How Books Were My First Passport

January 17, 2018

Through books, I’d traveled the world a hundreds time over before I reached adulthood, navigating France (Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin) like I navigated my middle school hallways, falling in love in Ethiopia (An Ethiopian Romance by Heliodorus of Emesa) like I fell in love with Miranda in my boyhood, and running through bushes in Vietnam (If I Die in an Combat Zone, Box Me Up and Ship Me Home by Tim O’Brien) like I ran across train tracks near my grandmother’s house in summers. Truly, these books were passports and passport stamps, and they opened doors to the world, allowing me to fall into every corner my body could find and fill.

Sitting on the beach in Daytona at 18, smoking grape-flavored tobacco rolled tightly in cloves, my friend, and college classmate, Deshaun Snead, handed me a copy of Cecil Brown’s The Life and Loves of Mr. Jiveass Nigger, introducing me to George Washington, aka Anthony Miller, aka Paul Winthrop, aka Mr. Jiveass Nigger.

This book was a visa to Copenhagen that I wouldn’t use for 17 years, but would fantasize about every time I was asked to recommend a book, every time I booked a flight to Amsterdam, London, Paris, Oslo, or someplace within a stone throw.

I suppose I could have gone anytime, but all the times I was within reach didn’t feel like the right time, and I was fine with that. Risha, my reckless and foolish friend, went, knowing how badly I’ve wanted to see it, and refrained from sharing any information until I decided to make the leap. I appreciated her for that. Finally, though, something clicked, I purchased the ticket, fell asleep in Amsterdam, woke up in Hamburg, passed out and woke up again at Copenhagen’s Central Station, knowing this time was the right time.

I traced the footsteps of the character that helped shape my life. I found myself in coffee shops pretending to smoke cigarettes while I made friends with other expats and locals. Benny, I called myself, and they followed along and laughed at the life I created. It was love. It was a trip. It was all because of that book.

Darnell Lamont Walker, the man in the ugly suit with the sunny disposition, resides mostly in Johannesburg, South Africa after successfully escaping American tyranny. After a few degrees, years of Hollywood, a few awards, and too many cups of tequila, he’s focused on collecting and telling those stories around the world that would otherwise be carried into graves and urns. His in-laws never had children and his son is also a genius. Follow Darnell’s journey on Instagram.

  • Sanura
    January 20, 2018 at 11:45 am

    Books are amazing in this way. Not only can they make you experience a place you’ve never been, but they also have the ability to make you long for a place you’ve never been.

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