Middle-aged Woman’s Fancy Turns Lightly to Thoughts of Office Supplies
I have a Thing for pencils, pens, notebooks, typ—I mean, printer paper, paper clips, staples, staplers, Post-its, hole punchers. . . .I could go on for days. It’s a writer’s thang, I reckon. I've got pens and pencils choking that middle zipper pocket of my purse, pencils and pens choking various and sundry pockets of my bookbag, pencils and pens choking various and sundry cups and mugs around my house. It was my pleasure and honor to meet a cyber-friend face to face --right at the time that her father was teaching himself to make mechanical, wood pens! I hadn't planned this, of course: it just happened, to my joy and delight.
One morning, walking to class, I found a couple of pencils on the dew-covered ground. Nearly brand-new, they looked, a red one and a yellow one, each with nice big erasers still. And I’m not talking about mechanical pencils; these were your plain wood and graphite classics (though probably not Ticonderogas. I don’t remember). I just thought, Somebody’s done dropped some perfectly good pencils and has no idea they’re gone. Probably won’t miss ‘em, either. And aloud, I said, “These are mine, now.” And, because I didn’t have time to find the pencil section in my bookbag, I just put the wet, precious things in my coat pocket. When I got to my classroom, I surreptitiously slipped them into that pencil section of my bookbag. That was a long time ago. Those lovely pencils’ve shrunk with use and their erasers're nea’bout gone.
Years ago, I had a beautiful dreadlocked student who used paper clips on his essays. Though I tell my students in writing (on the syllabus) that they can use either paper clips or staples, I prefer that my students use staples to keep their pages together. In fact, when students do use paper clips, I usually keep the paper clips and staple the papers myself. But this guy had round, metal, colorful paper clips. I coveted them. It bothered me not to say so.
“I’m keeping these paper clips,” I told the pretty child, looking right at him. He wouldn’t look back at me, but he smiled as he looked down at his paper and handed it to me.
“You’re the one who has to face yourself in the mirror, Ms. B,” he said. I kept the paper clips. Still looked at my reflection, too. No, I have no scruples about Office Stuff. I’ve been known to openly covet the Office Stuff belonging to other people, right in front of their faces –primarily because, about 50% of the time, people will give me their pens and pencils if I just say I want them.
Now, I like fancy paper clips, but I prefer those plain wood and graphite classics to mechanical pencils. With the classics, I always know where I am, how much pencil I have left, how much writing I can still do. Mechanical pencils are sometimes pretty, but they’re always untrustworthy.
I get tempted, though. Former Student has a mechanical pencil that looks like an oft-sharpened Ticonderoga. It’s about as long as my thumb, yellow-gold, with a red eraser on top and a metal nub at the end. Former Student made the mistake of letting me hold it in my hand.
“That’s just as cute as it can be!” I said. “Don’t you leave it here; you might not see it again.” I was working my magic. Former Student looked sharply at me and then put his hand out for his pencil.
“I won’t leave it,” he said. But he did. He left it. I wanted to play with it and keep it among my other Office Stuff, but the very idea smote me in my heart. I emailed Former Student, “Guess what I found? You’re not getting it back, either.”
“Oh, it shall be mine again,” he emailed me back. It was, too. I saved it for him, and I didn’t use it once, even.
Ah, it was too short anyway.
Today was a red-letter day for office supplies. One of my current students, a wonderful lady of 57, who rightly calls herself “Tap Dance,” came up to the desk tonight and apologized for accidentally going off with one of my pencils. (See? You reap what you sow.) In February, on Valentine’s day, Mrs. Tap Dance organized my 6 p. m. class: my students bought me a card and every one of them signed it; it came in a little bag with candy and gaily-colored pencils and a fat pen. I was genuinely overcome with joy.
Anyways, she apologized for walking off with one of those pencils. But because she had, she noticed that (it being April now) my gift pencils were getting shorter and shorter. So today, she brought me three brand new black pencils. Classics, but new: Mirado Black Warriors.
Great day in the morning.
See? Mrs. Tap Dance had peeped my hole card, seen me from afar off.
Dear Jesus, my brother, have mercy on those of us who make little, tiny, silly idols.