“Okay, I am buying it”.
A warm feeling. This is not only the first time somebody buys a piece of art of me but it also just got rid of all my money problems for the month. I smile at the man, Amid was his name I believe. He takes out his wallet, then looks around.
“Actually I am also getting this one, and the one behind that, with the ship!” He shows with his hand towards two other paintings of mine we were looking at previously.
Do you know this feeling of something jumping up and down in your stomach?
This feeling of relief completely overriding a question I should be asking: He did not make the impression as if he would have a lot of money - his car outside wasn’t exactly a sportscar. Who is he and where did he earn all this? Am I not taking enough for those pictures? As he now opens his wallet I see that is about to pay in cash - this is a lot of money.
“Hey man, what are you working as?”, I get myself to ask before I realize that this might be a slightly sensitive question. He smiles at me while putting multiple hundred dollars on the small table on which I am usually drawing. “I am a painter, like yourself!” It is true then. It is indeed possible to earn your living like this. I was right and mom was wrong.
While we are bringing the paintings to his car I am thinking to myself: I can quit my job at the supermarket now. That is the moment when Amid stops, turns around: “What are you gonna do with that money now?” He got me, I am not sure. “Don’t know yet.” At least I am honest. Amid looks at me. “Can I give you some advice?” I look at him and think - why not?
30.000 last month
“How many paintings do you usually sell per month?”, Amid asks. I smile. “A few!”, I lie. “But not enough to pay my rent!”, which is the truth. The math does not work out but I think he might not have noticed. “Okay!” He thinks for a moment then looks at me. “So you have raised your prices?” I look at him for a moment then slowly nod, another lie but it wouldn’t matter, right? “You might want to live somewhere else for the time then so you have some money left over to pay the rent?”, he suggests. I basically immediately like and dislike the idea. I could quite my job for a longer time and spent all day painting but then I would be in a worse apartment and my girlfriend Shira - well she is gonna hate this - I guess. “How much do you earn per month, if I may ask?”, he asks me. “I don’t know!” “You should know! Get yourself a net-worth tracking sheet.” - “Well how much do you earn?” - “30000$ last month!” I am startled for a moment.
"I don't like to talk about it but I see you need convincing!" - “So you sell at Christie’s or Sotheby’s?” - “No. But I handle my money with care and invest on the side!” - “But I just want to paint, I am not interested in investing!” I say with a slightly more heated tone than I had intended.
Amid nods, then he greets me with his car keys. “Good luck then. I will return some day for more paintings!” He sits into his car. I am unable to wave goodbye as he leaves towards the road. His and my last worlds or more precisely the way I said mine is still echoing in my mind.
Am I wrong to ask to earn my money doing what I love? Is that not a valid request? As I am justifying my behavior to myself I make my way back to where I am used to paint.
Looking back on it, this was the moment where everything started to go wrong.
I sneak in. Shira lays on the bed, eyes closed, sleeping. For a moment I appreciate her - quite the catch like my mom used to say ... then on the other hand I am also a catch ... I hope.
I carefully climb over her, lay down, hug her. For a moment there is silence. All the troubles of the day vanish, all the memories of Amid dissolve in a warm embrace.
She turns around, opens her eyes. She was not asleep? “You are late!” I nod. “Sorry but there was a man who wanted to buy pictures of me!” - “Congratulations!” She hugs me and kisses my cheek then looks into my eyes. “So who was costumer?”
Why the uncomfortable questions first? “Some other painter guy.” - “That is something like a compliment, isn’t it?” She smiles. I reach over her to grasp my wallet, open it and show her the many banknotes that clog it. “Wow. How did he get so rich? He is a painter, right?” - “Yeah, I think invests on the side. We had a conversation but he did not want to tell me how to do it.” Another lie, I ignore the little voice reminding me of it.
“That is sad, you should ask him again.” I shake my head forcefully. “No, no. Thanks.” She looks at me for a moment as if she would like to say: “Come on, try it at least?” But she doesn’t and lays back down.
“Its gonna be fine.” I try to calm her. “Do you know that or are you just saying that?” I twitch in my upright position but say nothing. She looks to the ceiling, clearly in thought. Then she remembers something and turns to me.
“I met a guy.” She starts. Without thinking I look at her and my heart drops to the floor. She recognizes my face and laughts at me when she realizes what I thought she meant by it. “I just met him nothing more, chillex boy.” - “Of course, what did you think?”, I say grinning but it is a false smile. She still met him ... I am trying to keep my jealousy in check. “Anyways”, she continues. “He is but a few years older then you and is already making I believe 500k a year.” - “Are you guilt tripping me?”, I ask with sarcasm in my voice. “No!” She looks at me. “But I want you to meet him so he can tell you how he did it!”
I do not believe that he can tell me anything and I am not interested anyways. But I want to know who she knows.
So I nodd. “Okay!” I nodd. She smiles at me surprised. “Okay!”
the man with the 300k watch
I leave the taxi. Number 2. I look up and down the street. A few villas stand considerable distances away from each other. Each with a pool - at least as far as I can tell ... many are closed off by a wall with surveillance cameras on it. And right now I am standing before such a wall and an iron gate with one of these cameras looking at me. I knock on the door and am let in.
As I go up to the house someone comes my way. I am for a moment surprised - I had imagined a tall, trained, oiled bodybuilder with a fake 10 yard smile. But I see a man who looks way older then beginning 30 with a hunched back and something is also weird with his ear, like a tumor that had grown around it. I immediately come to the conclusion: Concerning Shira I am not in danger.
He now stands before me and we shake hands. “Hey man, you are Adrian, right?” I nod. “I am Jack. Shira speaks well of you! Come with me into the house. I do not have much time so let's use it.” Not sure what to say I follow him.
As we enter the living room I am first drawn to the huge front of windows looking over a garden with a large pool and a range of mountains in the back.
We sat down and started to talk about this and that, good tea and painting. He asked me how I thought of painting.
“I try to paint the truth as I see it and it forces me to ask the questions of life that nobody can answer but in their heart!” A little sentimental response but I thought a lot about it, let me be.
He nods. “I like the way you think about these things.” He walks over to look at the mountains. “I never really knew where I was going, what I loved to do - so I thought I might as well get rich!” His laugh has a bitter note to it. “But isn’t this a great start? You can still do whatever you want but you now have money to do it!”, I ask.
He shakes his head. He points to the outside: “Look at this garden. The bank wants their fee, the owner, the seller, then the pool needs to be cleaned, repaired, the garden made ...” He shakes his head. “This is worse than being broke. I just admitted this to myself a few days ago.”
He might be right. “So why don’t you sell the things you don’t need.” “They are not all of them mine. For many I still have to pay ... See this watch?" Indeed I see it. It is a magnificent creation with a little town build behind its glass. "It is worth 300k but these things are not bought everyday especially not used. It is an illiquid asset. It is like I was a monkey and this a Banana with gold and diamond all over it so that the other monkeys would think I am something special. But my friend, if our places were exchanged I would not envy you. For even if you might have all the money in the world I would have a meaning to follow!”
I look at him and for a moment I pity him. He puts his hand on my shoulder. “I will have to receive another visitor soon, I am sorry that I have not told you about it, I am aware you have been here for just a few minutes.”
I nod, then I make my way towards the door. As I look back I see him look outside the window upon the hills. A chilling feeling overcomes me. I turn - not only away from him but also from a pursuit of wealth.
a broken promise
I open the door to our apartment. After putting my bags down and shoes away I enter the small living room: An area with a round table, two seats and a stove behind it. On a chair looking away from me sits Shira.
“I am back!” She does not react. I frown and move around her. She holds a paper in her hand. “Don’t you want to hear from my meeting with Jack?” She lifts her head then looks at me and holds up the paper. “You said you payed the rent!”
Like a hot needle it comes back to memory: I have bought paint in the hopes to sell pictures. I know I told her that I would pay the rent but I did not ... for some while.
“I’m sorry!” I quickly say, trying to not look at the paper but into her eyes with some confidence. “I just have not put the money I earned from the sold paintings towards it!” - “Its too late now. The guy is kicking us out so we do need a place to stay until we find something new!”, she says - she clearly is angry. I have actually never seen her like this before. “Besides - you had no way of knowing if somebody would actually come in time and buy something. Its like asking somebody to spin a gun with one of six possible bullet against your head and pressing the trigger. Congrats you dodged the bullet but that did not make it the right choice, Adrian. I can take the responsibility for this kind of thing if the alternative is that you lie to me!”
That was a bit too much. There is no way I can shoot back. I have nothing left but one idea: “You might not want to talk to me like this if you want to stay at my parents with me until we find something new!” - “Fuck you Adrian!”
She turns away, walks into her room. SLAMS the door.
I stand there in the middle of our living room. I feel bad: I know she has no parents to stay with - they are both dead and she has never been somebody
Shira looked outside the car window. The small but elegant country house came into sight. She had loved the place before but now it was not the same.
When they parked the car and left it, Adrians parents were already on the doorsteps and ready to hug her. They laughed and asked her how she had been and she smiled as good as she could to hide the fact that she and Adrian had seized to look into each others eyes. The following days she walked often in the forest surrounding the house. Many hours she thought about what was the right thing to do. Adrian and herself had not talked really despite from the necessary. Every time she thought back on what he had said and remembered how he had lied it broke her heart all over again.
As the days went on she noticed that he left more often. For long stretches he had locked himself into his office with the laptop and no noise would come from the inside. Apart from the awkwardness that lay between them Adrian seemed too enjoy living back with his parents again. He ate a lot and had no problem with his parents making every meal for him while she tried to help out and took care of buying foods.
One evening Adrian was downstairs to eat when she discovered the office unlocked and his laptop still running so she sneaked in and sat down. After looking at a few tabs she realized that he must have bought a course - a course on making money. For how much she did not know. Quickly she typed in the name of the course and found a salespage with a pricetag of 5000$ promising quick riches. For a moment she stopped - had he bought a course for that kind of money? Were his parents paying? That was when Adrian appeared behind her. How had she not heard him come up the stairs?
I looked at Shira sitting at the laptop and slowly moved over to where she had sat down and glanced at the salespage that she had opened.
“How is this going for you?”, she asked as if nothing had happened.
at what price
“How is it going for you?”, she asks as if nothing had happened. “Is this how you want to deal with it? By sneaking into my room with my private laptop!”, I ask back after I catched myself. “I remember a time when we shared everything with each other!” - “I don’t share with you because I don’t want to lie!” I had spoken before I had thought. For a moment between our words I looked at her. My heart cracked as a tear dropped to the floor and I realized for a split second where it might have come from.
“Tell me how we can live together if we don’t tell each other the truth!” I took a deep breath and picked up a chair. “I have bought the course with my own money. I have not burdened anyone with it!” - “Where do you have all this money from?” She looks at me, clearly unsure of what to think. “You can impossibly have sold all of your paintings, 5000$ ...” - “I have not sold all of them, all I needed to do is sell one to Jack, the man you asked me to talk with ... a few days ago!”
“You used Jack to get this shitty course?” - “It is just fine!” - “I listened to it for two minutes. It is a pyramid scheme. Why would somebody who knows how to make money sell a course for 5000$?” There is a small silence. “I have done all of this for you. I want to take care of you!”, I say trying to save the day.
“Adrian ... if I was the one driving you to all of this it might be better if we go different ways.” She stands up as I look at her leave.
In a way this is not unexpected ... it does not really reach me emotionally. Better - I don’t want it to be true. I also have a say in this.
For a moment I think about all of it. I am not positive this is over. I don’t want it to be ... although Shira has never been somebody to change her opinion on fixed things like this. I want to turn it around but I need something to do it with. And then I remember - I have an idea. It will be uncomfortable but I don’t see another way. I look through the paperwork I brought with me and sure enough, there it is: An invoice with the name Amid Sulu on it. I brace myself, one last chance!
Although I am nervous more then that I am determined. I have reached a beautiful but modest little home. I ring the bell and Amid opens. He smiles at me: “How are you doing!” I smile forced and nod.
“So how is business?”, he continues as we walk into his kitchen. The place is clearly decorated with love and on one of the walls there hangs a picture that I sold next to what must have been a family foto of his.
“I have lately sold one of my paintings for 5000$ to a friend of mine!”, I say. He turns around looks at me. “You have rich friends?” - “Of late one, yes!” He nods. “Coffee?”
“I wanted to learn how to make more money!” - “Well - have you brought more patience this time?”
I look at him and my heart sinks. “How much patience do I need?” - “A couple of years!” He puts down the mugs on the table. “The most important part is to learn to keep your money that you earn and not rid yourself of it immediately ...” He looks at me. “You still have those 5000$ right?”
I look at him then slowly I tell the truth: I shake my head. He looks at me, then sighs. “Ok, then we know where you will have to start changing your habits!”
“There is no way of making this process a little faster?” He looks at me with a smile. “I was like you once you know. Never interested in the Art of Money unless there was some to be made quickly. You have to know I would happily live in a society that would allow me to just paint every single day. But like you have to earn yourself good health through taking care of your body you will have to deal with this or suffer the consequences ... it is not gonna be super exciting. It is gonna be slow. It is gonna be sometimes a little nervwrecking. But if you learn your ways it becomes a little bit of a game that you play every next weekend. And most importantly it will give you the feeling of being able to take your destiny into your hands not through some miracle but through your persistence. Or you can continue to chase miracle drugs ...”
I look at him and I sigh deeply. This is the moment where I realize: I will have to let her go. She was right. I am not the man I could have been and I will not get on track soon enough to have any leverage if we get to talk again. The emotional impact has yet to hit me so before it does I am making the right decision:
I nod, then say: “Can you tell me how it is done?” He smiles. “For a fellow struggler, I’d be happy to help!”
Three months have passed since I started learning from Amid. I look down on my phone - all my groceries are in the bag in front of me.
25,90$ I type into my phone - then I scroll through my previous transactions. If I listen to it I can feel the subtle satisfaction of knowing what I am doing - I know every transactions purpose.
I take my bag and leave the store heading down the street to my new apartment. It is small but I am alone after all - the money that is over I have both saved and invested. It is not that I am feeling super excited running this thought through my head going down the street but I am no longer afraid nor am I unsure of what needs to be done although I do not know everything about it.
I cross the street and stop short before the sidewalk. The car coming my way slows down and honks ... I quickly step away. I am embarrassed - now she has seen me for the first time in 3 months and I am already the idiot.
Shira laughs as the car drives by, then I stop before her.
“Hey!” - “Hey!”
There is a moment of silence.
“I did not want to write you so I am saying it!” I start. “I wanted to make up for everything that happened but I did it the wrong way, I know. I can not make up for it ... not in the upcoming year and ...”
“Adrian ... it is not about that!” She shakes her head. “All I needed was somebody who does not run away from this life's challenges!” For a moment I stop. It does make sense. It is painful to acknowledge that this was me a few weeks ago but she is right non the less. “I have talked to Amid,” I cautiously continue. “He helps me get my shit together!” She smiles and nods.
There is a moment of silence. I think about asking her. “Wanna go out for a drink?”, I ask. “Yes!” - “Tuesday?” - “Adrian”, she says. “I am happy that you are back!”
What Amid knew ...
... is also going to be available for YOU.
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