Monday, January 7, 2013

"The Wandering Pen"

Sitting on my desk at about “Ten O’clock” as the military assigns locations is a rapidly tarnishing, metal – brass, bronze, I don’t know, do I look like a metallurgist to you? – desk lamp, that, you pull a chain and the light goes on.

I no longer recall where I got it, but I have had the lamp for at least twenty years, and beyond its illuminational properties, its venerability has always been a substantial source of comfort to me, as in, “I am older than I used to be.  But I am not as old as that lamp.”

Moving closer to the point… 

The lamp-in-toto includes a metal base, from which rise two penholders, the pens, being long-stemmed straight pens, coffee-brown, plastic cylinders – except they narrow at both ends though more so at the top – decorated with fake gold trim. 

I try not to use them too often, because, now that the stationary stores have gone away, I cannot easily find refills for them, once the ink in their long-narrow-tubes-attached-to-the-point runs out.  For some time, till I found a place that carried those refills, I had the company of two dead pens, standing impotently in their holders.

Now here’s the thing.  And trust me, you will shortly be scratching your heads in confusion, amazement and disbelief, mostly the latter, but I promise you this is true.

For long stretches of time, the longest lasting more than two years, one of the pens ensconced in one of the penholders on my desk lamp abruptly…


I do not know if it’s the same pen.  These are twin pens; they look exactly the same.  It could, however, be the same pen, as I have moved them around so much – placing the pen I am using in whichever holder happens to be empty at the time – that I am unable to definitively say, “That is the left penholder pen, and that is the right.”

I just know that when I inadvertently glance in the “Ten O’clock” direction as I am working away at my computer, I notice – and not for the first time – that one of them is missing.  Never two – just because they’re identical twin pens does not mean they socialize – always just one.

The remarkable thing is that, whichever pen is gone?

It inevitably – and I mean always

Comes back.

My wife had a grandfather like that.  A vagabond, who left hearth and home for long stretches of time, but who, eventually, always came back.  That’s what I have – a pen like my wife’s grandfather.

Notice I said, “The pen comes back”, rather than, “I eventually find it.”  That is not how it works.  I never find it.  Nowadays, I do not even bother to look, as I have feverishly done in the past.  Right now, there in no pen in the right penholder and my search was at best perfunctory, as I know that looking for it does no good whatsoever.  It will come back on its own.  Which explains why I am taking this in stride.  This is not like the single sock that gets lost in the laundry.  Those things never come back.  That’s just infuriating! 

The renegade pen will return.  In its own time.  When it’s ready.

I have occasionally speculated on where the pen goes.  I have read about (and have even conceived an animated feature about) runaway parrots who instinctively find each other and form communities in runaway-parrot-designated trees.  There’s a famous documentary about this phenomenon:  The Parrots Of Telegraph Hill.  (I should show you my outline for the movie sometime.  I wrote it as a poem.  It’s pretty interesting.  Lemme write myself a reminder about that… Okay, I’m done.)

I have wondered if runaway pens do something similar.  There’s this place in Manhattan called “Pen Station.”  Maybe they go there.  No, wait.  That’s “Penn Station.”  Never mind.

I must admit that the lamp does look a little “off” without two pens.  It’s kinda lopsided, a gunfighter totin’ a two-gun holster, but only one gun.  This off-kilter firearm arrangement attracts at least attention, and at worst derision. 

“What do you put in the other one, a banana?”

My desk lamp is thankfully free of such abuse.  And I have to say, as the years have passed, I barely notice the pen’s absence.  I just shrug acceptingly, and file “‘the wandering pen’ situation” among the “Unexplained Wonders of the World”, one of life‘s fascinating mysteries, which I cannot explain and will never understand.  I am fine with that.  It is simply the way it is.

Okay, I’ve had enough of this.  Fess up!  It’s killing you that there’s only one pen.  I’ve seen you frantically looking for the other one – not in the past, this time – clearing off your desk, crawling underneath it, among the nests of computer wires and boxes of stored mailing envelopes.  You are desperate to find that pen!  We know you.  You’re a person of obsessive orderliness.  You cannot put your wallet down on a table without compulsively “squaring it up!”  And you’re trying to convince us that a desk lamp with two penholders but only one pen is not driving you crazy?  I mean, come on!  You spent an entire post writing about it, are you kidding me? – "The Blue Truth" (that Earl can’t see, so don’t expect him to react to it.)

Easy-peasy.  The pen’s gone – it’ll come back. 

I’ll let you know when it does.  And you let me know if you see it, okay?  Tell it to come home.  On second thought, don’t.

I am perfectly fine without it.   


Rez Spiest said...

Teller took it.

JED said...

Your pen sounds like a cat and you sound like a person in a house with a cat who pretends he doesn't like cats but really misses them when they are gone.

You could always put up posters with a picture of the other (identical) pen and say something like, "Reward offered - I'll name a character after you if you return the pen." Oh wait, that hasn't worked for Dennis Lehane and his missing dog.

Cavendish said...

Saw this preview for The Lone Ranger, recently, starring Armie Hammer as the masked man and Capt Jack Sparrow as Tonto.