Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


No. 2 Pencil

Filed under: Personal History — Laura Moncur @ 10:06 am

(transcribed from handwritten document)

I had forgotten how good it feels. The moment I put the pencil in the sharpener I could feel the excitement. This was no ordinary pencil. This pencil is shiny and prismatic. This pencil has my name printed on the side. This pencil is special. I turn it in the sharpener, watching the shine and prism slowly peel away, exposing the dark lead.

All of us learn to write in the second grade. Most of us go on to greater things. Bobby Knight (1940 – )

I had forgotten the smell. As a child, I imagined that the scent of freshly cut wood would be like the smell of a recently sharpened pencil. I was so disappointed by the actual smell of freshly cut wood. It smelled like greenery and Christmas. Nothing like a freshly sharpened pencil. If you were to ask me to describe the scent of thinking, I would tell you to sharpen a pencil and hold the tip to your nose.

I had forgotten the sound. I remember listening to thirty pencils all writing on single pieces of paper. It was most noticeable during a test. If you were to ask me to describe the sound of thinking, I would describe the tones of thirty pencils writing feverishly.

Even more intimate, I had forgotten the sound of one lone pencil, my own. Knowing that I am alone working. It is a comforting squeak and click. The dots on the “i”s, the crosses on the “t”s and the final periods all click with reassurance. The squeaks of the “s”s and the connected letters of script remain constant and hopeful. I am working. Even if I write and hide the paper in a drawer, I am working.

Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self. Cyril Connolly (1903 – 1974)

I had forgotten the feel of the pencil in my hand. The wood is rough on my middle finger. The large and calloused lump on it has evaporated after years of clicking keyboards. I find that my hands have betrayed me. They are no longer strong and fit for writing dark lead-bound letters on paper. They have developed muscles for typing and are weak when it comes time for no batteries required.

Even more intimate, I had forgotten the feel of a pencil in my hand. The pen writes immaculately every time. You never need to turn it ever so slightly to get a better point. With a pencil, there is that microsecond of a delay. Just enough time to think of the best word and phrasing. It slows me down just enough to write my best, despite the power of the eraser. If I had to say what thinking feels like, I would tell you to turn your pencil to get a better point.

I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I want and what I fear. Joan Didion (1934 – )

I had forgotten the sight. My letters. My design. My darkness. My spacing. No matter how many hand written fonts I encounter, I will never find one that is exactly like mine. Yes, that’s the question mark of my design. Yes, my “a”s have an umbrella. I decided between fifth and sixth grade that my “a”s would have umbrellas and my “t”s would have tails. It wasn’t until junior high that my “y”s, “j”s and “g”s would have extra flourishes. It only comes alive again with a pencil in my hand.

I just realized that I had even forgotten the taste. It tastes like that bite into the wood in times of thought. I can’t bear to bite this shiny pencil so lovingly embedded with my name. Yes, thinking tastes like paint and wood bitten firmly. I am so tempted. It has been so long since I’ve tasted the wood in thought. Maybe just one bite…


1 Comment »

  1. This sure brought back memories of tests and final exams, in both grammer and high school, way back in the 1930’s and early 40’s. I had forgotten the smells of the wood, as it was shaved to that “perfect point”, (which usually had to be recreated because I bore down too hard, in my haste to get “that answer” on paper, before I lost the thought).

    Comment by Don WW — 10/23/2003 @ 4:25 am

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