Simultaneous Map

by Brian Ma

Staring at the map on which I had traced all the known movements of my aunt, who had gone missing during the war, the vertiginous suspicion that her movements were taking place at the same time as my search for her came over me. In that case, her itineraries on my map (traced in red) and the ground I had already covered (traced in green, the two not necessarily neatly overlapping) were not two journeys that happened at two discrete and different times but were, in actuality, occurring simultaneously. This meant that at any one moment I was anywhere along the green trail she was, at that same moment, on any one point of the red trail. To continue this logic, it meant that at any intersection of our itineraries we had unknowingly crossed paths, meaning that I had already uncomprehendingly seen her seven times, meaning that my quest, in actuality, has ended seven times, meaning that I had already discovered penetrating truths about myself seven times. Along the way I would have seen the new gleaming buildings that were built after the war and the foreign investments but also trees on fire and falling bombs. There was no need anymore to search for her to keep her from disappearing and there was no need to keep myself from disappearing either. Her world: dark then bright. The simultaneity spread like a virus. Like a sketch being colored in, everything became, was, and is, Time Present. The war, the buildings, and, in fact, all the wars and all the buildings.


Brian Ma lives and works in Seoul, South Korea.

“Simultaneous Map” won first place in Tiny Donkey’s Once Upon a Cartographer Contest.