I had not thought of the map for years.
But afterwards, as we talked, I told her about the map that had been dumped in the middle of sounds and tastes, and tensed shoulders and tightened neck. I told her I could remember lying there in the half dark, the light from the landing illuminating the parchment paper map of the world, five portraits – line drawings, not cartoons – scattered round the edges of oceans, five ships mid ocean, dotted lines, dotted and dashed lines, lines made of dots and small equilateral triangles, lines made of unfilled circles and passing from land through the ships to destinations.
The lines were marked with felt tip pen, different colours – green, blue, red, yellow, purple – differentiating each. Every individual portrait was marked with one of the colours, a badly filled irregular square, an awkwardly pinned badge on the lapel.
I followed each line from land to sea and back to land. I followed each. And looked at the portraits. The Norse helmet – inaccurate, I realise now – and the large beard exploding from under the nose. The beards. The wigs. A ruff. A small black hat perched jauntily contrasting with the sullen expression.
I stared at each portrait, eyes tired, aware where my colouring had been clumsy.
My neck was sore.
I stared at each ship, each felt tip mark, each line connecting dots and shapes.
I tried not to hear.
I stared at the felt tip squares, tried to read the writing beneath the portraits from the awkward angle, and I told her now that I decided then that I would not feel.