My dad was a bus driver. He worked shifts. To stay on top of his shift schedule he wrote them down on paper, not ordinary white sheets of paper, but long sheets about 4 or 5 inches wide and perhaps 12 inches long. Horizontal black lines, creating columns all down the page allowed for him to fill in each shift start and end time, especially when he worked a split-shift, there would be four different times across the page.
I remember the paper so well and for many reasons. My first memory comes from a house we lived in on Elcho Street; a yellow and black door with the number 41 in large black numbers adorned the entry. My dad would come home from work, take off his jacket and shoes and sit in his chair. He would often bring home several pieces of the lined paper and leave them on the dresser in the bedroom. I had not long ago started school. I was learning to write. It didn’t just feel like I was learning to write, it felt more like a release inside of me, a sense of urgency, a force within me that wanted to talk, not by mouth, but by pen, by writing, by bringing this sense of urgency, this raciness onto those sheets of paper.
One afternoon I went upstairs into his bedroom and there on the dresser were several sheets of paper AND a pen, there was a pen, a very rare site in our house, in fact the only pen we ever had in our house was the pen my dad kept in his work jacket. It wasn’t just excitement I felt at seeing those two precious items together on his dresser, it was elation, a jolt of thunder roaring inside of me, a volcano starting to erupt. It was a NEED, a feeling I couldn’t control, a bursting, a happiness I had never felt before.
I picked up the pen and paper and climbed onto the bed. I lay flat on my stomach, my whole body fit easily horizontally across the bed, my feet facing the door, my head facing the closet. I let the pen touch the paper. I raced words across the lines, the pen leading the way, my heart racing, my mind emptying its long contained lava out into the abyss of the world. I felt free, even though at such a young age I hadn’t even learned the meaning of that word, I had fully experienced its impact.
As an adult I am known for taking pens. I don’t do it intentionally, they just somehow come with me from wherever I have been. At work they even went as far as to add fake flowers to the tops of the pens as a way to locate them if I take them, and I do. At home I have too many pens, even though I rarely use them now since I spend most of my time using a computer to disperse my words. Just yesterday as I emptied boxes that I had brought with me in my move, I came across pens, lots of them ….