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Sorting through my box of lovely and underloved pens, I saw a smaller grey box labelled Boskov’s. A long-gone department store chain, I thought, the kind of family-owned stores that used to sell old pens when they were new. (And yet it’s still in business and still run by the family.)

I opened the box and pushed away a layer of gauze: an oversize Sheaffer Balance from the 1930s, marbled green and black, a brassed clip from long use by others. I’d forgotten I owned it.

As I held the pen a small green chip fell off. I picked it up with a fingertip and tried to work out where it had come from, how to put it back, and then with barely a touch there were other chips and then the entire tip of the cap crumbled away into the box, irreparable.

Perhaps that old celluloid is prone to degrade over time regardless; perhaps being stuck in a box and swaddled with gauze for years was what made it disintegrate.