I work in a retail store. One of those places where hard work is always demanded. Sometimes praised and never rewarded. A place full of an odd camaraderie between college-age kids still bright-eyed for their future and the aged who failed to reach those aspirations somewhere along the way.

Today’s task was resetting pens today. Hanging and labeling and sorting. Quite as dull as it sounds.

The writer in me….or at least the dream of being a writer loves pens. The way a single touch can differentiate between a good one and a cheap one that will soon dry out. The way the ink glides from the tip into scrolls of lettering upon a page. I love all things that create words out of nothing. The smell of a fresh sharpened pencil and the way it stings against your fingers after pressed there for too long as the words come flowing out of you. I love mechanical pencils. The erasibility of a pencil disguised behind the class and convenience of a pen. As I child, I adored them. Mostly because we never had any. I still don’t. And despite their relative affordability, I still only stare longingly at them.

But most of all I love the thought of all the things a pen, guided by the right hand can create. 

Of all the places they will be. Burrowed in the bottom of backpacks. Dropped head-first into pencil cups. Tucked against a beating heart in a shirt’s breast pocket for quick access by a working man. Dropped on the floor. Tucked behind an ear. Slammed between the pages of a diary. The imagination and the adventure is endless. 

And the things they will do. Perhaps the lucky ones will write the rare birthday card or address a wedding invitation. But most will fill out checks for bills and cram words into an essay. Write shopping lists or treasured secrets into the folded pages of a journal. Maybe the lyrics to a song or a friend’s address. Or a note. One of love or chore reminders taped to the fridge. 

But most likely, it will be a collection of all of these things and many more.

My love extends to more than pens. I rather hate school but I love school supplies. Probably because I rarely had them. Not new ones from the store. We used whatever was around. Free pens with senator’s names on them and pads advertising lawn care. Not because we couldn’t afford spiral notebooks and binders with pictures of trees on them but because we chose to spend on vacations and nights out. But I will always have fond memories of day-after-school-begins sales. When we would be rewarded with half price notepads and stickers to decorate them with. 

I love the variety and uniqueness of school supplies. Yes they are just book binders and pencil cases but they come in a rainbow of colors and shapes and designs. So little adventurers stocking up for their big day will be individuals that are still similar to their small cohorts. I love the new shiny book bags and crayon boxes that will soon be demolished by gluey fingers and long bus trips battered against math books. Only to be rediscovered in new shades the next year. The attempt of parents to entice their child to joy over the upcoming dungeon of school with the excitement of new crayon boxes and kaleidoscope patterned spiral bound notebooks full of empty sheets of paper bursting with possibility.  

And how, oddly, I, a tired college student, hanging highlighters and erasers and a thankless job am excited too.