Heaven on Earth. Or at least in Staples.
Some people smoke. Some people eat entire pints of ice cream. Some people buy new shoes.
I go to the Moleskine aisle at Staples.
This past weekend, I spent twenty dollars I should have saved on a pack of two deep blue Moleskine notebooks (see above: second row, second from the left). Before I bought them, I paced, in my jeans and down vest and wool socks. I walked around the aisles and reverently touched things I didn’t want, like gluesticks and highlighters and plastic file boxes. While I did so, I imagined the day in the future in which I would be buying office supplies for my office. It is still unclear to me what I would be doing in this office: writing an article, advising foreign students, or planning a Spanish language curriculum. Maybe all three. Or just chewing Orbit gum and reading a magazine, then typing my blog when I should be making money doing something less fulfilling and more practical (whatever that means).
I cradled the two notebooks against the nylon of the fabric of my vest, the thin plastic around them making static and swishes. I considered their perfectly saturated blue colors, their understated Moleskine emblems stamped on the bottoms of the back covers, their beige pages so blank and unwrinkled.
This struck me as funny, that a journal’s pages would ever be called ‘blank’, because they never are. Before they are covered with words and cross-outs, imperfect structures, bad clichés and someone’s very soul, they are full of thoughts in their youth. Thoughts in their youth are not yet into fruition, not made real by good pens (as if anyone who likes to write would use any pen but the one she deems good). They are just fragmented and on the cusp of becoming something, a feeling in the air that we sense but cannot see. The pages aren’t blank because they smell of that feeling.
As I was thinking this, a very amused voice asked,
“Can I help you?”
“What? Oh no, n-no.”
Then I marched out of the glue aisle, right up to the register, and I bought them.
I pulled out the card linked to my Christmas-savings bank account, and I handed it to the cashier in exchange for these perfect notebooks and my favorite pens (fine-tip, no-bleed, retractable Sharpie pens, in case you were wondering). Instead of guilt, I felt the certain calm that humans can only derive from a feeling of control. Soon, I would fill these notebooks with something even more inherently satisfying than the trip to the aisle they were kept in.
Everyone who buys anything they don’t need believes it to be a vehicle for a better life. The woman who buys a new dress every week is buying being the best-dressed – and thus the most beautiful – woman in the room; the boy who buys baseball cards imagines the day when his collection will be recognized at recess as the biggest and coolest; the man who buys his wife flowers on Saturdays is hoping that he can invite affection by showing it (which, quite frankly, is somewhat true. Husbands, wives, and everyone, are you listening).
I know exactly what I am doing when I’m buying a Moleskine. I am imagining myself to be the girl in the train station (Grand Central, most often, but sometimes in Prague), writing in a tattered Moleskine whose contents will soon be converted into her latest book, her most renowned article. I am taking a little piece of my fantasy and making it real, as if this rule from imaginary to happening will apply consistently to the other elements of the fantasy like a universal scientific law that Newton or Einstein decreed. I am making an imaginary life for myself in which I am worthy of a Moleskine; or, more accurately, I am making a life in which my words are worthy.
It is infinitely strange that we do this. That we work to buy our worthiness instead of believing work itself to increase it. That we know that worthiness cannot be bought, and yet we do it anyway and believe that we have done it. That I know this, and I bought my Moleskines.
But to tell the truth:
The very same day I bought the Moleskines, I went right to grocery store afterward. My favorite wine was on sale and I bought two bottles of it. Then I went to the card store, and bought all my Christmas cards and made my Christmas card list. And I sat in my living room, in the armchair by the lamp my roommate gave me for my birthday, and considered sending my wishes and my words out into the world.
I would never deny a single soul this kind of contentment. The kind I had on the Saturday between fall and winter, when I had the time and the freedom to spend half the morning in the quiet that is saturated with the rich smell of stationary.
Now you know my favorite pens, my favorite notebooks, AND my favorite (cheap) wine…
Real or imagined, may you all have that kind of contentment this week.