Article: 261417 of talk.bizarre
From: (Ed Gaillard)
Newsgroups: talk.bizarre
Subject: sympathetic magic
Date: 1 Dec 1995 10:01:39 -0500
Organization: Department of Pointless Activities
Lines: 77
Message-ID: <49n5cj$>
X-ISBN-Number: 0-88640-748-6
Status: O

In an airport bookshop, a scruffy-looking young man with a large bag
slung over his shoulder is browsing by the map racks.  He is flipping
through a book of maps of the city this airport serves.  It is odd
that these local map books are so prominently displayed here, since
this is really a departure area.

The young man looks at some of the maps intently.  He must be looking
at the parts of town he's just visited.  Try to imagine why he was
here: he's obviously not a business traveler, nor does he look like a
tourist-- besides, a tourist would already have his maps.

He must have been visiting someone.  Relatives?  Friends?  He smiles
slightly as he looks at the maps, fingers tracing half-familiar
streets.  There is a dreamy look in his eyes.  A lover?  That seems
somehow likely.

He buys the book of maps.  He must already be planning his next visit.
A boarding announcement plays over the loudspeaker.  He looks startled
and hurries off towards the departure gates.

Think of the possible worlds opening up in front of that man and his
love.  Think of the possible futures of that book of maps.  He will
look at the book back at home, remember her and the places they went,
and think of where to go when he visits next.  He will look at the
maps and her letters, and her city will become familiar to him, even
the parts he's not yet seen.  And then...

In the worlds of happy endings, perhaps they'll marry.  He might move
to the city of the maps, bringing the book with him.  It will be just a
reference then, a useful object.  Not a bad life for the book, though
perhaps not an exciting one.

Or she'll move to his city, wherever that is.  Their books will mingle
in any case.  Sometimes they'll look at the maps, and maybe remember
his visits there when they were young.  The book will have, then, a
somewhat more special existence: a memento of her hometown, a minor
relic of the beginnings of their affair.  A quiet life, still, but a
happy one for the book.

In other worlds, the book gathers dust on his shelf. Perhaps he takes
it down and look at it wistfully years later, thinking of a place he
never saw, a woman he never saw again, a man he never was again.  It
is a special book for him: a reminder of a happier time and a sadder
one, a book to take down on a cold evening and browse through with a
candle and a stiff drink on the table, a book to browse idly and sigh
wistfully over about lost youth.

Or maybe he doesn't want to be reminded.  He gets rid of the book,
sells it. The book of maps turns up in a used bookstore, hundreds or
thousands of miles away from its birthplace, perhaps many miles from
even its adopted home.  A precarious existence for the book but a more
exciting one.  Who knows where it might wind up?

People browsing happen upon it, flip through it.  The browser may be
planning to visit that city and buy it, or already be familiar with the
city and leaf through it, reminiscing, before replacing it on the

Or the browser may have no special knowledge or interest in the city
of the maps; may look at the book with only an idle curiosity about a
place-heard-of.  To such a browser, who knows what ideas might occur?
Such a reader could speculate about the original owner-- "how *did*
this book get here?"  Ideas could leap into the mind-- even the image
of such a scruffy young man, and all the sad commonplace story of the
book's provenance and career.  Imagine the book falling open not to
the usual Places of Interest but to the map of the lost love's
neighborhood; imagine the browser's fingers tracing those familiar
unfamiliar streets, thinking wistfully of some other time and place
and person and map.

In that world, the book is magical.  The maps connect the browser to
people remembered, unmet, forgotten;  connect the actual space of the
bookshop to places familiar, unvisited, imagined.

-ed g.