Mata Hari's Cordial happened to be my first pink fountain pen ink. I loaded it into my Pelikan Grand Place with the 18k medium nib, which I have already soaked and flushed and dried the day before, in anticipation of this moment.
I was quite pleased with the color of this ink. On paper it’s shade of rose, what I know to be "Old Rose," and is not at all washed out. The lines it laid down were thick, rich and clear, and it was definitely not the ordinary everyday work ink. It’s actually a nice and proper Old Rose, the Old Rose that is predictable and familiar, the Old Rose of my hair ribbons from childhood, the Old Rose of my grandmother’s silk jewelry pouches. It was absolutely wonderful to use for letters and journals. Here it is on ecruwhite kid finish 32 lb resume paper from Crane, a paper that I absolutely love
I have already edited the scans with Photoshop in an effort to capture the Old Rose of the ink. It should be a medium dark dusty rose, not magenta, not fuchshia, not hot pink, not gray pink, and not faded pink. Not too dark, either, and definitely not washed out. Just the regular rose, darkened a few degrees, and rendered “old.” Old Rose. Very 1930’s.
I also liked the other qualities of this ink. It dried quickly on the three different papers I’ve tried it on, it did not smear or smudge, did not bleed, and was smooth to write with. And of course, it was fully waterproof, retaining its color and clarity even after an hour of soaking in tap water. Truly hardy for something that looks very feminine. (But then again, isn't that the essence of being a woman?)
Needless to say, I loved this ink. Loved. Because at some point, it started to look ordinary to me. No matter what pen I used, and no matter on what paper I wrote, the ink looked like I was using a felt-tip pen instead of a fountain pen. Over the months the bottle got relegated to the back of my ink drawer. I have purchased several more inks since the Mata Hari's Cordial, and a few more fountain pens, too. Looking through some of my writings from the past year written with Mata Hari's Cordial, I realize why it lost its beauty in my eyes. The ink has absolutely no shading.
Shading in writing is what is achieved when ink pools at the end of a writing stroke, which renders the ink darker at that point, and lighter at the point where the writing is faster and continuous. Shading also appears in strokes that are made slower. Notice the shading on the "s" of the word "this" in the writing below made with a different ink, and on the "t" in the word "resulting."
It's really quite subtle, but I can see those, and it's what makes writing beautiful for me -- that the lines are not the same all the way through, that the colors are not the same all the way through. I like that it looks imperfect, flawed, in a way, inconsistent, because of the combination of the pen and the ink and my strokes. I like how the shading reflects the speed of my thoughts; I like how the shading expresses on paper the things occupying my heart at the moment. I like how unique each handwritten page can look, because I know I feel secure in the constancy of the sensibility that lies underneath all the shading. I laugh, I cry, I don't know what to write, I get angry, I toss things into the wastebasket, I abandon my desk and mope in the rug beside my bed, but I know I'll write again. Much like in love. No day is the same as the one before. We laugh, we cry, we don't know what to to say, we get angry, we toss things away, we abandon our conversation and mope apart. Shading. Line strokes. But it's okay, because love is always there, like the ink, the exact same ink but just in different shades, and we both end up going back to the desk, to continue the writing of the same story.
Now the man in my life has begun to use fountain pens, too. He's on his second fountain pen, but at the moment he uses only one ink, Midnight Blues from Private Reserve, and he has not yet gotten the hang of loading a converter properly. I change inks more often because I have more inks, and I am perhaps more volatile and reactive than he is. But that's just my shading. I am not a felt-tipped pen.
But then what about the Mata Hari's Cordial that's still at the back of my ink drawer? I doubt if I'll ever use it again. Honestly, I did expect something more striking-looking for an ink named after perhaps one of the most enigmatic women in the history of 20th century warfare. I certainly did not expect a prim and proper Old Rose, never mind that a Cordial can be either a candy or a drink made from squash. (I would imagine her Cordial to be black and emit smoke). And why call it a Cordial? Why not just Mata Hari, and then color it the darkest red ever?
But I suppose this is just as well. For after all, for all we know, Mata Hari really just might have been the prim and proper Old Rose that history had never made her out to be, and there, in those spaces between mainstream history and the history that will never see the light, lies her magic over us.
I will never be the spy Mata Hari, of course. I don't have her spunk and her expertise at betrayal. And I don't think she ever truly loved any man. I will never be the prim and proper Mata Hari, either. If I were an ink, I'd be scarlet. But one thing I have that she doesn't is love. I love the man in my life, because of his shading, because of his presence, because he sees me as scarlet and also sees me as bubble-gum pink, because he sleeps beside me, because because. There is no enigma there. Shading is shading. Love is love is love.