Pens attract me like a white shirt attracts coffee. I love the click, that satisfying sound the pen emits when you press the button to make the tip of the ink cartridge drop out of the barrel. I cock my head, right ear tilted upward, eyes to heaven, finger poised on the clicker waiting
I don’t want a sleek button, silent as a cat burglar, good for taking notes surreptitiously in meetings but not so good for making a point. The click announces “I’m ready.” It’s the revving engine. The horse race bugle. The crack of the gun at the starting blocks in the 4 x 100 relay. Go!
Slightly better than the click is the flow of ink from a fountain pen. My fountain pen needs a little shake to get it started, kind of like me. Sometimes it scratches the paper – another satisfying sound that puts me in a candlelit room with a coal burning fire behind an iron grate, my head cradled in one hand as I carve words into the paper with a reluctant nib. At last the pen glides over the paper, the nib racing, barely touching. Smooth. Thoughts and pen come together.
Writing with a fountain pen slows me down because I want to shape pretty letters as much as I want to write worthy sentences. I like the visual connection with the physical act of writing. When I write with a fountain pen it almost feels like painting words.
I notice when I write in cursive that not all my letters connect. I print some letters and use cursive for others, especially “t’s”. I try to remember the penmanship lessons learned when I was eight years old, making sure each letter has a runway leading into the letter and that the tail ends close the loops. When I write with a fountain pen I have to make big enough loops so when the ink bleeds, the l’s don’t look like i’s. My writing expands with a fountain pen.
Broken letters are like my incomplete poems and stories, compositions interrupted by daily necessities like work and listening to my daughter’s concerns over co-op applications or job hunting or exams. How the ramps on the first letter of my first word is a deep breath, a running start and if I keep my pen down and don’t let go, maybe something will get done, that even if the letters aren’t joined, the sentence will be clear. If I slow down, everything will come together.