Next to me is a printed list of enemies that one will encounter in the game I'm currently writing the strategy guide for. I'm using it to make sure I don't leave any out when describing them in the book's obligatory "Enemies" chapter (I don't really call it by such a generic name, but you get the idea). After a few pages of text, I reached up to grab a writing utensil from the cup on my shelf and, without really paying attention, checked off a few of the entries.
But there was a noise that accompanied that act. A strange, muted scratching sound. It was extremely familiar, but one I hadn't heard in a very long time. Years, perhaps. It was that of a pencil being used. I can't tell you the last time I handled a pencil, let a lone worked with one. In all honesty, even pens seem slightly foreign to me. If not for grocery lists, non-disclosure agreements, and monthly payment requests I probably wouldn't use one of them either. And yes, signing my name does often take an embarrassing level of concentration at times. But a pencil?
The pencil is black, lacks the hexagonal shape of the yellow sticks of my childhood days, and has the words "We Promise" emblazoned on it. I have no idea where it came from, how long I've had it, nor who the "we" are and what they're promising. It's probably a marketing handout that fell into a swag-bag at some time, but I can't help but wonder how it came to be in my office. It's eraser has been used -- not by me -- and it is meticulously sharpened. I haven't sharpened a pencil since the eighties.
Using this pencil made me look around my office for other things I can't blieve I still have or would find strange to use. There's not much. A couple of old videogame consoles and maybe a hole-puncher, but that's about it. Everything is new, shiny, has a purpose in today's digital age. Either that or it's simply a memento that fades into the decor of my office: a bottle of black sand from Maui; a stone from the beach at Ollie's Point; an unsmoked Cuban cigar from my bachelor party; and a lifeless Robo-Sapien I won in the silent auction at Penny Arcade's "Child's Play" charity dinner highlight the list.
The room is a veritable shrine to the acts of playing and writing about videogames: the entertainment form of today and tomorrow. But like an understanding captain who finds an amicable stowaway on board his vessel, I can't simply cast the pencil off. After all, it reminds me of my youth. Not the part involving faded green writing paper, workbooks, and reading assignments. But the part about gym class and the last day of school, and eating cupcakes on a classmate's birthday. And learning geography and making friends, and dancing with a girl for the first time. It's funny how much you can be made to remember just by scribbling a few checkmarks. Actually, it wasn't what I was scribbling, but rather what I was using to do it.
Yes, I think I'll spare this pencil and leave it where it was for a while. Or, better yet maybe I'll lay it next to the phone instead. It deserves at least that. No, I deserve at least that.