It’s the 29th of September 2020 and the soundtrack of my heart is filled with broken chords, cracked voices and guitar riffs that aren’t as melodious. This year has taken several bad turns and the lockdown has definitely taken its toll on me. I am failing.
I have always considered my ability to feel deeply an asset. But for the first time in almost 8 years, I feel an overwhelming exhaustion creep in. I have given love until the thought of giving any more is crippling. I have to leave home, I have to head to Ibadan.
The time is 5:30am on the 2nd of October 2020, and my father is dropping me off at the bus park. I appreciate the man everyday for understanding that not all who wander are lost. But, I am lost. I really am. Something had to happen fast— therapy maybe.
It’s 6:30am, the bus fares have skyrocketed because there’s a pandemic and drivers can no longer sandwich us together. We must now pay for the empty seats. It’s a gift and a curse. On the one hand, I’m happy I don’t have to endure body heat, the smell of humanity and leg cramps. On the other, that extra N1,500 from Oshodi to Iwo Road could’ve easily turned my 6GB data plan to 10GB. But, we meuvee (with compulsory face masks).
The most important part of every trip for me is my travel playlist. On trips, the Alte movement has always been my go-to. Except that one time that I had to endure Chioma Jesus, Sunny Bobo, Paul Nkwocha and Patty Obasi on stereo throughout that trip with my father. This time, I was going to decide my own fate. Then I turn on my VPN and Spotify recommends “There For You” by Simi.
I’ve consistently failed to admit this but I must say— Simi is my comfort music. My personal tragedies have always pulled me closer to her sound. When I was really depressed in 2018, I always felt better after listening to her self titled debut project. When I was an Osanle in 2019, I had “Immortal” and the Omo Charlie Champagne project on repeat on my 3ML Bridge bike runs. When Elijah and I couldn’t make it to France for that ICC Competition back in uni— I listened to “Aimasiko” and I felt there was a God.
It’s 9:30am. Somehow, I’m still stuck in Lagos. The bus is navigating traffic on Otedola Bridge. For some weird reason, that place always gives me PTSD. I close my eyes, then rationalise listening to the complete Restless II project to myself. The alternative is my Travel Vibes Vol. 1 playlist. I pick Simi’s project (what’s the worst that could happen?). It’s go time, I take “There for You” off repeat.
As I listen to the project’s first track— “No Longer Beneficial”, I think of all the times I could’ve been clearer and communicated better. I think of a few times this year where I made people who loved me desperately unhappy. I think of times where I ghosted on women who genuinely cared about me. Every time Simi chimes “see me daily”, I think we probably wanted different things. But that’s a load of crap— I have a communication problem.
As “There for You” comes on. It reminds me of promises received and promises made. I realise I went back on several promises (and couldn’t be bothered). I also realise that it doesn’t take much to make anyone happy. Sometimes, people really want the simple things. Someone to eat roadside food with. Someone to take long walks with. Someone to send random tweets to. Someone to cry to. Someone to make fun of others with. Someone to travel with. I realise that people just want someone. And for all my silent need to create differentials, I am not different— I am people.
Simi’s compelling honesty in “City Lights” reminds me of someone I met a while back. She’s one of the very few people that actually get me. Curiously, she’s never in messiah mode when I discuss a problem with her. It’s refreshing to see. She’s not the one for me, we’ll never see each other. The best way to describe our peculiar situation is what I call a sweet sorrow. She deserves better than what I’ll offer right now. I should leave her alone. For those who really know me, this admission signals growth— I can grow.
The expressiveness of soul music is scary. “Triggered” becomes the representation of something I’ve always said to myself since 2018:
“Only the ones who don’t recognise sadness are living in true happiness.”Odunsi (the Engine)— Desire
As it plays, I realise I hurt someone deeply. I mutter “sorry” under my breath. But I should text the person. Instead, I text Solomon to ask— “should I tell this babe I’m sorry?” Because for the first time, I realise I was actually hurting and might’ve hurt her”. He says “no”. He notes that it’d be incredibly selfish as I am only doing it to feel better about myself. It hurts me. As I type this, it stings— a paralysing guilt haunts me.
On “Undeserving” I have a random flashback. It’s not mine to share. It’s one that has made me distrust everyone and everything deeply. I still think to myself till today— “why do people cheat and expect that their partners will never find out?” If our driver hadn’t at that very moment, hurled curses at a Keke driver at the intersection— I’d have shed a quick tear. I still hold on to hope that there’s some honesty left in the world. Or in those parts of it we love, at least. For all my good— I’m as hypocritical as the next man.
We’re off the bridge and headed towards MFM Prayer City. The air is great. I’m feeling better. I hear Adekunle Gold’s voice. I’m wondering to myself— “why is Spotify suggesting similar artistes when I’m playing an album?” Then I check and “Bites the Dust” is playing. The duet stops me in my tracks. I see my own demons.
For a second, I take responsibility. Then I’m back to apportioning blame. My failing mental health gets quite the allocation. Exes get their (un)fair share. Even my first taste of romance gets its share. I’m opening a scab. But it’s not bleeding. The song passes, then another. Then “There For You” comes on again and I want to be able to give that type of love. But, I feel so drained. I have nothing to give anymore— not to anyone, not even myself.
It’s 11:30, Guru Maharaji’s signpost heralds my entry into the ancient city. I must have listened to this Simi EP a hundred times over. It’s so easy on the ears (I think to myself).
Every 16 minutes genuinely feels like a pill setting in. Like the first wave of an intense high. With each rotation, I’m happier it’s on repeat. Afterwards, I open my notes app and I scribble a series of “hows”:
How is Simi such a deceptively versatile artiste? How does she float from core Afrobeats to Afro-Pop to R&B/Soul music effortlessly? How am I seriously wondering why she’s not in many GOAT conversations? How is the knowledge that she’s independent and securing the bag giving me so much comfort? How does she feel what I feel? How is AG so lucky?
The only answer I can come up with is: she worked hard for it. And I must. For my mental health. For those around me. For those I will love. I have to work through these issues. I must be restless too. However, in this moment, I have more pressing concerns. I have to book a Bolt ride to the apartment at Akobo, Ibadan. I also have to prepare my frown until the ride arrives so that hoodlums and motorists don’t think I’m a bolo. More importantly, I have to introduce the driver to my new favourite project— Simi’s Restless II.