Everyone has a talisman, something they cherish beyond all reason. John Keats had his Grecian Urn. Holden (Catcher In The Rye) Caulfield had his brother’s baseball glove. I have my pencil sharpener, my sweet, beloved pencil sharpener.
This fine apparatus is no wonder of modern technology, it’s not a marvel of design or engineering. It’s a cheap, plastic doodad that came free in a package of Ticonderoga 2s. I’ve had it for decades. That’s undoubtedly why I’m so fond of the silly thing, because I’ve had it so long. Okay, that, and the fact it accommodates two different sizes of pencils — the standard size and the big, fat ones kids use. I’m partial to the big, fat ones.
Pens are too fancy; you have to choose an ink color and a point. I like a blue medium point, myself. It speaks with a measure of confidence and the blue is neither somber nor garish. Plus, the broad tip implies you know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t. A fine point, on the other hand, is spidery and tentative. It’s a whisper. And borderline creepy; it implies you live in an attic.
You can achieve the spidery effect (if you want to) with a really, really sharp pencil. I hate sharp pencils. They crumble. Give me the fatty with a stout point. That’s happiness. Shoving it around a piece of paper, hearing the rasp of lead and feeling the friction, is one of life’s simple joys. I get to experience that regularly, thanks to my trusty old pencil sharpener. I stick the pencil in the slot, give it a couple twists, and I’m in business.
When I’m done sharpening, I’m presented with a gossamer-thin ribbon of wood and the tangy scent of fresh graphite hanging in the air. The wood shaving is, in itself, a thing of beauty: scalloped and edged in yellow, as fragile and diaphanous as angel wings. The pencil point is just the opposite; sturdy and unbreakable. Perfect.
Over the years I’ve amassed a huge stash of Ticonderoga 2s. I’ll never have to buy another one in my life. Erasers are what I’ll need; I go through those pretty quickly. Whatever I work on is scarred with pink smudges from pencil erasers and the floor around my desk is littered with eraser dust. No matter how frequently I sweep.
Luckily, I’m not as fussy about erasers as I am about pencils. Although I’m developing a deep affection for the Staedtler Mars plastic eraser. Know why? No pink smears. It rubs out mistakes as if by magic, like they never happened. No one needs to know I can’t spell and I split my infinitives. Do they?