My mum taught me to appreciate paper early. To riffle through blank journals and pinch the sheets between my finger pads. To consider pulp and fiber. To notice how a pen flows smoothly here while it bucks and protests there. Since, I’ve met and felt quite intensely about so many different papers.
French toilet paper – crisp, waxy, impractically nonabsorbent and harsh. Little Italy deli sandwiches wrapped in thick white paper, once, sliced in half, then wrapped again. In Pakistan, at nine, I cut my finger in class and the teacher bound it in green crepe paper, which, as I watched in horror, turned black with my blood.
Fibrous, mud colored hand towels in bus station bathrooms. Hand made papers in the flat files of Tallas, marbleized in Brazil — $80 a sheet. Small edition books with cream-colored papers printed with scarlet initial caps and black, debossed, letter set type. The lox-colored pages of the Financial Times. A dental bib with its little necklace of steel balls and alligator clips. Heavy vellum that takes soft lead like a dream, then smears posterity. Sculpted papers at the Dieu Donné paper mill, tectonic layers thick as egg cartons. Ridged passport pages. Anachronistic rolls of brown paper in the butcher shop. Stationary, too good to use.
Silk-screened banana leaves on pre-war wallpapers. Foot thick stacks of tissue paper on a store counter, enfolding plates, glasses, lingerie, soft as carnation petals. The dehumanizing feel of a paper-covered examination table sticking to my buttocks. Gridded, oily pages of a Chinese composition book. Toothpick thin strips of heavy stock for sampling essential oils at the perfumery. Distant newspapers packed with an ebay purchase, stale with old cigarette smoke.
My grandmother at her desk, shredding old accounts payable into confetti with her aluminum ruler. The savage shock of a paper cut. Bond. Hot pressed bond. The sinful indulgence of any paper over 300 lbs. Architects’ amber tracing paper ripped from rolls screwed to the drafting table, soon spidery with the lines of 6H mechanical lead and Rapidograph ink. Drawing on paper restaurant tablecloths with a roller ball pen. Collecting shirt cardboard. Foreign bank notes. Ancient craftsmen in folded newspaper hats. The heady smell of musty, rare books.
Paper balls lurking in the toes of new shoes. Kids’ papier maché over withering balloons. The lottery tickets, fractioned over and again, in the Treasure of Sierra Madre. Fish and chips in a vinegary newsprint cone. The grimness of motel glasses wrapped and sanitized for my protection. The surefire excitement of florist paper, encircling roses. Ripping open a fresh 8 1/2 by 11 brick to feed the printer. The corpse of a forgotten note to self, transformed and illegible in the pocket of freshly laundered jeans.
The trembling promise and snowy expanse of a virgin journal.