Isabella is the youngest student to ever take my The Art of the Personal Essay (ed. Phillip Lopate) unit, and has just finished reading Virginia Woolf’s “Street Haunting”. Woolf is in need of a pencil one evening in London. It is a wintry evening as she walks across town, and “the champagne brightness of the air” and the “sociability of the streets are grateful.” Working within the stream of consciousness approach, Isabella wrote this amusing personal essay about her pencil. The setting is a regional scholastic competition in Connecticut, and the event happened the same week she read Woolf.
The classroom was cacophonous, the dozen people sharing conversation. I moved around and chatted with a few of my friends, talking about this and that, helping out with some notes or simply asking about how they did on their most recent event. People dropped into the room at times, and others left the room at other times. Most of my friends, though, seemed to be in the room for the majority of the time that I was there. My mechanical pencil, however, did not. The first time that I used my pencil that day was at one of my events, and when I got back I had set it down on the table. Mysteriously, when I decided to go fetch it a few minutes later – from my seat which was but a meter away – it had gone, simply vanished. I looked for it a bit, but had then reluctantly decided that it was a lost cause. It surfaced and showed itself to me around three hours later, when I had all but forgotten about it. By then, I had succumbed to boredom and decided to show my friends a comic ( in a video so that you could hear the characters speaking ), in which at the end, one of two main characters had yelled out the other of the two main character’s name in anger and exasperation – a bit loudly, in fact, so most of the others in the room heard it too and laughed. So I brought my pencil to my next event a while later, where it again decided to evade me. I soon discovered though, I had left it with my partner, and promptly lost it for a third time for around ten seconds, right after I found it. Alas, even that was not the last time that it evaded me. For the fourth time, it disappeared just as it had done the first time, and I had to ask for my friend’s assistance to track it down. And for the fifth time, it hid from me under the bleachers (where I had looked already) during the awards ceremony, but when I checked again, after the ceremony had ended, it was in plain sight. Let me tell you, from all of these happenings, I have gathered some very important information and data – that I should not put down my pencil, for whenever I did, that elusive yellow and black object hid itself away for a random period of time. Right now though, I am keeping track of it, and it is lying innocently on my desk.