Emergency: This Book Will Save Your Life - Neil Strauss (2009)
Part V. RESCUE
As soon as I touched Kittitian soil, I took a taxi straight to Market Street. So much time had passed since I’d last seen Maxwell that I made the mistake of trying to engage him in small talk. “Any luck working less and golfing more?”
“No.” The word seemed laden by the weight of the world. “Unlike you, I have to work all day—not just sunbathe and play tennis.”
I don’t even play tennis.
Maxwell started filling out the last of my paperwork. Every laborious action seemed like a message letting me know that he’d rather be golfing. But this time I didn’t care. It didn’t matter if he was happy, sad, friendly, mean, or illiterate. He’d done his job. And though he’d done it slowly, perhaps that was just the pace of life down here.
As he handed me a manila envelope, my heart filled with the warm, expansive feeling that Greg from the Sovereign Society told me he’d felt after leaving New Zealand. It was as if a large white building had been lifted off my chest.
I thought of Tomas and the 4,000 immigrants receiving their American citizenship. This was my ceremony. Though it was slightly less august, it was no less poignant. I shook Maxwell’s hand, thanked him, and then, in a careless burst of optimism, invited him to dinner to celebrate.
“I’m exhausted,” was his reply.
I left the office clutching the manila envelope as if it were a newborn child I didn’t want to drop. The street was dense with the sounds of soca, the smell of fresh-baked bread, the bustle of teenagers on their way to this or that street corner. I wanted to find someplace quiet to open the envelope. Somewhere it wouldn’t get snatched out of my hands.
Nearby, the tight cluster of colorful buildings and cramped shops parted to reveal a cathedral. I walked down the street and entered the dark church. Aside from the attendant at the door, I was the only person there. I sat in a pew, beneath an organ with pipes as thick as my torso. And, with Jesus staring down at me from the cross, I undid the clasp on the envelope.
The first document I saw was a white piece of paper, which I pulled out to examine:
The sight of it took my breath away. Especially when, beneath the thuglike photo I’d taken over a year ago in Koreatown, I read the words CITIZEN OF SAINT CHRISTOPHER AND NEVIS.
I reached back into the envelope and grasped a thin booklet. A lump formed in my throat when I pulled it out:
I opened it, my excitement building to a climax, Jesus craning his neck behind me:
There it was. Finally. My name and mugshot on a non-U.S. passport. Even secret agents had to forge their documents. This was legitimate. As Wendell had said, my future wife and children would be Kittitians too.
As I stared at it, I realized that a second citizenship was no longer something I needed, but something I wanted. Nationality mattered a lot less to me than it had two years earlier. I had survived just fine with a knife in the forests of America. And I’d survive just fine with a knife in the jungles of St. Kitts.
Just to make sure I could get by on the island without help from the outside world, I found a local nature expert named Kriss, who helped me get to know the local plants and wildlife, which consisted mostly of monkeys and, ironically, goats.
Though I worried I’d have buyer’s remorse after such a long, costly journey to get such a little booklet, I was elated. I had a beautiful apartment on a beautiful beach in a beautiful country. I was an American. I was a Kittitian. The world was that much more open to me.
Besides keeping the passport as a backup in case of emergency—which didn’t seem so paranoid when three weeks later, during a terrorist attack in Mumbai, eyewitnesses reported that gunmen specifically asked for people with American and British passports—I already had three immediate uses for it. First I booked a trip to Cuba. Then I called back the banks that had turned me down. They might not want to do business with Americans, but there was nothing wrong with doing business with Kittitians. And, finally, I took Spencer up on the advice he gave me when I first met him and started a publishing company, luring my first authors with an offer to work in my compound in St. Kitts.
By compound, I meant my apartment with a stockpile of supplies.
Unfortunately, the first author I signed died of heart failure before making it to the island. He did, however, live six years beyond the average American life expectancy. His name was Larry Harmon, but he was better known as Bozo the Clown, one of television’s most popular children’s characters.
Even with the makeup off, he was the happiest person I’d ever met. His secret to longevity, he told me one night over dinner, his face glowing with enthusiasm, was “Just keep laughing.”
Along with my passport, guns, water, bug-out bag, medical supplies, a loving family, a healthy diet, and exercise, I promised him I would add laughter to my survival stockpile.
A good soldier is always prepared.