I’ve never had a fountain pen. Prior to this Christmas, I used the Signo Uniball 207. You can buy the Uniball at the grocery store or Target or the drug store, and they are fast-writing, smooth, inky pens. They’re great, accessible pens for when you need an instrument that can write (almost) as quickly as you think. I used to buy Uniball ink refills from a local art supply store until the owners retired and closed up shop; I didn’t like throwing away perfectly good pens, but grocery stores and Target and drug stores don’t carry the ink, only the bodies.
Though the Uniballs are fast, they’re far from perfect. They’re not a pretty tool, for one thing. They look like you bought them from the school supplies section of Kroger or CVS, and that you had to rip them out of the same kind of packaging as a toothbrush. And because the tip is a perfect ball, which is part of what makes them so fast, they lack control. They don’t provide any aim, which makes it too easy for your handwriting to run off course.
Of all the pens from the school and office aisle, the Uniball was the best I’d tried. After several years of using it, I was pretty bored with the pen, though. The most exciting thing I did with the Uniball is switch between blue and black ink.
In early December as I was shopping for other people, I had a fleeting thought that I might want to buy someone a pen, and then I realized really, I wanted a pen. I didn’t feel justified in buying myself anything beyond the drugstore Uniball variety, though, seeing as how I’m just a hobby writer. I did have a secret wish, just for a moment, where I thought how special it would make me feel if someone gave me a pen. I daydreamed about nice pens, and how they might feel, before snapping out of it to get on with my shopping.
On Christmas morning, there was a gift for me under the tree the size and shape of a mascara box from a cosmetics counter. I thought, huh, that’s weird, Brian has never bought me cosmetics before. When I tore the paper off, it still looked like a fancy mascara box.
Then I opened up the box. Inside, there was a turquoise Lamy Safari fountain pen. I was floored. Did he read my mind that day when I was shopping, alone, and had my secret wish that I never expressed aloud? When it was my turn to open a gift again, I opened a larger box that contained a tangerine Pilot Metropolitan with tiny retro daisies on it.
My heart melted. I felt seen, and known, and loved.
I spent the morning getting the cartridges loaded properly. Then, when everyone else was occupied with their Christmas loot and I felt okay disappearing into my own little world, I sat down with my notebooks to feel the ink flowing through metal nibs onto paper. I wrote to feel the weight of the pens, to feel how their barrels dance in the webbed crook of my hand, to feel how the section nestles on the calloused pad of my ring finger where pens and pencils rest.
I had thought the Uniball wrote fast. It drags a brick compared to these fountain pens. They feel like liquid silk on paper. The nibs provide direction, helping me keep my words and my slant even, and helping me underline in straight lines instead of wobbles.
With these pens, I want to write and write and write, even though I have nothing to say. They draw me in simply because I want to feel the ball of their metal nib, wet with ink, flow across paper. They inspire me to think big. To live up to the pleasure they bring me when I write with them.