After the stay-at-home order dropped, I realized that the Zoom party would not cut it. That was when I started to write letters.
Since I remembered, I have always liked collecting stationery: letter paper and envelope covers, soft stickers, glitter gel pens, custom rubber stamps and colorful ink pads to make my own cards. Therefore, when I visited my family in Hong Kong two years ago, it was no surprise that I would stop at every cute paper shop and expand my parents’ limits on patience.
In the middle of the journey, with some free time before dinner, I walked into MUJI. If you have never been to MUJI, it is a modern Japanese clothing and daily necessities store full of basic clothing with golden wood and loose silhouettes. I have always liked their stationery: simplicity, fashion, and uniformity. For some reason, I never really bought anything-it didn't feel right at that moment, or I had spent my budget, or I had already placed an order
But that day, I went to a place where all the pens were upright, displayed on a raised acrylic shelf with a blank notepad to test the ink. I picked up a pen and wrote: Go Hong Kong, this is the blessing of my second home. The ink gleamed under the light, and it said: "Today is the day when you will at least be the owner.
MUJI. "The pen feels good in my hand. I decided it's time now.
These pens (0.5 mm neutral ink ballpoint pens) are not difficult to find in the Muji store in New York where I live, but because Hong Kong does not have so many import taxes, I was able to squander three (black, blue and green), each 80 cents. Yes, buying them in the United States at a price of $1.50 per copy will not destroy the bank’s income, but if I have other things I like besides stationery, it’s a good deal.
When I got home, I opened the suitcase, put three pens in the ceramic pen holder on the table, and quickly forgot about them. When my hand is lost with a pen to write a check or quick note to USPS to leave the package somewhere, I will use them occasionally, but otherwise, they will comfortably fit tightly with all the other pens and pencils I have collected Set together. these years.
At the beginning of March, when New York mandated that full-time be at home, I knew that I would not be able to see my friends for a long time. Suddenly, I received an email invitation to schedule Zoom calls, FaceTimes and WhatsApp videos. Group text exploded, and strangely, chained emails also exploded. I know that I have many friends who want to keep in touch, so I feel loved and thought about, but it’s incredible to have emotions present all the time, especially because all of a sudden, I have improved my future, my family, and the world. .
Unlike face-to-face interaction, I can move freely, look around, and be in a new environment. Instead, I spent hours staring at my grainy face in the floating square on the laptop screen. In most Zoom group calls, the sense of intimacy becomes dull. Therefore, I feel that I have been fighting for chat space instead of looking for one-on-one chats in larger groups. I have to figure out when it should be an opportunity to share news or occupy airspace or find some way to conduct a body search without being self-aware for the next five minutes.
Therefore, within a week of standby at home, I decided to start writing: write a letter (or postcard) to a different friend every day, so that every friend will receive at least one letter from me every month. I am not looking for an answer. I think that the final use of my stationery is mainly a good excuse. Of course, I chose to use my Muji pens because I know they are reliable. They are also very concise, so as not to affect the choice of stationery or the actual content of the letter itself. The pen itself is easy to hold, the surface is smooth, and the surface is smooth, which is good because I haven't done much manual work in the past ten years. My hands are becoming more and more accustomed to sliding on the keyboard of a laptop, and accustomed to tapping my fingertips quickly. Relearning how to reuse my entire hand is a kind of patient exercise that can build muscle memory of the pre-screening age from a not-too-distant past.
However, in a letter, I want to take a moment to comment on the places I missed in New York (the Metropolitan Dendu Temple, the cloister, the Flushing food court, the bicycle circle around Prospect Park) with poetic and seasonal comments. (On one occasion, I updated the tree outside the bedroom. During the four months I was at home, the tree had changed from cold and barren to pink cherry blossoms in spring and then to lush early summer green). When I actually have the mental space to read, I will share my completed book and write out my love for prose or characters in detail. I recommended recipes, wrote funny jokes I heard from TV shows, and commented on small changes nearby. I even started to really write about the weather: how the wind spread through the vines to the building opposite my bedroom; the dry heat of the day reminded me of summer in Los Angeles. It becomes an interesting news every moment, because for me, nothing new happens.
All my memories of the past few months have been made within the same square foot of my apartment or within a two-mile radius of my travels. Although my plan was shelved, life outside continued, so I recorded it in writing.
Every letter, I think about how they will read it for years and decades from now on. From now on, what will the next generation (or even me in 30 years) remember? Should I sound smarter when writing? Is it interesting? More serious? What if I add "LOL"-will historians who encounter these letters think I am a dummy? For now, I'm trying not to keep this time period too much, but more just trying to extend a helping hand and give my friends 5 minutes of comfort. For me, this is also a catharsis.
As a freelancer working from home, I didn't take a break spontaneously and jumped on the subway to meet a friend for fast food, which harmed my mental health. Writing letters became a way for me to make schedules, and even a pleasant thing that I look forward to every day. Whether it is during the day or the specific friend I wrote that day, it also becomes a space for reflection in the morning.
After eating breakfast at around 8am every morning, I wipe the coffee table, select a card and envelope, put a stamp, and then open Excel to check who has not received the card in the past month (yes, I have a spreadsheet for everything) . I dutifully wrote their address on the envelope, and then sat for a while. What can I say in this letter, will this bring joy to my friends? Can I include an inner joke? What about memories?
Sometimes friends reply, so when they write letters, I will also pull up their letters and answer their questions, and ask my own questions at the same time. The long conversation stems from this. Unlike text messages, in text messages we will try our best to say everything before we move on every day, or feel more short in video calls. Replying gives me the opportunity to think and really think about what I want to say. share it.
I occasionally pause in the middle of a sentence, my Muji pen is still on the paper. However, no matter how long I pause, the ink will not seep into the page and spread out like other pens. I may have made a mistake or realized that I actually don’t know what the next sentence is, it’s not a betrayal.
My pen is almost used up now, but no matter what the source of the paper, the ink in every letter has exquisite ink. The pens slide effortlessly without dragging or smudging, and I know this is not only because my handwriting has become better, but also because my relationship with these pens seems to deepen with each note I write Up. On July 13, MUJI announced that they are applying for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the United States. Now, every time I write a letter, I worry that this may be the last letter before my pen is completely used up. Each letter has become more precious than before. Hopefully, although these pens will not last forever, maybe these letters will last.