“You are right. Our writing equipment takes part in the forming of our thoughts.”
My beloved one,
Today I write to you in pencil. Many will tell you this is a mark of impermanence; they might even say it reeks of insincerity. After all, it is a form that is most obviously, most tangibly temporary – so unlike love. Apparently. I am thinking out loud as I write this of course, but why pencil? I’ll tell you.
I come to meet you and then there is the inevitable parting to deal with. After I leave, reality seems incredible. It seems ridiculous to me that everything continues as though it were business as usual- when clearly, it isn’t. Everything appears to exist in a sort of glazed, glassy vacuum. Everything continues and carries on so effortlessly that it feels unnaturally wrong. It is unimaginable to me, you see, that life around me could remain so unaffected, so untouched by your absence.
To write you of my strangeness with a pen almost seems to mock this curious state of affairs. It is too obvious. Too bold. Too indelible. Too firm. The entire exercise of writing a note is almost automatic with a pen. It is just what one does; sometimes even unthinkingly. It’s what we are taught. It is what we know. But pencils? We forget. It is too long now, too far back to remember or be nostalgic about. Pencil writing is nothing more than schoolwork.
But I will tell you this – to pull the resisting lead of a pencil across an undisciplined sheet of paper speaks to you of trying. To drag this errant, noisy, satisfyingly scratchy point over the coarse resistance of a page takes conscious effort. It forces you to pay attention to every word. It forces you to listen, to push, to pull, to stop your flow of thought midway in order to sharpen the point and continue. The intermittent rhythm of the dot-dot-dots as the point leaves and rejoins the page, tapping the table beneath the thin onion skin letter paper is a wake-up call. A “pay attention to what you are saying” alarm. It signals to things around me that I AM HERE and the proof is the sound I am now making by writing this letter. It is a sound of despondence. A bereftness. A noise of something that should be here but isn’t. And the sound forces this life, my life, and the elements that make it so- to pay attention.
“I miss you.” I wrote, scratching lines that formed legible letters, leaving lead dust fine as talcum on a pristine ivory sheet. I wrote it and now it is clear. What pen does silently, somewhat permanently, pencil does noisily, jostling for elbow room, looking for an audience. Pencil has made its sound and the unmistakable scent of wood shavings take me to an old, familiar place. A time when writing was fun and unweighed down by expectations (am I saying this right? Will you understand what I mean? What if you don’t write back? How do you spell pusillanimous?). A time when words flowed without pause, without a care – because the worst that could happen was a mistake and a mistake could be erased. Like love, you see.
When there is love mistakes can be erased. You can right the wrong. You can then write the right over it and all will be well. Because that is how it works in love. You’re not supposed to hold on to things forever. Not even love itself. You’re supposed to put it down loud and clear but be open to changing things when they need to be different. You’re supposed to define your point, but not hold someone against it. You’re supposed to give it all, and be gallant enough to retreat when nudged. You’re supposed to write in pencil, because it lasts only as long as you want it to. ‘Until the end of time’ and ‘eternity’ are just words then; words you can write and erase, and replace with other words. Pencils let you do that. Love lets you do that. Love lets you be who you are today, even if that’s not who you’ll be tomorrow. And really, it’s completely okay.
So if anyone comes telling you that a love letter in pencil means it’s not honest, or that it means you’re not taken seriously enough, you now know better. I could write in pen. But then it would be a dead love letter. In pencil, I know the words remain as fresh as the day they appeared from that lead point. Words that tell a story of right now; a story that can change and sometimes, must. Words that we can go back to whenever we want. Words that we can change to tell a whole new story all over again. Our story.
In pencil, but for ever,