The Pen


When I moved my shoulder bag from a side position to my chest, I noticed a pinprick. I opened the top flap where I keep my ink pens pencils and other writing paraphernalia and I saw that my black Parker pen was missing. I remembered having placed the delicate ink pen next to the stainless steel ballpoint pen in the morning. I felt the pinprick again as the bag moved on my chest. I always keep the straps of my bag around my neck to secure it from misplacing it while I think of other tasks, or from leaving it behind in one of the print shops I have to frequent lately. My fingers searched the pocket and held the pen, but the cap remained missing. It must have been slipping off while I retrieved the ballpoint pen in a hurry to write something down. Blast! I tried to retrace my steps of today, but then there were many places I visited, the print shop, the hardware shop and the Kodak photographic shop where I had passport photographs made. But then I would not have taken the pen out there, as my wallet is kept on the top pocket of the bag separately. It must have been at a place where I wrote an address down or a Greek word I wanted to study. I felt bad with age creeping up on me, feeling drained of energy and irritated by my lack of alertness, not having noticed the cap of the ink pen falling to the floor. It must have been at a place where the ground was soft, the grassed area between the tram stations, or a shop with a carpeted floor.  No, there are hardly any soft floor coverings in shops as all have stone or ceramic tiles. My eyelids felt like lead. I took my glasses off and rubbed them in anger. You should not do this, my inner voice reprimanded; it is bad for your eyes. I stopped and removed my fingers from my eyelids. As I opened my eyes my vision was blurred. I felt dehydrated. I rushed to the kitchen and placed a glass below the water dispenser from the fridge. The cool water rushed down my throat like free flowing water from a natural spring. I felt refreshed immediately and the first bout of anger about losing Anna’s ink pen cap has subsided. Memories about losing her travel ink pen remind me of losing her as a lover with her body slipping from my grip. It still feels devastating having lost her. When I mentioned to her at one time that I lost her travel-pen, she said: Don’t cry and she handed me another one. I kept it in my travel bag. They were cute ink pens using cartridges, compact and ideal for writing on a bus or train. Unfortunately I fell asleep while writing my journal on a bus-ride and the ink pen slipped from my hand. It fell into the gap between the plastic seat and the outer wall of the bus and I could not retrieve it again. So I carried on writing with the second one, until I lost it as well one day rolling off my bag and falling into a crack between a train stations’s paving and the wall to the lifts. Now it could not be replaced any longer as Anna had died.

I prepared supper. Beef mince and tomatoes, spiced with oregano. I cooked the pasta al dente and added the sauce on top. My spouse ate without saying anything. She must have sensed my tension, the loss of Anna’s pen induced in me. This pasta is delicious; she finally said and looked at me with eyes that expressed the continuous headaches she suffered from. I enjoyed my pasta too.

Slowly the memories faded again and I looked at the ink pen’s shaft with the golden nib, as I had to write down some ideas for a story. I turned it around and recalled my life that had changed since I met H., who became my instant soulmate. What a way out of a love that gave me another love I have never questioned just enjoyed. It seemed that Anna had finally taken leave from me and set me free in mind and soul to enjoy my new muse and pick the fruits of mature love which I thought had become dormant, with new gusto. The pain of losing a lover physically, followed by losing her personal presents, had been a prolonged agony with this important present’s loss, she gave me when I met her with my spouse for dinner. It’s my pen I wrote all my poetry with, she said. I heard her words repeated as rising panic shot-up my spine and into my head where it exploded as a flash in my brain and I saw suddenly black spots. No! I cried out, the cap must have slid further down into the pocket of my shoulder bag. Warm sweat covered my forehead as I began looking yet again for it. I could not find it.

Then I remembered that the black cap of the pen always had a loose cap, probably due to the extensive use of pulling if off and replacing it, while Anna used it.

I call you an equal, she said as she listened to the recital of one of my poems. I will give you a pen from my collection, which one would like to have? She came with a stand where all her pens lay on display. This one, I said, and took the black slim pen that seemed to me the most suitable for her in style and appearance. Oh, she said, that one? I wrote all my poetry with it. She smiled and I felt as if I would have touched the extension of the poet’s soul as I held her pen between my fingers, stroking its smooth dark shaft. The cap disengaged too easy, as if the resistance of holding it in place had been worked off by the constant closing and opening. I loved her pen and I kept it at a special place in the drawer of my night table. At times I stopped using it, as it did not write properly on the paper of some of my notebooks. I remembered that Anna had told me that certain ink pens write only on certain papers, especially those with finer nibs. The new series of Italian notebooks favoured the use of my Waterman pen. The more different paper surfaces I came across, the more I began to understand Anna’s collection of ink pens with different nib qualities, and I began collecting my own set of ink pens. But if I fancied a certain design of a quality ink pen, which I could not resist to acquire, I had to find the matching unlined notebook, whose pages had the paper the new ink pen’s nib would write upon properly.

However, one day I ran out of cartridges for the French pen, but I had still cartridges left for Anna’s black Parker pen. I recalled the paper she had shown me onto which the nib’s ink flow would be best. The words I wrote turned into a prose-poem of my life with her for the short period of 21 days, during which I saw her every late morning. I walked about the southern suburbs of Athens searching for the shop which carried electrical appliances at best prices. During this time I used Anna’s pen re-peatedly entering notes about prices and types of domestic appliances, I intended buying.  Anna’s pen had a magical effect on me, besides making notes into my pocket notebook, its smooth slender shaft I ran my fingers along, reminded me of her well proportioned body. Absentminded I stuck her pen into the breast pocket of my shirt whenever I finished my notes. My initial fear of losing it had evaporated and self confidence of handling it returned to me with its frequent use.

One August day I set out early in the morning to visit my friends in town, Kritikos in a Pizzeria and Baba Che in his ice cream parlour. As closer I walked to the Plaka district, the more light-footed I became, greeting friends I have not seen for some years. Of course they immediately remembered me and we exchanged news about our lives. As Che, as I called him due to his tea shirt featuring the famous revolutionary, had his shop on my way to the small square where all eateries gathered around its perimeter, I visited him first. Hey Solt, he called out as soon as I entered his dim lit shop. Geia sou, I replied in Greek and he smiled with his white teeth showing. He started his usual monolog telling me the happenings in his family and the patch of bad luck he had with a health problem. But now I am cured, it’s OK. I am working again part of the week. I lauded him and he continued with the latest reports about Greek politics and the European tragedy of being the end of Greek life as we once knew it. He closed his monologue as customers came into his shop, serving them behind the glazed ice cream counter. As soon as they paid he carried on telling me about his projections for the foreseeable future. I took my leave having enjoyed his talk he delivered to me like a sermon with sparking Greek temperament.

Around the corner to the right of the small square the Pizzeria is the smallest but best eatery tucked away at the end of the street. Already from a distance Ktitikos would wave his hand in greeting as he rushed about serving food to the tables opposite the café below a shaded outdoor terrace, the extension of any tavern or café, which has a small indoor area with a kitchen and storage area. How is life? Kritikos cannot speak English as well as Che, who worked in the USA as many Greeks acquiring the necessary capital for establishing himself in Athens. We converse with short sentences and catch up on the latest news. Kritikos brings me a catalogue on the Cycladic islands he considers to be the best to visit. His eyes open wide as he calls out their names: Ios, Paros, Sifnos, Andros… I take my pen and notebook and write all down. I ordered a small pizza and a carafe of wine. Kritikos treats me with the same way as all his friends, who gather around the tables on the pavement outside the café. He passes to serve the customers on the opposite side below the shaded terrace with shrubs and greenery, before he casually serves me the wine and as he passes again, my meal. I have an address for you, he smiles. Write it down for me, I reply. The moment he has a break, he takes my pen and writes. Nice pen, he mumbles. A poet’s pen, I tell him. Oh! He looks at Anna’s black Parker pen and his eyes show s glimmer of respect. Very special, he adds and finishes his notes. He hands me the pen and he recites a poem. Sounds great, who is it from? Iannis Ritsos, he says and I nod. Oh you know him? No, I know of him, I say and he smiles, recalling the phrase I had told him once before.

On my way back I had to stop at the New Acropolis Museum. I cannot pass without visiting the top floor, to view the Parthenon temple, as I admire the freeze, which once had been part of its outer walls. The missing panels show empty spaces and everybody who has visited the museum knows that those panels are the ones deliberately removed for fame and financial gain perhaps, still creating bad vibes for an unlawful act amidst loud voices of art lovers and cultural ministers for their return. I love to sit on the low marble sill of the panoramic glass façade and sketch a horses’ head or the movement of a body. Anna’s pen serves me well and I feel euphoric. You have returned, her faint soprano voice sounds in me. Yes, but you have left, I gasp. I am talking to you through my former beloved pen. Hah! I have been using it for the last week writing all my journals with it. I am proud of you Zen, you have still time to write your poems. Well I have learned from you, Anna! Ah, I was just your guide, and I am happy of having handed you my pen.  Hah! I have been using it for the last week writing all my journals with it. I am proud of you Zen, you have still time to write your books. Well you have inspired me Anna! Ah, I was just your guide, and I am happy having placed you onto the right track….Of course it was your doing, your closing act, before you made your big leap into the universe….I hope you are content. Ah, yes…..damned! I woke from daydreaming as Anna’s pen slid out of my hand and hit the marble floor. I gasped, but it sounded far off and not my own. I knelt down and picked up the pen. It seemed to be all right. I tried to write into my notebook: Today Anna appeared to me as I sat on the windowsill of the topmost floor of the NAM…yes! It still worked. I sighed relieve, but I could not find the cap. I looked around and could not detect anything. I gave up finally and headed to the tram to travel back home.

My euphoric state had turned into despair having lost the cap to her pen. It must have fallen down into the slots of the ventilation grille. I kicked myself for having taken on one visit too many and for exhausting myself. Or perhaps it was Anna’s voice that made me doze off in a state of remembrance? I sat in the tram staring out into the horizon of the sea, where the tram runs along the Saronic Gulf for a while. I felt dumbstruck.

At home I took the pen from my pocket and placed it into the bag where I keep all other pens and cartridges. At least part of it remained with me; I mused, but noticed that the tip of its nib had been bent in the fall on to the marble floor. It was now defunct, but it still recalled times with her, when she was alive. Is this the way to preserve her memory through my own clumsiness?

I hear her voice: Come on Zen, don’t cry like a baby, I will buy you another one. Yes, I respond, but it is not the one you wrote all your poetry with!’ I will write with it poems of the now. I like that, she replies. Dialogue with Anna has never stopped. The uncovered half of her pen is like the encumbered being of me: half poet and half artist. The one half writes down all what moves my senses, while the other half seeks out the colours of moods, I feel shifting through continuously, as if she still has a hand in all of my creative inspirations. Perhaps she has, her spirit has. I am glad.