Cartography #1

Magdalena Waz


Martin draws intersections to add to the ones already machine-inked onto his play rug. 8 x 11.5 sheets cut into crosses for hot wheels stolen from the grocery store on accident. Their containers so small even in his toddler hands. He lays the cross gently next to the rug's border. He grows an empire that way one autumn in a stuffy apartment on the north side of Kraków. The paper roads are taped down to the parquet. He’s thinking of me as the sister who will tear it all up when she gets home from school, where they make her put on inside shoes, little sneakers with pristine soles.

Let me draw you a map of Kraków. There’s our apartment, the last in a series of four stubby soviet-era buildings. Let me tell you that there is a bank of recycling bins underneath our balcony, and there is a kiosk on the corner plastered with newspapers and candy wrappers. It’s where I get my Kinder eggs, and it’s where we get the crossword puzzles, and it’s where we consider getting cigarettes, and in that direction, it’s where my memory ends except for the distant awareness of a hospital. In the other direction, there’s a school and a video rental place, and a shop that sells kettles on a road that might lead to the castle on the river. 

Let me draw you a map of the road from Warsaw to Kraków. It’s one line straight down, from the middle of Poland to the not-so-middle. Five hours by car. Don’t know how many by train. I’ve never been. Guess you can Google it now, the distance between two cities, between two homes. Drop a pin anywhere in the world. Draw a map of your walk around the block. How far would 1.64 miles take you in Kraków? From the hospital to the kettle store and back again. I don’t know. I’m just guessing.

Let me draw you a map of an airplane’s trans-Atlantic journey to the states, the way it follows water the whole time, the way it once nicked Hudson Bay. You could be an expert like me at naming the mouths of rivers and thinking you know the difference between what’s a bay and what’s a gulf.  Explain to the other kids that the fastest route isn’t always a straight one. The arc matters, watch it inch us across.