JoBurg : The Belly of the Beast

The Black girl in Braamfontein ran the “land thieves” out and stole my heart simultaneously.

It’s impossible to write while inside the belly of the beast, hey? The senses are being attacked; perhaps sight more than anything. It’s funny though, because the belly of this beast was beautifully dark. Still sight was the greatest of them all.

Never in my life, probably not even in my own home, have I been so welcomed. My mother would cringe knowing I said this because she loves me more than anyone, but Joburg is different. Joburg is that first cousin who sits at your grandmother’s house during the family reunion, staring out of the window, waiting for you to pull up in your mama’s car. You jump out of the back seat and the two of you are thick as thieves all day. It’s that real, longing, love.

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The “born-free” kids are amazingly carrying the torches handed to them and the grounds are shaking from the fighting. #FeesMustFall! Sidenote: we must adopt this in the U.S.

I fear I’ll never have a chai tea latte in America as delicious as the one I had at News Café by Market Theater. What am I to do about the Peri-Peri chicken livers and Portuguese rolls in Newtown, the whole snapper grilled by the Cameroonian lady in Yeoville, and the malva pudding in Rosebank? My imagination has gotten me far, but 10,000 miles is a stretch.

Every night, from now on, I want to stand on a wall next to an electric protection wire and stare into a sunset, and turn around to stare at the moon like I did at Mzwandile’s house. I want a gin, ginger, apricot, and bitters jam jar every few days with a happy friend in a cozy place, then another, and another. I blame Natalie. And I blame Mpho for my desires to hold unlit cigarettes and Castle Lite bottles in an attempt to look cool. I want to make someone feel as relevant as Nonkululeko made me feel on award night. What a time to be alive.

When I was able to block out the thought of leaving in a matter of days, I was able to experience a joy I haven’t felt since being a 4th grader on the last day of school. The joy of something coming that, in my head, would never end. Johannesburg was that first glass of water after a week of nothing but tequila and ground beef. Johannesburg saved my spirit.

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That Blackness! That unbelievable Blackness beating against everything improper, unjust, and foolish. The Black girl in Braamfontein ran the “land thieves” out and stole my heart simultaneously. I’ve always loved the unapologetic fighters. There is no shortage. How does she expect me to return home the way I left? She doesn’t. She only knows me by the tattoo on my neck, and by that she knows I’ll fight with her. Ah! I love it.

On day two, I stopped by a property management firm to look at houses, condos, and land. I want find more people to love in the U.S. and leave notes in their inbox that read, “whenever you’re not okay, I got a place to stay. I’ve built it just for you.” I want to be okay. I want to be better than “good enough.” I want to stand on greener grass and destroy that cliché. So I will.

I’ll return and I’ll go from eating fish from lips to tail in Yeoville to drinking improper Washington Apples at Lenin’s in Maboneng. I’ll Couchsurf with Lwazi and Zwaai, and I’ll finally make it to one of those infamous braais Kabelo is always talking about. I’ll go to the top of the Carlton Centre around dusk when I’m not in a rush and see how the entire city responds to sunsets. I’ll cruise through Alex and give high fives to kids who are fortunate enough to not understand the situations.

Yeah. Go to Johannesburg. Love the beast and all its beauty.

Thank you to the beautiful people who fed me, laughed with me, hugged me, and supported my movements.

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Darnell Lamont Walker, a self-professed traveling foodie, has been found sitting at tables eating baby goat sweetbreads, drinking tequila, and laughing loudly with strangers. The writer, filmmaker, artist, and sometimes photographer puts happiness above all.

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