Comparing the possession of money to the movement of water makes Lagos, a series of islands, an intricate archipelago, a mad complex that has no one to tell it the truth. Money separates neighbours in a compound, on a street or in an estate. It shows in the conversations, or lack thereof. It is interesting encountering people who believe they have a right to money that far outweighs anyone else’s. It reveals itself in very strange sentences:
“What is the government doing with ‘our’ money?”
“What are they saying about ‘our’ budget?”
“They embezzled ‘our’ oil funds.”
How do you tell such people, “You are a faceless set of figures to the people in the highest paying civil service jobs. They argue over name-calling and suggest policy measures that are mostly sheep in wolves’ clothing. They bungle economics as if Adam Smith or their forefathers left no wisdom behind.”
So when I heard that the economy had gone concave and receded to -36%, it all made sense why I could not pay my rent.
Typically I make my rent money within the 3rd quarter of the year and let it sit cool until the week before rent expires. This time things were going to get worse before they get better. Here is a blow-by-blow account.
1st month of the 3rd quarter: How wisdom hides in plain sight.
A friend needed just under N50,000. I looked at my account balance, and could not come through. I did not see the roforofo was coming. I was singing change for the better. I told myself to ‘buckle up’ and see what I can do for my friend. Advice for life found in any airline passenger safety guide. Secure your oxygen mask first before tending to your neighbour.
2nd month of the quarter: “Love is good, but it tastes better with bread.”
I found the woman I decided I was going to marry and so, for the sake of this relationship, I was going to ‘break my limitations’ and other meme-worthy quotes that were the intellectual diet of the soft middle-class 80s children. I was getting tired of being the candle in the wind.
3rd month of the 3rd quarter: ‘This sh*t just got real.’ Or Money became a unicorn.
I am not a proud man, but I would rather exchange value with you than take a loan. The economy was so down and tight, even the mosquitoes became less buzz and bite. Money became a unicorn. Could not find it, could not earn it.
My thinking became fevered, and this lead to an awkward moment with one of the people I treasure the most in the creative industry. I falsely assumed he was above the storm.
Thinking back, if he could have come through for me, he would have to come through for himself first.
Had I been in a calmer place, I’d have spoken of engaging with him for a brief period, to bring value to his structure and more love into our relationship.
Instead I was reduced to a man with shrill inner screams wandering the streets of Lagos, under maddening pressure. I cringe as I write this, but Ras Kimono, I apologise. I understand you better now.
1st month of the 4th quarter: To master water is to master one’s self.
I live in the same compound as my landlady, a sweet Yoruba octogenarian of royal stock (her personal history is quite amazing, but this is not about that). Our structures are closest at the kitchens, so all she needs to confirm if I am at home is if I am washing up dishes in the kitchen or taking a shower. Splashing water is loud.
Bruce Lee said, “Water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
You see, when I shower or wash dishes in the kitchen, I make the water ‘loud’. Through trial and error, I started learning to make the water flow silently over my body in the shower and even when washing up the kitchen sink. I made water silent.
2nd month of the 4th quarter: Who to blame or what?
My landlady would ask “How far?” I would reply, “The economy.”
I knew I sounded just like an errant toddler, but you see… was it not the truth?
You see, she is a very reasonable and accommodating person. How do I tell her recently my returns at the end of the day are:
1) A serious doubt about the relationship between adulting and the decency.
2) A gnawing feeling that maybe I should get into blue-collar work. Even if my creative muscles atrophy, it just might take sweeping the house of an oil billionaire to pay my bills.
3rd month of the 4th quarter: Able and unwilling, Who You Epp?
Anyone who tried to quote zen to me became persona-non-grata. Walking through Lagos, I haggled where I once would have overlooked the change.
I won’t presume anyone was able to help. I’d confirm this first before asking. For my trouble, I’d often receive advice on becoming more adult in my adulting.
Sharing your opinions when action is needed is bad manners. The decent thing? Wait till I’m gone, then discuss your opinions with others. It is called gossip.
Kindness is plain. If people are able, then it is about willingness. And if they are willing, they will.
Someone just had a baby, he helped. Another rationed his feeding allowance to help. Others connected me to opportunities with creative projects. One took on more than expected, calming everything down.
I realised that to be willing and to be able are both required for anything good to be done. I was willing, but unable to pay my rent. Some friends and associates were willing but unable to help.
Anyone who would have the gumption to tell you that it is in your best interest to spend your money on them instead of meeting your needs first is an armed robber.
Remi Olutimayin works as a consultant in writing, sound production, voice acting and voice-directing. His personal drive is to tell stories better.