My metal heartbeat

Lately I’ve taken to pounding out letters to my two brothers on my old Royal typewriter. I happened upon the thing in vintage clothing store (which also stocks old typewriters and typewriter-themed clothing. Odd. And perfect.) I have been longing to replace the one from my youth for years now. (It suffered the scourge of one of mom’s manic cleaning frenzies back in the day. Probably wound up on the sidewalk next to the trash can, which was fitting, since that’s where my grandfather found it several years prior when he decided to take it home and restore it). I don’t think this model is exactly the same. I remember ours being slightly darker in color, but it’s nearly a dead ringer. Apparently, gray was THE color to make these suckers out of back in the day, and I have come across varying shades in my travels. This one most closely resembles the gun metal gray of my childhood typewriter. I remember, too, that ours had a case that fit over it. It was made of the same steel the typewriter was made of. The whole thing must have weight 30 pounds or so. It could have herniated our backs several times over, but that didn’t stop my brother and I from moving it around the house when we were kids.

I’ve been searching the Internet for the past hour for images of Royal typewriters. The one I own now is the KMG model (i think). The M in the middle stands for “Magic Margin”, a feature which is not so much “magic” as a series of levers and release buttons that allow you set up and then remove a few margins along the length of the roller. Ah, the 40’s… a time when machinery that outperformed your expectations was dubbed “magic”.

I wasn’t sure, when I first bought this KMG model, that I was actually going to use it. I thought I might shove it on a wide plant stand and stick it in the hallway for passersby to leave quirky messages on… but, on a whim one night, I took of its dust cover, and started to pound out a letter.

I’m beginning to fall in love with typing on the thing. I can’t type at my normal clip because the hammers get jammed. Instead, I have to be very deliberate with each depression. I have to make sure the hammer has slapped the roller with an “a” before I pound down the “b”. It takes quite the effort to get a rhythm going, but once I do…it’s the sweetest sound in the world. It drowns out all other noise. I become consumed. It’s a wonderful break, too, from a plastic keyboard. By comparison, I am lazy and slack-wristed on the keyboard. The delete key is so handy, sloppiness is always an option. But on the typewriter, because I don’t have the special white correction ribbon, sloppiness is not an option. Which is refreshing, because with the slowing down of the typing comes great intention, and with great intention comes great flow. I find that having to slow down my typing just that little bit gives my brain extra time to think of the next string of stuff. There’s a slight delay between brain and hand motions, and it puts me into this strange and wonderful state of ease. It feels like the most natural thing in the world. Hands take care of last minute’s thoughts while Brain and I starting setting up the next sentence. I can’t express how much more relaxed and spent I feel after typing letters. It’s a full body workout. I think I am beginning to understand how the great novels of the world were created on these things. It’s hard not to write novels when sitting down in front of them.

So far, my brothers haven’t written back. Mom thinks I’m weird for writing them using a typewriter (then again, she’s the one who threw out an antique with the last week’s leftovers, so I’m not going to count that comment). I’m going to keep writing them. Even if they never write back. At some point in the letter writing, it becomes about satiating a need to hear that thwap thwap thwap… the need to hear my writing as regular as my own heartbeat in my ears.