Maps to Good Things

It was a couple of hours after sunset in Barcelona, and the market place in front of the Cathedral was full of shops and visitors. We had to tread like penguins due to the sheer number of feet walking there.

People were looking at items spread out on every corner. Buying, haggling, and just expressing admiration. Almost every shop owner was busy. All of them but one. An old man, with white and gray hair, a stubble. His glasses hanging on his chest with their retainer. He seemed in his 50s, not that old still. But he was just sitting there, chin and cheek in hand. A face of someone who has given up on the day and is just waiting for it to end.

I’ve known this feeling; I’ve been there. So I decided to try and cheer him up, just by going there to check what he had to offer.

Around him was what seemed like old maps and documents. Something out of a 13th-century naval fiction. It was as if he’s selling maps of treasures to pirates. Except that there was nobody there to pillage and plunder.

I came close, and as it turns out he did indeed sell maps.

“Hello”, I said. He only nodded.

“So… what maps are they?”

With a half quick smirk, he said “Of Things. Good things.”

“Aha, I see… so… is business going well?”

“Ever since these electronic maps came along I’ve only been doing worse. No one wants to buy paper maps anymore. I have spent years making them myself, out of actual visits to places, with actual stories, and real life tips. Alas, all in vain.”

I then had a feeling that these maps meant more to the man than they would to anyone. To him, they carry a lot of sentimental value. I wondered whether his lack of enthusiasm to sell them was because of how dearly he holds them, or just out of general disinterest in merchandising.

“OK. Which one would you recommend to me?” I decided to test my theory.

“You’d have to tell me what kind of person you are first.”

“What do you mean? Like a personality test? or my favorite painters? or what?”

“Hmm. Scientific, doubtful and artistic. I have just the thing.” He gave me his back, put on his glasses and started looking in his drawers.

“You’re good.” I replied. Amazed by his quick wits.

“Here you go. This adventure is for you.” He handed me an envelope sealed with wax. I took it and was about to open it when he stopped me by putting his hand on mine “No. Not now. 2 years and 3 months. You wait 2 Years and 3 months.”

“What? What if I don’t live till then? Shall I miss the adventure?” I asked him, trying to get him to be more agreeable by speaking his language.

“Well, at least.. you’ll be having something to look forward to. Now off you go.”

2 years, 3 months. I have to wait. It is kind of exciting. I looked at him and smiled. I turned around.

“Oh. This is a two person one. Make sure to choose someone to take with you.” I heard him say.

“Thanks!” I shouted while waving my hands, as I continued walking.

Minutes pass by and I am thinking of all the possibilities that lie in this envelope. Then it came to my head that I didn’t pay the man anything.

I thought I should go back and tell him about that. I turned around.

As I came close, I could now see a huge crowd at his place. I was glad he finally had customers. So I didn’t bother going back.

A couple of days later I learned that he got a heart attack and died that night, just right after I left him. I now have this gift of his. I became more determined to go on this adventure in honor of his kind soul. The soul of a man who remained true to himself and to his career, despite all odds.

The day I’ve been waiting for came. I took a week off and so did my wife.

I unseal the envelope and we start reading:

“Dear Sir,

Thank You for trying to cheer me up. But I don’t want your pity.

Also, don’t believe someone who just randomly tells you about yourself. You can try and discover yourself on your own, and that alone is still far too difficult. But you need to do it nonetheless.

If you’re reading this after the time I specified, then thanks for taking my words seriously. But you should have done it right away. Don’t wait for stuff you can do something about.

I hope you had fun.

P.S. You owe me 5$”

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