In a recent dream, I found myself in my old elementary school, completing a crossword on a single sheet of paper. It was photocopied, not mimeographed, so you could tell it was kind of special. I was late, and an annoying girl I never really cared for had gotten there early, and had been at it a while.
I like crosswords, and I'm pretty good at them, so I dived right in. I don't remember a lot of the answers, but I was happy to share clues. I remember entering one of the across answers, the clue to which must have been the name of Hungary in its native language, because I filled in "MAGYARORSZAG" with no small amount of satisfaction. The really strange bit was, instead of my usual implement, a Pilot roller pen, I was using a colored pencil.
It was a pale peach color. Possibly the ill-advised "flesh" color, although I'm not sure of the brand. All I know is that it wasn't a Berol Prismacolor, which we all know was the Caddy of colored pencils back in school. And it was dull, I was just smearing letters on the page.
I went over to the sharpener mounted on the wall by the coatroom and had a flood of nostalgia. "No matter how much money I donate to this school," I announced as I came back to my seat, admiring the perfect, oddly carved-looking point on my peachy pale pencil.
"No matter how much money I give, no matter how nice the new facilities, the new gym, all the books, everything. No matter what other accoutrements we have, I'm not giving a cent for new pencil sharpener."
Someone must have looked at me funny, because I continued:
"Do you see those things? They were built to last. They were built during the war. Materials were scarce, and things had to last. Not like now, where you're supposed to use stuff for a while, and they buy some more."
No one seemed to share my enthusiasm, so I got back to work. It was around this time that annoying girl announced "Done!"
A couple others seemed nearly there as well. I bent back to my task, about two-thirds of the way through the puzzle. It slowly began to dawn upon me that this was actually a competition. And I wasn't going to win.
"Sixty seconds," my old teacher announced.
I stared at the clues, Everything swam. I put my perfectly sharpened pencil to the page, but nothing happened.
I crumpled my paper in mock angst, pretending so I could cover how pissed I really was. How could I lose to these people? I was in a higher math group for Christ's sake. And now, as an adult, I was going to have to correct my sheet (in royal blue colored pencil)? Oh, this sucked. This sucked big time. And the only recognizeable person in this dream was one of the most annoying people in my grade school. Where was the girl I had the crush on? She was in my math group, and if she beat me in a crossword puzzle contest, I would have been embarrassed, but at least she was someone I respected. And thought about like, all the time.
And I don't know what I was thinking: Those pencil sharpeners were the worst. The teachers had to bring in electric ones.