and the golden span of leaves formed a frame around the book. The combination of the beautiful tree and the beautiful book almost made her feel lifted out of her loneliness. She couldn’t remember babyhood, of course, what it was like to have her parents tote her around, to cling to their animal warmth. It was at sixteen years old, it seemed to her, that she most wanted to be held.

In winter she went out to the courtyard in a wool coat and gloves, the naked branches shining like bones. By spring, when the trees were budding, other students had pushed open the door, and the place was no longer hers. Sometimes Elliott Tishman—a senior, conventionally cute, effortlessly popular, the student body vice president— sat on the opposite bench with his girlfriend, Darcy, a strawberry blonde with a throaty laugh. Cora watched Darcy draw circles on Elliott’s thighs with her red fingernails while he settled his arms back behind his head and closed his eyes. The book felt heavy in Cora’s hands; she read without reading.

Six years later, after she’d graduated from college, she found herself next to him at the makeshift bar of an apartment in downtown Philadelphia. “You’re Elliott, right?” she said.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “Have we met?”

“I wouldn’t expect you to recognize me. I was a year behind you at Aberdeen.”

“Oh, I guess I must have been too mature to notice you.”

“Yeah,” she laughed.

“Also, I didn’t really talk to anybody in high school.”

“Above it all, huh?”

“No, the opposite. I didn’t think anyone would be interested in me.”

“Aw, that couldn’t have been true,” he said, and for the first time, she thought maybe that was right.

“Well anyway, Mr. Vice President, can I make you a cocktail?”

She’d figured out how to flirt in college. Though she would never be a talker or a toucher—one of those women adept at stroking men with voice or hands—she was quick and light with a conversational volley. It was like being good at writing papers: efficiently seizing the reader’s attention and leading him along.

“I’d love a cocktail,” Elliott said.

Later, when people asked how they’d met, Cora would describe him as a high school crush. “He wasn’t aware of my existence back then,” she said. “I had to bide my time, get him drunk on whiskey sours.” And Elliott would look pleased, basking in the story of having been the one pursued. Cora had learned that you could package your insecurities as self-deprecation, and that this could be charming. And she was learning, five years into their relationship, how insecurity continued to stick with her, did not dissolve because the boy she’d wanted had asked, “What would you think about getting married?”; had looked into her eyes when they had unprotected sex for the first time and said, “Maybe we’ll make a baby. Can you believe it?”

Her neighborhood was staunchly residential, with three-story houses attached to generous lawns. A great place to raise kids—how many times had she heard that already? Cora found herself differentiating the houses not by her usual criteria—whether they appeared, from the outside anyway, better or worse than her own—but according to whether they contained signs of children or not. A swing hanging from a tree branch, toddler car left in the grass, stroller on the porch, construction paper creations taped to the windows, toys visible inside. The rock garden in front of one house was teeming with plastic rats and spiders: an infestation of beady eyes, twirly tails, wink-wink creepiness. It could go either way with that one—an adult’s Halloween spirit, a kid’s practical joke. Cora would like to have consulted with the baby, to see what he or she thought of it, but the baby wasn’t taking lawn decor questions. It was preoccupied with the big ontological stuff: to be or not to be; at any moment it could slip out of this world as clotted blood and fine tissue.

Thursday night in bed, Elliott squeezed her against his bare chest, the way he did when they were likely to have sex soon. She froze, trying to figure out what to do. During her period, a little blood didn’t stop him. He’d get a towel to protect the sheet, and he licked her with his usual fervor, and then carefully eased the tampon out and set it on the nightstand. And why shouldn’t he? Men left their own sticky secretions on women all the time. Why should menstrual blood be more taboo than semen? Why should it be seen, why should she herself sometimes see it, as disgusting? Still, his nonchalance about it felt like a validation, a benediction of that basic female function essential to life, or maybe an expression of love for her in particular. But if you might be having a miscarriage, you shouldn’t have sex—the Internet and the nurse had both said this, though common sense implied as much. She certainly didn’t feel like doing it. If she told him she didn’t want to, though, without telling him the reason, her trepidation would turn into loneliness, and her deception would become sadness. She did not want to be lonely and sad in bed with her half-naked husband.

“Something might be wrong,” she said.

His tight squeeze loosened. “What do you mean?”

“I’m bleeding a little.”

“Oh. What does that … what do you think is going on?”

“I don’t know. It could be nothing. Or. It’s really common. I mean, the numbers aren’t clear, but it could be as high as twenty percent of pregnancies that end in—”

“No.” She could see him wince in the dark. “When did this start? Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I was hoping it was just—some women do bleed in early pregnancy.”

“How do you find out for sure?”

“I have an appointment on Monday and then they’ll, I guess they’ll see.”

She lay loosely in his arms, and in the silence before he began to comfort her, she could feel how she’d hurt him; and she wanted to hug him and apologize and make him feel how much she loved him, and she wanted him to stay hurt.

Kurt was already at a table when Cora got to the café, the printed pages of his manuscript stacked next to a coffee cup. He was dressed as if for a business meeting, in a pinstriped shirt and suit jacket. Cora ordered the “calm chamomile” tea and brought it over, summoning up her professional self.

“The weather’s been so nice,” she said. “When does it start to get cold here?”

“Sometime in November it’ll hit you,” Kurt said. “Listen, I’m not much for small talk. What do you think of the book so far?”

“It’s interesting,” she fumbled. “A lot of action, lots of stuff going on. Passionate characters.”

“Yes, Maurice is passionate about everything. His work, his family, his belief that justice must be done. So why did you take issue with this, here, in the scene where he proposes to Larissa?” Kurt rifled through the pages. “You said, ‘Heavy-handed. Consider toning down emotion to sharpen and particularize the characters in this pivotal moment.’ ”


“But that’s Maurice. That’s his character. So how am I supposed to show him as an emotional guy if I cut down on the emotion?”

She tried to explain how readers tended to pull back when characters were being melodramatic—crying and shouting from rooftops and making passionate declarations to each other. “Since the writer seems to be telling you to feel so much, there isn’t room to bring your own sympathies to it. See what I mean?”

Kurt frowned. “But doesn’t that depend on the reader? Some people are afraid to engage on an intense emotional level.”

“I don’t think that’s the issue. If you reined in the sentimental language here, and in other places, you could actually generate more emotion for these characters.”

“We might have to agree to disagree,” Kurt said. “Let’s take something else. You deleted all of my ellipses.” He read again from her comments on the manuscript: “ ‘Why not just end the sentence? Period, full stop. Or write what it is that you’re wanting to say.’ Now my understanding is that an ellipsis lets the reader read between the lines, use his imagination. Isn’t that what you were just suggesting I do?”

“Not really,” she said, trying to keep her composure, to explain how an ellipsis was a kind of cop-out. To hint at more without actually delivering the goods was to hide behind punctuation, to let an evasion stand in for the truth rather than writing it cold, writing it harsh, writing it thorny and complicated.

It was the universal law of things getting worse over the weekend, when the doctors’ office was closed and wouldn’t open again till Monday morning. Cora lay on the couch, pressing a hot water bottle to her throbbing abdomen, the thick maxi pad sticky between her legs. Elliott was cautiously attentive, gently massaging her shoulders. When he asked how the meeting with Kurt had gone, she told him Kurt had given her a check for the work she’d done so far. She told him her feedback hadn’t gone over that well, without describing how the guy had argued with her for an hour, twisting her editorial suggestions around with his faulty logic and misguided sense of aesthetics. Elliott, were he dealing with Kurt in some capacity at work, would have shrugged him off, but it wasn’t so easy for her to ignore. Her sense of her own professional authority stood on a pedestal built out of paper, and with a few words, someone could blow it down. Her first shot at editing a novel had failed.

In the bathroom she found more dark red, angry-looking clotted blood. So was this it, in earnest now? How much was going to come out, and would it be too much? Miscarriage. Hemorrhage. Both words shadowy and sinister—womanly in the worst way. The nurse had told her to call Labor and Delivery Triage at the hospital if the bleeding got too heavy. They knew how to deal with the complications of pregnancy at any point. But it was Labor and Delivery, Cora thought. Designed for full-term pregnant women, bursting with babies about to be born. It seemed cruel: the new mother side by side with the no-not-now mother, the not-expectant-anymore mother.

By Saturday night the bleeding had slowed down again, the cramping flattened out into a dull pelvic ache. Goddamn ellipsis.

On Sunday afternoon an email arrived from Kurt.

Dear Cora,

After some thought, I’m afraid I’ve come to the conclusion that we just aren’t the best match. So I won’t continue with your services, though I thank you for offering your unique perspective.

Best wishes,


“He’s not worth your time,” Elliott said. “Don’t worry about it. It doesn’t matter.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” she exploded. “I don’t have a job here. I have nothing. That fucking guy was all I had.”

She could see Elliott was thinking of saying something and holding his tongue. She was ashamed of her outburst but could not bring herself to soften it with an apology or a qualification. Elliott brought her a cup of tea, and then left her on the couch.

On Monday morning, Elliott drove her to the doctor’s office. The pink-lipsticked receptionist took Cora’s name, typed something, and then swiveled around to a file cabinet, producing a folder and a book, Our Bodies, Ourselves: Pregnancy and Birth. Cora recoiled at the cover: a gaggle of smiling women holding babies. “Why are you giving me this?”

“It’s complimentary for all maternity patients,” the receptionist said, unfazed.

Cora turned toward the waiting room where Elliott was sitting and looking up at her, and silently handed him the book. She opened the folder to find an array of informational sheets and pamphlets: Manage Your Birth Plan, Consider Cord Blood Donation, Prenatal Yoga Classes. It was like giving a diabetic a bunch of recipes for cookies and cakes.

In the examination room, she stripped from the waist down and wrapped the thin sheet around herself. Elliott, in a chair next to a diagram of the female reproductive system, looked so thoroughly dressed in his work clothes: khaki pants with a leather belt cinching a purple-checked button-down, probably the first piece of clothing she’d ever bought for him, a birthday present four years ago. She remembered wandering through the racks in the men’s department at Nordstrom, thumbing the strangely large masculine clothing, savoring the pleasure of buying a shirt for her lover. “I’m a little jealous,” Elliott had said about the fact that she, as a woman, could be capable of growing a baby. But she wondered whether, given the opportunity, he would really prefer to be the one carrying it for nine months rather than to remain as he was, with his tailored shirt tucked neatly into his trim pants, having already played his brief part, nothing dependent on him anymore.

Dr. Krish came in and shook their hands; she was a gray-haired woman about Cora’s mother’s age. Cora had always stood in awe of doctors, though she’d certainly never wanted to be one. They dealt with people’s pain, with the harsh realities of the body; they delivered awful news. Perhaps being an editor was a lesser profession, nitpicky and inessential—but at least the worst news she had to deliver was that the writer could do a better job with his words.

She lay with her legs splayed apart, and the doctor’s gloved hands reached up inside. “The cervix is open,” Dr. Krish said, a statement that sounded neutral, perhaps even positive in terms of a visceral response, open = good, but in pregnancy the gates were supposed to be shut tight, like the cabin door of an airplane, until the safe landing, the joyful arrival.

“I’m going to do an ultrasound to see what’s going on,” the doctor said calmly, and Cora thought of the worried women online who’d turned out to still be pregnant in the end, whose babies showed up on ultrasounds and proved their anxious mothers wrong—they weren’t gone, weren’t vanished into nothing. She couldn’t decipher the images that appeared on the screen in front of her, except to recognize that the machine kept zooming in on something: an asteroid blob in a lunar landscape.

“It’s been ten weeks since your last period, yes?” the doctor asked, and Cora nodded. “It looks like the fetus is measuring seven weeks. Most likely it stopped growing then and has taken some time to descend. That’s quite common.”

The doctor paused. “I’m very sorry. We could do a D&C and remove it immediately if you want, but I don’t think it’s necessary. You should be fine waiting at home, if you feel comfortable with that. There’s also a suppository I could prescribe that’s likely to move things along more quickly

“If it’s any comfort, a miscarriage is usually the body’s way of ending a pregnancy that was never going to be viable. At this point, I don’t see that it should affect your future chances of conceiving and carrying through to term.”

In the parking lot, they sat in the car holding hands, like a very young couple. It felt more intimate than an embrace. “I guess it shouldn’t matter now, but I was hurt that you didn’t tell me right away, when you started bleeding,” Elliott said.

“I know,” Cora said. “I’m sorry.”

“So why didn’t you?”

“There isn’t a good reason. I wasn’t sure what was going on. I was scared. I was trying to pretend it wasn’t happening. And I didn’t want you to be disappointed.”

“You don’t need to protect me,” he said.

Of course, she had also been protecting herself. Sometimes she felt as if she were still lying alone on that high school bench, clinging to an imaginary romance full of passion (the kind of book Kurt had wanted to write perhaps, but it was so damn hard to pull off), while Elliott and Darcy pressed against each other on the opposite bench. Even though that time was long past. Even though he’d chosen her. And had said one night, a week or so after they’d learned she was pregnant, “I was thinking, if you hadn’t made me a drink, we wouldn’t be here, having a baby together. So thanks for that drink.”

Pain woke her up in the middle of the night, forced her out of bed doubled over, into the bathroom, where she pulled off her pajama bottoms. The misoprostol she’d inserted in her vagina before bed must be working then, moving things along, as the doctor had said. The on-and-off discomfort of the past week had become an urgent wrenching feeling, like something was trying to extricate itself. The fifteen minutes of online research she’d allowed herself revealed that the medication was often prescribed for do-it-yourself abortions. Somewhere, at this moment, another woman cringed on a toilet, praying that what she’d never wanted to happen would end here and now. In a hospital somewhere, a woman was laboring to push out a baby she already knew was dead. And a woman who hadn’t suspected that anything was wrong was wondering why it had emerged from her body without a sound, why she wasn’t hearing the inevitable crying of a naked newborn, stunned by sudden light and cold.

Cora heard a pop, felt a slippery shape, like an egg—she was shocked at the obviousness of it—slide out of her, and what followed was clear relief, a sense of having eliminated the obstruction. She thought about waking Elliott up and telling him, calling him into the bathroom with her as witness. But she realized she didn’t want a witness. After a while she got up and flushed the toilet without looking, though she wondered what it would be like to be the sort of person who would want to see, whose curiosity would overtake her fear.

When had it started, where had it come from—the belief that she had to keep all her muck, her mistakes, her failures hidden until some dream of a magical time when she might be old enough, graceful enough, smart enough, to leave all of that behind? As if perfection were a class you could sign up for, but every time she attempted to register, it was already filled to capacity. As if her marriage to Elliott was a competition she was losing, or some fraudulent scheme she’d pulled off, and when it was uncovered, he wouldn’t want to be with her after all. As if she wasn’t getting editing work because people had become such good writers now, they didn’t need editors anymore. They were sailing through reports and academic treatises, memoirs and novels—arriving at the last page and boom, done. Sentences, paragraphs, whole chapters: everything emerging fresh in the fittest incarnation of itself. Each punctuation mark beautifully in service to the effortless flow of syntax, each word the best possible word. As if you could set out to do something and get it right the first time, as if the whole of life wasn’t about trying again.

From the book Look How Happy I’m Making You by Polly Rosenwaike. Copyright © 2019 by Polly Rosenwaike. To be published by Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.

Period, Ellipsis, Full Stop