___________ Rivers of white space -- copyright  1992, 1999 ruth pettis

ruth pettis

I can't tell you how many times I've read the obituary. I keep wanting it to tell me more, as if repeated readings could wear away the surface and reveal answers to all the questions lurking in my mind. The newsletter editor must have reprinted it verbatim out of the local paper. It mentions her family, for instance, but not her lovers. Who knows if she had anyone at the end? I had lost track of her these last ten years.

It was Lou who taught me how to check wordspacing in a galley proof. You hold it upside down and blur your eyes a little. If you can't tell where one word begins and the next ends, the type is too tight. If the spacing between words is really obvious, the type is too loose. If you can just barely make out the separations between words when you look at it that way, it's just right.

Given that we were the only dykes working in that shop, we found plenty of excuses to talk. She would tell me the same things over and over, never remembering that I'd heard them before. It bothered me that our conversations were so ephemeral in her mind. I always intended to ask her why she forgot; each time it happened it made me angry a little, but I kept quiet and didn't bring it up. And in the better moments it didn't seem important so I let it slide.


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