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selva oscura
14 June 2019 @ 01:55 am
june 25th 2005

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somewhere between "2005" and my list's opening slash, the ball tip of the pen i was using vanished and i was left scraping a pen without a vehicle onto the page. where did the roller ball go? did it fall out? is there some microscopic rollerball from my pen embedded, now, in my page? or did it roll away, off the table and onto the floor? did i push it up into the pen? will the pen leak, now that there isn't a rollerball corking it up?
[i remember my cousin had a new wallet. and she had a new pen tucked into the new wallet. and she opened her new wallet and this saturated blue-black was growing over and under the inside. and my cousin swore and i watched as she worked at it with napkins and wet tissues. "why is it whenever i finally have something new, something nice, it gets ruined? why is it i can never have anything new?" and, watching her work i peeked my eyebrows and lamented with her, "it was a new pen? it was a nice pen." it was a bic disposable, actually. my cousin looked up from her failing rescue procedure and sighed, "well, yeah, and the wallet was new as well." i nodded and kept watching. of course i'd weight a bic disposable pen over some wallet, then. now i better understand more things about cause and effect: you need that wallet if you want to buy a pen. but then, of course, a pen and a wallet were completely unrelated items, and the pen was, by far, much more interesting and full of creative potential. and, some days, most days, it still is.]
i better dispose of this un-balled uniball, actually, thinking back on that particular cautionary tale. now i am thinking about pilot pen factories. about giant vats full of rollers for pens. about sliding my hands into a vat of them like water, my fingers brushing the eventual tips of millions and millions of eventual pens. how many rollerballs in a square foot? has humanity produced an olympic-sized swimming pool's worth of ballpoint pen tips since the first ballpoint ran dry? would i half fill a thimble, all these words and words and words of mine?*

in the sixth grade, there was this style of designer pen most of the socially acceptable kids had. i believed it was a rollerball, encased in translucent plastic that was prism-angled and faintly tinted with whatever color ink it held. i could never find them at the store, though i only looked for them once summer rolled around and they might have been pulled from store shelves by then, because of what, exactly, made these particular writing utensils so popular.

see, they had a ball bearing at the other end, opposite from the tip. a real metal ball bearing, stainless steel. it served no functional purpose. it just looked nice, i guess, and added a pleasing weight to the whole of the pen.

what my classmates would do would be to rapidly rub that ball bearing end on a sheet of rough paper or fabric and then, really quick, jab it into their neighbor's arm. the friction from rubbing it on the rough surface made that ball bearing incredibly hot, so i can only imagine the feedback whatever pen company this was received from parents whose children kept coming home with their arms riddled with speckles of burn marks like small pox.

you would think, too, that the kids who got burned would be the unliked kids, those who not quite all the way down in the lowly depths with me, the peer serving, that year, as the class "at least i'm doing better than" standard, but no - the popular kids burned their slightly less popular friends. if you got jabbed with a searing hot ball bearing at the end of a designer pen you may not have been at the top of the social scene, but you knew you were loved. i could not afford a metal-tipped pen and i did not merit any burn marks. i found an empty pen under a popular neighbor's chair after school, one day. i rubbed it against my blue canvas binder cover and jabbed it into the white-arm underside. it hurt. i was sad. i threw the empty pen away and went home.
*

so how many of my personal anecdotes conclude with an approximation of "i felt sad. i threw [object symbolizing love/hope/social acceptance/success/living on one's own/friend/boyfriend's traditionally anticipated support that has been warped into some awful and strangely metaphorical way and now has come to mean the exact opposite] into the trash and i walked home?**

my copy of spalding gray's sex and death to the age 14 (as he says in "it's a slippery slope," "mostly masturbation and the death of goldfish") arrived in the mail wednesday, and i have been handling it tentatively, diving in and jumping out, feeling the air in there. the book may have been exposed to some moisture and not properly vented, afterward, for it smells like the bad corner in a half-finished basement and leaves that essence in the fingertips of whoever might page through. it is strange to see spalding's words contained on a page. they should be jumping around and smacking things, namely you, namely your attentiveness bone. here are the silent reliquaries containing the gist of spalding's performance of this piece. i keep trying to place spalding's voice behind those words, i keep trying to put the performance into the script, but all i keep thinking is: my god, does that sentence really have a conventional structure? and "terrors of pleasure," it's wrong. "happy people don't make history" isn't even there.

it's disjointing. it's one of my favorite things, but not the thing itself. it's a ghost at the airport, setting down the suitcase for a moment, glancing at their watch: 1986 is how many years from 2004? How many days is that? how many seconds? but spalding wouldn’t keep time so closely, he never did. he’d tell his story and each time he’d tell it, it would get a bit longer. bigger. more alarming. more and more like it probably felt. forty minutes becomes an hour and twenty. an hour and twenty becomes two hours. all the while, the story becomes more vital, stretching legs and chest wide, turning its face to the sun. spalding, tell your story again, this time from the beginning. focus on the parts that are your favorite to tell, the parts that get the audience going, the parts that put that little lift in your lip corners, that water flash through your eyes. tell us everything, work your way in from all sides, until your life has more than tripled in the telling. sixty three years isn't half long enough.
______________________________________
* this is so horrible, and i'm so sorry. i wrote it and i have nightmares about this concept to this very day. i'm so sorry.
** i attempted to line edit this paragraph for clarity but it made me feel like i was chewing wads of acrylic thread and i couldn't resolve it. i left it pretty much how it was worded in the journal exactly, for now at least. enjoy.


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