The fountain pen feels heavy in my hand. I haven’t written for a long time. I mean written – not typed. That I do every day, all day. Click, click. Irregular, hollow. I tap the plastic keys, one letter at a time, and words appear on my computer screen. Words someone else has written, thought, felt. Words I mutate into another language. Making myself think them, feel them. Click, click.
No words flow out. My nib is like a dried-up fountain. The pathway between my brain and my hand is overgrown with brambles, and my thoughts are caught up somewhere in that darkness.
I suddenly realise that even writing these few lines has been stressful and tiring. An effort.
I pause. Shall I put the pen down? What if I can’t pick it up again? A flush of anxiety rushes into my face. Cold. I begin to write again. Slowly, gingerly. Piano piano.
I think of a cartoon in The New Yorker that hangs framed in my study, my bottega. A little boy watches as a cute little girl is scribbling on the sidewalk. I try to write a little every day, the caption says.
Baby steps. One foot, then another. The black ink briefly glistens on the paper before turning matt. I take my time to form the letters, join them, taking care to place the dots above the is and not let them float randomly. Making sure I round my letters so my as and es are legible.
My rosewood and chrome Faber Castell seems like a close friend you haven’t seen for a long time. You used to talk over each other and now you can’t think of anything to say. The intimacy’s gone. You look at each other with trepidation and fear of disappointment, hoping to detect the gold thread that connected you in the past, so you can pick it up again. You search for the bridge that used to join you. You know it can’t have crumbled – nothing that can’t be repaired with a few stones and a little mortar – you just can’t remember the way to it. Any minute now you’re going to turn a corner and see it right in front of you.
And so I keep writing, slowly, gingerly, trusting in the brilliant black ink flowing steadily through the nib, taking root on the cream page. Forming every letter carefully, lengthening the stems, evening out the loops, connecting them into words. Almost any words.
Trusting that my thoughts will start to light up the overgrown pathway and seep into my nib. Soon.
One word at a time. Slowly. Piano piano.