From today's New York Times, "The Semicolon Was Our Blinking Caution Light" by Jamie Callan:
Midway through the semester he asked me what the rules are when it comes to the semicolon.
“What do you mean?” I asked, smiling, stalling for time.
“I don’t know what it’s for. It confuses me.”
“Well, the semicolon is tricky,” I said. I had no idea how to use a semicolon. “Actually I think it’s best to avoid it at all costs. It will only get you into trouble.”
This got a laugh.
But after class he persisted. He looked at me with eyes so brown they were almost black. He was wearing a black T-shirt and black jeans, and he told me he had recently taken a job as a short-order cook at Friendly’s and was also working in a gas station on weekends to pay his way through college. He liked to fish and planned to study marine biology, and as he leaned into me he told me he really wanted to understand how to use the semicolon.
“I’m actually not sure,” I told him. “But I’ll find out for you.”
THAT night I read in “Woe Is I” by Patricia T. O’Conner that the semicolon is like a blinking yellow light between two connected but independent sentences. You read through the first sentence, but before going to the next, the semicolon warns you to slow down and look both ways.
I told this to my student, and he seemed pleased. Not just pleased with
the information but with the fact that I had looked it up just for him. I suspect he also must have been pleased about the meaning itself, about proceeding with caution, because that’s how he and I proceeded in whatever it was we were or weren’t doing. For me, being in his presence but not being able to act on my feelings or ask him about his was heated and excruciating.
Reader, she married him. Even though I don't believe she actually answered his question. But what do I know? Semicolons are mysterious things...