When I graduated college, my friend bought me, among other things, a fancy pen in celebration of my English degree.
The pen is silver and very shiny, though not so shiny as it was before I first used it. Now it is slightly grubby with my fingerprints. I wonder what is says about me that I see my own fingerprints upon my own pen as grubby, instead of a normal mark of ownership.
The middle section of the pen is inscribed with fleurs-de-lis, a motif I have always admired. Perhaps I am drawn to it instinctively—my mother, a dedicated genealogist, tells me I have the blood of monarchs within my veins. Or maybe I am the reincarnation of some peasant’s soul, and am even now awed by a traditional symbol of royalty and my current right to profane it with my touch. Perhaps this is why my fingerprints seem grubby to me.
Either way I wonder how my friend happened to pick it out for me. Did she simply know me so well that she could look at it and identify that I would like it? Or have I mentioned at some point in the misty, murky past of the many years of our friendship that I love fleur-de-lis? They both seem equally likely.
The pen is elaborate, though still a practical ball-point. It is also wider and heavier than a normal pen, and holding it in my hand feels different; weightier. Almost as if it is heavy with all the ponderous, significant things I should write with it. And yet, so far all I have done is describe a pen.
I think the box it came in is worthwhile to mention—it is covered in phrases from great literary classics. Some I recognize instantly from books I love and books I hate; others, I can easily infer the source; still others, I am unsure.
It occurs to me that the box might have been designed with the intent of inspiring whoever would use its precious cargo. At least, I want to believe this, and I smile as I picture some passionate bibliophile like myself painstakingly sifting through literature and agonizing over which beloved words will make the final cut.
When you open it, the pen is nestled in some sort of springy foam, cut so there is a resting place for the pen. Truthfully, wedged is more an appropriate word than nestled. It is a bit of a challenge to get the pen out, and I like that. It’s as if you must truly be committed to using the pen, and again I smile as I picture some erstwhile Pen Box Designer with an earnest adoration of the written word.
I pause, and wipe the fingerprints from my pen again with one hand, even as I hold it clutched in the other. It is patently silly, and almost plebeian in its irony. I ponder that my provincial musings might not be far off. I begin writing again, feeling my fingertips leaving smearing fingerprints.
Briefly, the ink sputters, and I wonder if the Ink Filler was not as dedicated to writing as his fellow hypothetical collaborators, even as I panic. If my pen goes out, I will have to take the time to find a new one, and who knows what thoughts might dissipate forever while I do? What if while I am searching for a replacement pen, the thought that would become my masterpiece slips in one ear and out the other?
It hits me:
So much depends
a silver ink
emblazoned with black
above a white
There is nothing from William Carlos Williams on my pen’s box, and I find myself regretting that. Perhaps that fabled Pen Box Designer also had a peasant’s soul, and he felt he had no right to ruin the poem’s format by putting it on a box lid. Still, I would have done it. I do not think William Carlos Williams would have minded.
Perhaps I am a royal, after all.