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The Story of An X (Twice Told)

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A Story of an X

A Twice Told Tale

By Liz Newbury



When two letters love each other, after a time they will naturally create a wider vocabulary. This is what happened in the case of O and P. They were expecting to create a charming little N or a curvy little C, something that would fit well into the scheme of science. That was where all the good letters went, you know. Into science or engineering or chemistry. They were quite surprised when the nurse came out and declared,

“Congratulations… it’s an X!”

Surely there must be some mistake. But no, it had its parents cursive swirl and distinctive wide Latin spacing. The X was there’s.

The parents were not entirely unpleased. After all, it was a letter. They vowed to raise it as such, and support it despite the odds, which they were only too well aware existed due to the flood of media into their little alphabet abode. When it was still quite lowercase, O told X, “You can be whatever you want to be! Your letter doesn’t matter!” P would play documentary films and encourage the X with an easy bake proton pack.

X was quite confused. When it was in its domicile, it would be awash with support and encouragement; sometimes too much, but never too little, but you can never have quite enough of a good thing. But when it managed to attend Cursive Academy, it was constantly being teased by the other letters. “You want to be a scientist? You can’t! You’re an X! There’s no ‘x’ in science!”

The X wondered why not. Assuredly science would look better with an ‘x’ snuggled between the two vowels, it thought.

Discouragement and encouragement, ups and downs, they come from all directions for the little x. And it continues for the rest of its life, afterall, where does an x belong? Someone took it out of the equation.

18 years passed and soon the X is off to college. But even here in the higher learner, the X is still waffling, still trying to figure out where it belongs. Science good, science bad? Is X in the equation for science at all? Back and forth the X would try to decide whether it wanted to fight the system that said it could not go into science simply because of its diagonal anatomy or not bother at all.

In the end, still torn, the X decides to get it one last try in college. Sink or swim, the motto goes, and so the X picked the Intro to Physics course to see if an X could fly in science. It was reassured by the guidance counselor that there was no harm in trying – afterall, the worst that could happen is the X fails. The best that could happen is the X would get graduation credit.

Arriving in the physics lecture hall, the X as small as an ant. Dwarfed by the theater, it hung to the back, suddenly aware that its every move could be scrutinized by its future classmates. If the X sat in the back, it would be invisible. This would not be conducive to learning, but completely expected of an X. Yet if the X sat in the front, eager to learn, would it look too eager? Would it be compensating for something? Would it be trying too hard to blend in, or would it still stand out as a token X in a sea of more curvaceous letters? Science would not be so hard on a X if they remembered it wasn’t about the shape of the letter.

X was so often left out of the discourse. Held tight under glass ceilings or held up as token letters, an X could never be with the other letters due to the stereotypes surrounding its physical structure. It didn’t have the capacity to be in the scientific equation much less the vocabulary. Who could solve for X?

What could it take to make an X feel they were wanted in science?

“Hello! I’m Professor Y. As in ‘why don’t we start some physics?’”


Y’s are in science. Everyone knows that!

Suddenly, the X felt like it was not quite so alone.