The shower curtain in the residency apartment is clear with a subway map printed on it, so that when I'm in the tub I am behind the map, underneath the lines. There's a fold of mildew across Manhattan. I read backwards. The creases cut off words; -E-U-Q for Queens, though I think of Quebec.
A couple weeks ago I walked across Flushing Meadows Corona park to the Queens Museum where I saw the panorama from the 64 World's Fair. It's an expansive miniature replica of the city, like a model railroad but infinitely detailed. I spotted the building where I'm staying. Inside that tiny building there is a tiny room, and inside that a tiny bathtub, and inside that a tiny person, nestled like Russian dolls. Tiny planes fly on fishing wire in and out of La Guardia.
The day I arrived, a plane landed in the river and everyone survived. And then, an inauguration! I went to Washington after everyone left. The grass and mud was still trampled down from the big day, but it was cold and quiet and the souvenirs were half price.
I wanted him to come out his front door and wave. I thought I saw him in the window. I should have bought a miniature White House, brought it home and peered through the windows like a giant.
When I got back to New York from Washington, it was like a small homecoming, a return to an almost familiar place. All I do is walk here, and the map in my head gets better and better. But I like it when people show me around, so I can be led by the maps in their heads, and walk without tracing and counting, and look at signs and junk on the sidewalk.
One day, around dusk, in Chelsea, my friend from Canada who's living here pointed out all his personal landmarks in our line of vision. See above the Dunkin Donuts? There's my apartment. See the Empire State Building over there? That's my studio. And see that big round thing hanging in the sky? I have an office in there.
I can imagine a city built by millions of these projected views, superimposed and superimposed, webbed on shifty scaffolding, always changing.