This is an amazing guest post: a short story by Alexa Lash – a writer, editor, and on-the-spot poet. Former Floridian and resident Bostonian, she has written for the Seminole Chronicle, Momslikeme, and the Central Florida Future, and is currently studying Publishing at Emerson College. Illustration by Dave Mott.

Kern, Baby, Kern: A Relationship in Typographical Terms

He had a point: I was definitely not his type.

When we kissed, I angled awkwardly. His dashes—pregnant with silence—plagued me. And this I’d always forget, when he held my hair back ‘til I looked almost decorative, rested his hand to my cheek and filled the white space with words, always words, stressed verticals and unnecessary exclamations.

Then the relationship dried like ink. We smeared, our love illegible; my tears, matte black. I overlooked the bad moments, the mistypes and missteps and the slow change in leading. You’d think I could have seen it coming, all those signs and symbols shouting “this is the end of the line.” Love made a dingbat out of me.

I can remember the first time I saw him on display; I knew he’d be my univers, my modern man, without serif or sadness, all geometric curves and bold features. “Get hip to the times,” he’d say over newspaper columns and the coffee pot stain left in a perfect O. I measured his words in picas, unsure if he was joking. Then he called me his cooper black and laughed.

Once, he told me, we could make beautiful ligatures together. I blushed a saturated red and he held me, complimenting my face, my character. Our relationship fit, like words on a page. I felt illuminated, hand-written.

But he hated my family, couldn’t stand the way our brackets curved just so. It all seemed scripted, these words and this movement, tracking out to distances of 60 or 80 points away. It was then I descended past point size, wavered from a cool 12 to near-13, enlarged with chalk tears and misspellings of “I love you.” Comic sans the humor. Times old roman. Outdated, overused.

“You’re old-style, baby. I’m the futura.”

We paused, creating gutter space. Yet he lashed at me, spits of hot ink and metal, words formed in lines and then smashed to a plate.

Just tell me the truth. Are you seeing someone else? I was thick with fear, my width expanding.

“No, sugar,” he said, his face unchanged.

My breath ran ragged right. He could go to helvetica for all I cared. I gauged the way he walked away, his body swaying italic. It was when he double-spaced and shifted I could feel my heart, now laid out on a text block, slice and splutter. His dagger words cut me in half and I could sense him kern too much, too quickly.

“It’s all just typography, anyway. You know what that means, baby? Typography?”

No, I did not know what that meant.

I had seen them, hands clasped too tight, fumbling with buttons and fingers, fumbling for meaning. It was grotesque. She curved and cooed, her eyes slanted and lustful. He had left me for Mrs Eaves.

For a while after, I moaned and pleaded for him to take me back. He knocked me off-center. I appeared unbalanced, drunk with anger and clawing at old photos of him and me when our relationship made headlines, when our relationship had subtext. What I needed, though, was a defined line between recto and verso, and the context capable of indexing my feelings (for breakup, see heartbroken).

He didn’t love me anymore. I didn’t want to admit it, then; because together we had fooled the world, juxtaposed and intimate and alive. He used me, bleeding me to the edge of the page. I baselined and lowered. He dropped me like a capital letter.

And the kicker? When Mrs Eaves and he would fight, he’d call me and indent my life with “I miss you.” I readjusted, and after a month could sense the empty spaces fill with a hybrid of hate and pity. Another month passed before I met him in person. His geometric curves had skewed and he reeked of vulnerability.

Look, you, you’re making me feel a little, well, boxed in. He looked through me as I said this. Are you listening to me?

He pulled my quote from the air as if he was pulling it from his sleeve. “So, Mrs Eaves…”

He curled in front of me, turning into cursive, foreign and hard to read. I bulleted him, listing, one by one his faults. I insulted his lack of spine, his lack of sense. You’re an idiot, you know that? You can’t commit to anyone. I ascended above x-height. We weren’t together because it was not in our design.

I’m past this page, baby. I’ve moved on. I thought you’d understand better than anybody that it’s just typography, baby. Just typography.

I walked out, my body swaying italic.

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