I might as well start with a column about punctuation. It really does seem to be the most appropriate subject to tackle — 2004 Election … or punctuation? I mean, what could be more relevant or substantive than a discussion about punctuation? I have limitless options before me — a veritable buffet of political musings or awkward stories regarding my promiscuous sex life. By “my,” I clearly mean my sloot, not slut, of a roommate. Fine, I’m really talking about myself! No, seriously, my roommate is a crazy ho.

It would be a bold-faced lie to say I was surprised by the invite to write this column. The first thought that crossed my mind was “It’s about F***ing time you people thought of me! (close-up on Jana making her bad-attitude face). My god, what does a brown girl on this campus have to do to get a little love from the YDN?” Just so we’re all clear, I’m apparently still waiting for that love from Rumpus. Has anyone seen a token Indalian beauty — my moniker for Indian and Italian combinations — in the 50 Most Issue? That’s what I thought.

It’s a little much to jump right in with “Detachable Penises — let’s talk about that.” It’s like someone getting personal the first time you hook up and weepily confessing their self-image insecurities. That’s too much, it’s just too much! You’re thinking “how long would it take me to chew my way through this duvet and drag myself to emotional safety?” If you had wanted something scary and intense, you would have gotten drunk and “caught up” with your suitemates. But I digress.

So at last I will tell you my cautionary tale of punctuation. Think of it as a sort of journalistic lubricant. I don’t want to rush things, so we’ll all just take it nice and slow. Take this story for what it is, the misadventure of a zany girl with an uncanny knack for social awkwardness. Upon second reading you will notice that this story also functions as finely crafted, multi-dimensional allegory for the political climate of our nation and the cultural impacts, on a global level, of that great force known as Modernity. (Close-up on Jana’s editor shaking her head slowly from left to right. Her eyes suggest she’s NOT amused).

Perhaps not everyone is familiar with the trusty old dash (–). I’ve done my best to throw a couple into this column, just to warm you up. I’m a fan of the dash — it feels a little more formal than my personal favorite — the ellipses … which have such a bad rap and have thus been relegated to the realms of creative writing and uncomfortable summer travel logs from people who are not really your friends. Beyond being the formalized version of ellipses, the dash — just in case some of you respond to more visual storytelling — has its own special role in the world of play-writing. The dash is used to mark a line of dialogue interrupted by another character or action. It marks an unfinished line of dialogue. It would be like be describing this and —

Oh, you’d jump in and interrupt me! See how that works? So, on with the story … This past Sunday I was rehearsing in the Af-Am house and was working through a scene where one of my lines of dialogue was dashed. Like all fine persons of the craft, I’ve been taught to imagine the words that would come after the dash. While running this scene, I see an incredibly handsome young man quietly move along the side of the room and toward the piano in the back. My dashed line of dialogue arrives and so without much thought I continue the line so that the words flow out of my mouth something like this:

“My husband will put a ring on my finger, and I’ll have me a white dress and then he’ll get on top of me — end of actual scripted dialogue and beginning of Jana’s improvisation — and then he’ll stick it in me and give it to me long and hard.”

At this point the mysterious young man by the piano looks at me with wide eyes and slight disbelief, smiles sheepishly and quickly exits. Now I thought I had been slightly clever, slightly shocking, but mostly just amusing. It was significantly less amusing when my castmates informed me that our mystery guest was an ordained minister. My luck, a minister. Clever, shocking and amusing now converts to a blaring, blinking sign that reads “Inappropriate.”

Our dear minister had only come back into the room to retrieve his Bible. At this point I’ve simply pitched a tent in the hole I’m in — there is no way out. Call back the rescue squad. (Voice Over: All passengers boarding flight 666, one way, non stop to HELL, we will begin boarding now.)

And so I tell you to love blank spaces after dashes — they are there for a reason.

Jana Sikdar would like to apologize to anyone she may have offended in this column. She realizes that punctuation is a very controversial subject.