At the trade show, she knows instinctively when to hold onto something and when to just accept graciously but insincerely, and also when to completely refuse. Later, she dumps her treasures on her boyfriend’s coffee table, a flood of pens, candies, chocolates, post-it notes. He laughs and begins to claim the pens, but she stops him when he touches one wrapped in plastic, “Oh I want that one,” nonchalantly, because she doesn’t want him to know that she really, really wants it. He doesn’t think twice, she makes sure of that before she buries the pen deep in her purse. She knows, the other pens were crap, Made in China, but this pen, in the corner of the plastic wrapping says very gracefully: Made in Japan. (She even remembers the man she got it from, a polite, smiling, young Japanese man with halting English. He asked her, “Chinese?” and she shook her head. “I was born here,” when he insists but her last name? and he laughs apologetically and remarks that yes, he noticed her English was quite Californian. She almost choked, trying to swallow the giggle that threatened to erupt, and bit her tongue from saying, “Why yes, Nihonjin-san, I was born and raised in California, so naturally my accent would be quite Californian and my goodness, your English is so Japanese!”

She can’t find it in her heart to be even a little annoyed at him, probably because of the pen he gives her as a recompense.) In fact, when she writes with this pen, the difference is not just noticeable, it’s startling. Ink flows freely from it without having to press down (like she does with the other pens as though she were digging for words in the paper), in beautiful lines that aren’t too thick or light. (The only digging for words she has to do is in her head, and that is much, much harder.)

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