Once in the lower levels of Lotte World in Seoul, Korea, I was lucky enough to stumble upon a little pen store nestled next to the underground parking lot and a convenience store. Pen Cafe, it called itself, a tiny space smaller than a typical American garage, stuffed to the brim with pens.
Website here: http://pencafe.co.kr/
What a wonderful place. There were three “salesmen” inside—Korean men in glasses and business suits—and no customers. I didn’t speak any Korean, nor did I look the part of a typical pen-buying customer. If anything, I probably looked like a little lost schoolgirl who’d wandered into the place by accident. Their glances reflected as much, as they mostly ignored me.
But I didn’t care. Just being able to see the pens was enough. And there were so many of them—even exotic versions and limited editions of pens I’d never seen online before. So glorious! I spent precious minutes pouring over each pen in the display case, moving methodically from left to right. I was too timid to take pictures of the pens themselves—it seemed rude—but I did manage to snag a shot of a glass Parker display case with a giant Aurora nib on top.
I asked for some prices of their inks—Iroshizuku, Montblanc (of which they had the LE Winter Forest in a bottle!). The salesman took out a giant calculator, typed in the price in Won, and converted it to USD for my benefit. It was all full retail price, so I was disappointed and decided not to buy anything. They were still looking at me as if I were in the wrong place. I knew I should have brought my pens with me that day…
Eventually, I wandered outside to check out their displays…and was pleasantly surprised to see some LE on sale, like this Parker Duofold here.
I do believe this was my first time see a real LE fountain pen in person. (Montblancs don’t count—there are so many MB boutiques that their limited editions are something of a “norm” to me now…)
Still, upon closer inspection, I couldn’t help but notice how dusty the pens were. Day by day, they must have sat in these display cases, watching the people go by, probably being ignored most of the time, maybe only earning the occasional glance or two from a random passerby…
So many layers of dust…so many forgotten years spent waiting and waiting….so many words left unwritten…
Did the pens hold their breath as the people passed by? Did they try to look sharp for the holidays, in hopes of attracting more eyes? Did they ever despair of getting a good polish once in a while?
The Waterman Serenite really caught my eye—-so elegant and poised despite being incased in its plexiglass cage. I asked if I could have it taken out to look at. Just to see the phoenix design from different angles. I wouldn’t even try to touch it.
The salesman were adamant in shaking their heads. One even raised his eyebrows at the audacity of my suggestion.
Very well, then. I asked—tentatively, I admit—for a price quote.
The pen was so neglected that none of them knew off the top of their heads. They had to bring up the store website and look for the pen in their inventory listings. The result? Something ridiculous—a price that was easily twice or three times of those still on the market today. Not that there were many left, as Waterman only made 120 of these pens.
There was nothing else I could do. I sighed internally and left the shop, leaving the salespeople discussing whatever topics they had on hand.
Walking back to the display case, I expressed regrets to my imprisoned princess. Raising a hand, I touched the glass in a vain attempt to wipe off the dust coating her slender frame.
How I wished I could have given the phoenix her rightful wings and restore her place in the skies…