1. You look at a map of a city you’ve never been to.
You see patterns and street names and they tell you nothing. The map remains dead, the city unknown.
2. You go to the city you’ve never been to.
It becomes a city you know.
3. You look at a map of a city you’ve been to, but have left behind. As you look at the map, you remember.
You are looking at nostalgia. You walk through street names and remember the taste of cake in the café whose name you forgot, but you remember its yellow walls and comfy chairs. A square is no longer four lines on a map, but an open space with people and statues and laughter and a fountain in the center. The monotonous, two-dimensional blue that indicates an ocean turns into postcard memories, so many shades of blue and green and the smell of salt and fish. The famous building with the famous name that everyone knows is now a personal experience, it is yours and yours alone in a way that will never make it anyone else’s. A billion feet have walked these (now familiar) paths and two of them were yours. You can trace the steps you have taken and you remember feelings and colours and strangers who offered you a smile. There is the hostel you slept in, there is the river you crossed so many times, there is the corner where you listened to the most amazing street musician. You fondly whisper street names that you had trouble pronouncing when you first spoke them, clumsily. You connect dots, and they turn to images in your head.
The map is alive, the city an old friend.
4. The map you look at is always the same; the perception is different. It is you who has changed.
p.s. // every time i look at a map I have a feeling that is hard to put into words
-The first guest of my shift placed their babbling, giggling newborn on my conveyor belt for me to ring up, instantaneously paving the way for a bright and joyous day.
-I became ecstatic to find a roll of fresh, new, spring-themed stickers the size of my face at my register. The sticker renaissance shall now commence.
-I rang up an intimidating biker with a wizardly beard for his purchase of one single Dr. Seuss book. I now consider him a close friend, as I stand by my lifelong belief that not a soul who reads Dr. Seuss can do anything wrong.
-Shortly after the discovery of my spring stickers, I came to the realization that they were, in fact, a heretofore undiscovered strand of Christmas stickers that we had not previously had on hand. I do not understand why we have such a large and untapped stock, but I am prepared to make the most of it.
-A man in his sixties, phenomenally spry and smooth-skinned for his age, purchased forty dollars worth of dried prunes. I believe he may have uncovered the secret to immortality. While I appreciate the scientific progress this man is making, I will embrace whatever final form nature has in store for me so long as I do not have to give up my crunchwrap supremes.
-A mother asked her child if he wanted his shoe back, pulling one single Croc out of her purse. I am not sure what he may have done to lose his shoe privilege in the first place, but I am glad to see that he is earning it back.
-After I gave her a sticker, a mother told her daughter, “Say thank you.” In a brilliant moment of word association, she peacefully replied, “You are welcome.” I consider myself blessed by this small person and will live out my life in bliss.
-I befriended the kindest and most eloquent child named Bennett. We shared a lovely conversation, touching on such topics as how nice our respective names are, his recent go-karting accident, his subsequent recovery, and stickers. I believe I may have found my Best Man.
-A woman in her seventies attempted to run her husband over with her cart, gleefully yelling, “Beep beep beep!” Hopefully, I have just received a glimpse into my future.
-I have adopted a new motto in life, and that motto is as follows: “You have never seen true purity until you have seen an infant in glasses."