Pencil Pains

I had a teacher in high school that said seniors have a way of letting their lives fall in a frantic ruin come February or March; a season of meltdowns.

“Duly noted, but that won’t be me.”

I was wrong.

You see, my dad is really into pencils. He has a cherry-stained solid oak desk in his study, with a black and reflective, weighty round pencil holder stationed in the upper right corner. His finest pencils go on display there, but in his first desk drawer is the rest of his collection, a gallery of steely gray and beaming black mechanical pencils. They lie out in a grooved tray like organized sun bathers, and in the drawer beneath them is an arsenal of assorted lead, 0.5’s and 0.7’s and 9H’s to HB’s to 9B’s. For fun, he also has a shelf above the window with ancient pencil sharpeners on it.

And sometimes he shares his finds with me. So in October of my senior year, he gifted me a mechanical pencil that met all my spoken preferences in pencils. It was platinum black, lean with a modest grip, had lead that extended with a click to the top (and not the side) and was 0.5 in lead size. It also had a very slim eraser underneath the cap. I loved it. I used it every day in school, and when I got home, wiped it with a sanitizing cloth to bring genocide to any germs.

Now, February was indeed a difficult month. January kicked and fought the whole way through, but I made it to February and thought things would invert to the incline.

But that year, winter was very rude. The air was devoid of moisture and heat, and the wind drove through everything. My skin felt barren and my heart was brittle. One morning it was so cold, when I drove my car to school, it reset itself to show my speed in kilometers per hour instead of miles.

So being in the third month of what would end up being a five-month arctic freeze, I was chapped and sad, and on top of that, it was the beginning of my first scholarship rodeo, meaning the tedious money-begging obstacles were abound! Recommendation letters, transcripts, generic ass-kissing essays, repetitive forms… A lake of papers.

And the homework. More essays, essays, essays (I was in three English classes), calculus– oh, you know. And my job. Waking up at 6:30 A.M. and having to pack both my lunch and my dinner because school ended forty minutes before work started, and it took thirty minutes to get to work. It was a cold month indeed.

So considering the scene, imagine:

Me in class, rifling through my knapsack to find my beautiful black pencil in order to write some mediocre short answer responses to a dull questionnaire on economics, and not being able to find said pencil. Dumping out the contents (nail clippers, tampons, Bic pens, hair clips, glasses cleaner wipes) on my desk, and my beloved pencil not being among them.

Panic. The floor is innocent, Nelly hasn’t seen it, my pockets only carry crumpled tissues. Oh yes, panic.

So… Where do I go next? Maybe I didn’t even bring it to school today. (Denial.)

I continue the search at home, checking my desk and the kitchen table and the living room end tables. No results. I throw my textbooks at the wall and they fall in a heap of folded pages and contorted covers. (Anger.)

Someone must have stolen it. I send out a desperate tweet, “Please if you have my pencil, return it… It is all I have in this world.” A few supporters retweet it to spread my message to the community. “I will reward anyone who turns it in!” (Bargaining.)

I sit on the couch with my arms laying out and let the overwhelming loss steamroll me, tears slipping down my face in a footrace. My favorite pencil… (Depression.) I call my mother at work.

“What’s wrong?!”

“Mom… I can’t find my pencil Dad gave me. I looked everywhere.”

“Well, it’ll be okay. He can get you another one.”

“But that one…”

After we hang up, I recall the memories I had with my pencil. AP English practice tests, inappropriate notes to Kim in class, almost-brilliant sketches for art class. It gave me so much of itself.

Ten minutes later, the phone rings.

“Hey, uh, your mother called me. You lost the pencil?”

I sniff. “Yeah.”

“Well, hopefully it’ll turn up, but if not, it’s going to be okay.”

My face tingles with the electricity of newly dried skin, verging on numb. I go to work heartbroken.

That evening, my friends text me their condolences. My great-aunt calls after work that night and says she will pray for me. I post a picture on Facebook to commemorate the times we had together.

Several days later, it is slightly warmer, which is to say, the air is less frigid, and I have accepted my loss. I am still hurt, but I have gained perspective with time. (Acceptance.) As I unlock my car to go to school, I notice a black mark in the snow beneath my driver door.

I bend to see what it is (hopefully nothing gross or threatening), and my heart begins to race. I pick it out of the snow bed, and though it is cold and damp, it is my pencil, and it has come home. Oh, joyous reunion!

~

So you see, the late winter and early spring may be a season of meltdowns indeed. I, for one, experienced a meltdown as predicted, but the important thing is to only become subject to those issues which are truly detrimental–like mine was.

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