I have an affinity for black ink pens. The outer barrel doesn’t matter, just so long as the thin well inside is full of that dark, thick, and opaque paint. No other color feels as comfortable. If I’m forced to use a quill with blue ink, I automatically doubt the words that eek out. I don’t trust them. There’s too much mystery within a shade that often waivers between degrees of navy and cobalt. Red ink has the potential to add poignancy to language, should it be robust like a blood-red but instead it often comes across light, infantile and nonsensical. Far from earnest, as compatible as an ill-fitting shoe.
I like how finite the color black is. I always find a beautiful permanence radiating around the lines and twists of my faltering cursive. How silly, to get so much reassurance from something as simple as a pen. But it’s not really just a pen, is it? It’s a tool, a well-crafted tool that takes a different shape all the time, sometimes many different shapes in a single day. Some days, it’s an architect. Creating tender homesteads and utopian cities far beyond our wildest dreams. Others, it’s a slow-moving dagger cutting into a still beating heart.
Sadly, the pen is not used much anymore. It has been put down, brushed to the side of a desk – its primary use being adornment and taking the occasional note on a neon Post-It. The black ink, which I so wholly adore, lays contained and sheathed, slowly drying out with lack of productivity. Nowadays, we avoid the black pen and write letters without any real writing. That’s the strangest bit too, isn’t it? We use technology to convey our thoughts now and we seldom send letters at all. Letters have become antiquated. But why? Why have we put down the pen and shelved the letters?
Writing, pen marrying paper writing, is one of the most honest things a human can do. It’s pure emotion. Raw, unadulterated thought. It’s allowed to be messy like a piece of art, comprised of scratch-outs, skewed grammar, misspelled words for lack of spell-check. Before every home had a television set, Internet access, or even a single telephone, whole lives were conducted through letters. There were correspondences documenting tales of love, tales of surrender, tales of life. Those papers held the promise that someone the recipient valued, trusted, or even loved had touched them first. Maybe that promise was in the form of a tear, a wrinkle, or a faint trace of perfume. Or maybe that promise wasn’t tangible at all. Maybe that promise had a palpable energy, pulsing from beneath the envelope in black scrawled writing.
I love black ink pens. I revel in their persistent ability to make the muscles in my hands, my tendons, and my digits ache as my body tries with all its might to keep up with my rampant thoughts. I can put my faith in the depth of the color black. I know this because the color remains perpetually stagnant. I know that it lets the words it splays out tell the story. I know this because black signifies the unknown and that, dear friends, makes all the difference.