I am a pen. Not a fancy pen. I am your standard ballpoint pen. I have a white plastic body, each day I wear, almost without a choice, a green necktie and top hat, or as some probably refer to them, a green clip and clicker. If I look down my side, there is a message written, conveniently in the same color as my aforementioned head gear and neckwear, that reads “Fuller Family Dentistry, 555-9975”.
My first memory, the first thing I ever jotted down, was the appointment time for Jason Moore’s root canal. The receptionist’s computer had yet to boot up when Mr. Moore called so I was delegated the task of knowing “ Jason Moore RC 6/10 4pm”. It was not the most illustrious uncapping that a pen could have but it does add to the diversity that has been my writing career, my life. I spent the rest of my first day less-than-gracefully somersaulting between the receptionist’s fingers and unrhythmically tapping out the beat of music playing in Dr. Fuller’s office. I was hoping for some reprieve, all that ink constantly shifting around inside me was making me a bit queasy and I feared that the next time I stepped tip on the paper I might get sick, when my savior walked in for a teeth cleaning. He leaned toward the portly side, I imagined how cozy it must be nestled against the overstuffed cushions of his fingers. He was well-dressed though and had not loosened his tie for this lunch break errand. He looked the type to have his own pen, most likely a monogramed rollerball with a pearlized finish or maybe even a marbleized, pearlized one. Such a pen was not in attendance, however, for as he walked in, talking on the phone and wearing a face that showed his current conversation was lasting only for want of something, he did the customary pocket tap indicative of needing an instrument of my genus. Understanding full well the meaning of this seemingly universal gesture, my part-receptionist, part-drummer guardian handed me over, not knowing that it would be end of our brief relationship, for this gentleman would turn out to be a pen thief. It is a fairly circulated statistic, at least in my world, that almost 85 percent of pens will at some point in their lives become the victim of abduction. I stepped my way across his palm, immediately beginning my new job, before I was absentmindedly, or seemingly absentmindedly, placed inside his jacket. I hibernated in that pocket for five days before he wore my temporary home again. His eventual enthusiasm for having found me made my ink swell with pride. A little appreciation can go a long way. Over the next few weeks, I was jostled from pocket to pocket, desktop to desk drawer to desktop. I became fast friends with a daily planner, who was my partner in making sure our patron remembered all of his business affairs. I had finally reached the level of comfort that one feels when the training part of a new job is over and a routine is in place. Then it happened. The afternoon was normal enough, that is until I dozed off on our way to a meeting. It was a nice day, my benefactor was married to a woman with suggestions of “healthier habits”, and we were walking to our lunch date. He placed me in his pants pocket, as his jacket had not been invited to join, it was simply too much for the day’s heat. The sway of his walk turned my cubicle into a breezy, tropical hammock. I practically had no choice but to fall asleep. I was dreaming of being one of those pens whose ink color can be changed with the click of a button when suddenly a strong gust of wind woke me up. It took a few seconds to realize it but I had rolled over in my sleep and was now leaning over a dark precipice. There was a hole in his pocket. I held on as long as I could but the inevitable happened and I slipped through the hole and down the cotton slide of his pant leg and onto the sidewalk. To this day I am grateful that we were not passing over a sewer grate at that fateful moment. Anyway, life goes on and as I watched him walk away, unaware of my absence, I decided to take the opportunity to enjoy the summer sun.
I laid there for maybe a little too long, sunscreen has yet to be developed for my kind and with my ultra light complexion I often worry about too much exposure, before five little fingers grappled to pick me up. He could not have been more than three years old and our time together lasted mere seconds before his mother yelled something about how gross I was and he reluctantly dropped me. I felt a little prematurely judged but I can admit that I also would have preferred to have been a little cleaner. The momentum of the drop rolled me right under the loafer of a young woman a few feet behind the mother-son pair. Contemplation of my worthiness crossed her face before she plucked me up, gave me a cursory swipe on her jeans as though that could have done anything to remove the microscopic hitchhikers that I no doubt picked up, and tossed me into her handbag.
The next light I saw was the purposely dim cast of low hanging lamps in a coffee shop. My newest blind date was an unlined notebook. The best kind of notebook in my opinion. When the pages are ruled, I am forced to never lose focus, always have to toe the line. Unruled paper, though, gives me the freedom to side step a bit, use a little artistic license. I quickly learned what was expected of my union with this lovely specimen of bundled pages- we were to make poetry. I do not know if it was dozens of times that I was used to rhyme ‘love’ with every other ‘-ove’ word in the English language or just how whimsical the experience felt but I do believe I fell in love that day. I would have given anything to tell those beautiful pages that the words I inked at another’s behest could have just as readily been my own, but our affair ended just as quickly as it had began. The poet and her journal exited the coffee shop and I was left behind with a ceramic mug, an empty stomach and a broken heart.
It is hard for me to remember what happened over the next few hours but I do know that I eventually ended up clipped to the brim of a barista’s apron. Thankfully the apron went home with the barista because I do not know if I could have handled being alone just then. Her tabletop was nice enough and from some doodles that I saw scattered about, I would at least have my work to keep my mind off of things. Doodlers are a hit or miss, however. Some give a pen the brief opportunity to flex their creative muscles. Maybe it is just concentric circles or a series of flowers and stars or stars made into flowers, or flowers within stars, but it is the recess of pens. It can be meditative, too. A sort of yoga for writing utensils. It is peaceful to become lost in a holder’s carefree but methodical movements. But then, there are the “blackout” doodlers. The ones who seek to completely eradicate the pristine surface of their paper. I have seen many a brother in arms die valiantly, if not futilely, in the hands of such a creature. With relentless dedication to the cause, they will hemorrhage their lifeblood in hopes that their sacrifice will be enough, only to find the empty shell of who they once were shaken for proof of death, flippantly disregarded and readily replaced by an equally devoted and fated comrade. This doodler was fairly harmless, though. She simply sketched comic style cats and wrote and rewrote her name, sometimes in print and sometimes in cursive. I shared her tiny apartment with her for nearly five months, drawing every variation imaginable of spots, stripes and patches on hundreds of different felines, until one Sunday morning when she brought me to the park to read the newspaper with her. We had circled a few job options, underlined a few words, do not ask I do not know why, basically, everything was going great until we arrived at the puzzles section. As with most families, the pen family has its share of intellectual types. The ones who can complete the Sunday New York Times Crossword in thirty minutes. They have poured themselves into knowing all about Greek gods and Roman mythology, classic movies and their even more classic stars, obscure Nobel Peace Prize winners and an entire dictionary worth of banal sayings. Real know-and-spell-it-alls. Up until this point, I had been able to pride myself on once having been used on a Wednesday paper that included the clue “Pen, in Mexico perhaps.” and being able to effortlessly fill in the five boxes with the appropriate P-L-U-M-A. Sunday, however, was more than I could handle. I was ashamed. I did not want to let her down, did not want her to see how unseasoned and unworldly I really was so instead of floundering for responses and not having the right letters for all of the awaiting spaces, I held my breath until she believed that I was out of ink. I cannot say that I am proud but in the moment I panicked and it was the only thing I could come up with. Thankfully there were no garbage cans around or else the repercussions of this plan would have been much worse. Instead she left me sitting on the newspaper. If I had been quick enough to find a seven letter stretch in the puzzle of our undoing, I would have liked to tell her goodbye.
It was from that black and white surface, however, that my most recent sponsor acquired me. He is still in high school so I have a lot of homework to do but I actually really enjoy it. My favorite subject is math. There is something hypnotizing about numbers. How things always seem to add up. It is a nice change of pace. Plus, I like some of his other classes too. For instance, just this week his English teacher assigned a creative writing project where he is suppose to experience the world from an entirely different perspective and as thank-you for all of the things that he has taught me, I have agreed to let him use my story.