THE NOISES MET JAY on the narrow stairs, washing out the rustling coming from his small daypack. When Jay opened the door, the pub was a different world. Silence had been booted into the streets. The world outside had realized its throat was dry and it needed to come inside. Jay couldn’t even see the floor, much less an empty chair to sit in.
Different languages whooshed past Jay. He passed by tables of travelers sitting together, Indians sitting together, and Indians and travelers sitting together. Looking around, he identified Australians, Israelis, Swedes, Germans, Japanese, Kenyans, Egyptians, Americans, Brazilians, Canadians, Mexicans, and Scots. The whole world seemed to be at the Everest Base Camp, getting to know each other while swapping stories and clinking glasses.
A wayward foot made him stumble. Two men sitting at a table caught him by the arms and steadied him. Something about their faces seemed familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it. “Thanks,” Jay said. The men nodded and he continued on.
He hadn’t noticed earlier, but where the Everest Base Camp’s walls weren’t white plaster, every color of the world turned the pub into an atlas and a scrapbook. Scrawled with signatures and well wishes, flags from over one hundred countries hung from the walls. Postcards. Photos. Maps of states, countries. Across from the bar, a large world map hung on the wall. Jay wove and twisted through the crowd until he stood before it. The map was large enough and detailed enough to show not only the world’s countries, but also states and cities. Much of the map wasn’t even visible, though; it was stuck with pins representing where the patrons came from. Not just travelers but locals too, Jay saw; India itself was covered in pins.
The countries he had visited were also well represented. Ireland alone had twenty pins stuck in and around New Galway and the surrounding country. Maybe a sign pointed them here, he thought, remembering the red hair and the white sign of a long-ago memory.
He looked west, across the Atlantic Ocean and the North American continent, until he stopped at Idaho. Other than a couple of pins stuck in Boise, the state was empty. Jay traced the green shape of the state with his finger. The map is not the world, he thought. Still, for a moment he expected to see the river there again, or smell freshly sawed cedar in his dad’s workshop, or hear the excitement in his mom’s voice as she read from another guidebook.
Instead, he remembered the door opening, the rain pouring in sheets behind the man walking in.
Jay lowered his hand. “Maps are dreams, hopes, and memories,” he said to himself.
Beneath the frame a clear, covered tray held pins. Jay stuck one in Idaho and turned away before the memories could come back.
On the pub’s corner stage, ten people sat in a circle, playing music and singing. The musicians too were local and foreign, though Indian and Celtic sounds and rhythms dominated. People clapped hands, tapped feet, and whooped as a fiddle and a sarinda dueled, their respective players bowing furiously. Other people called out tunes, and the musicians acknowledged each request with a nod.
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