25 March, Abuja, Nigeria

By Eloghosa Osunde

I woke up, took a few quiet moments for myself and then got on House Party with F and D. I’d stayed up until 4am talking to A about love and family-making. I stay up most nights, because nights are magical to me. The world is less jarring when it’s quiet and dressed in all black. It resets me. It’s F.’s birthday today and she had me download House Party yesterday. She’s in Lagos, so I can’t see her see her, but thanks to technology, I still do. It’s an odd app I don’t understand, but I do whatever F. says to be honest. We talk about everything from earrings to D-Nice’s Club Quarantine to Asa and James Blake’s live concerts. F got dressed while we talked and I laughed so hard I gave myself a slight headache. Then I went to sleep through the afternoon. I hate afternoons. They’re too loud, too bright, too much.

When I wake back up, it’s what, 4pm? I text F and then continue working on the public playlist I started yesterday to celebrate her birthday. Today has to feel good because it’s hers. Music is one of our languages, but it’s also one of the surest ways for me to rise above anything. I can make anything unreal from inside the thumping heart of a song. I watch the playlist grow under my hands. It’s now ten hours long and it will get longer. Nothing can reach me here. Not fear, not worry, not the news. Two nights ago, I got back home from a long drive to nowhere and put up two new Post Its. One reads, Make New Reals and the other, Commit to Play. My apartment is full of those — bright coloured notes to myself, reminding or instructing. Those two were instructions in yellow and pink, right opposite my bed. This is part of the plan. I obey myself.

Everything is uncertain, everywhere. But where I am, there’s a more specific terror. I’m in Nigeria. There are wonderful things about being Nigerian of course, but due to our chronically corrupt leadership, a staggering percentage of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. It’s the poverty capital of the world, which means that what works for most of the world will not work for us. How is social distancing possible for people whose basic survival depends on how hard they work every day? How does one self-isolate when homes are crowded with people squatting? On Sunday, people were still in church by the hundreds, people are still using public transportation, people will still go to work because it is better to die trying than to die hungry at home. What is at home for most? No money, no light, just time spent waiting. So many people can’t afford to stock up, and even if they could, would it even hold, with unstable electricity? Our president is barely engaging, there is a shortage of test kits and there are apparently only ten ventilators in Abuja. A former vice president’s son tested positive and so did the president’s chief of staff. People in power are hoarding life-saving resources. False information keeps circulating on whatsapp. Something is coming, and it’s a tragic reality to look at head on.

I work in stories, so I make realities for a living. But it’s different when the work is on your mind. I used to be so scared of running mad, of believing things that others couldn’t see. I used to think I needed to keep myself updated or in the know so that I wouldn’t veer off from crucial concerns. Because what is madness, but a dislocation from reality, right? And if you’re someone who dissociates often, you know there can be such a thing as floating too far. There’s such a thing as watching yourself from an angle, as needing to focus on a part of your body hard enough to come back into it, of having to set your bare feet on the ground to wake back up. But real life was why I used float behind myself so often in the first place. Is it still madness if I’m going away from everything with my eyes open? I know many places safer than where we live.

It’s hard to notice that the world is just as painful as it is beautiful, we are both safe and unsafe at the same time, we are powerful but mortal, all plans — even the ones that feel certain — are tentative, time is fiction, urgency is not real, everything we had been told needed to be achieved now now now now, can wait. Not everyone should see or know that for prolonged periods of time. Some minds can’t take it. That’s why I know that through everything happening now, so many of us will need scheduled escapes, mental vacations elsewhere. We will need ways to travel while sitting still.