Up California St. With Love. 1.

I’m at Trader Joe’s. I’m grocery shopping.

Walking through the aisles and picking stuff.

I learnt about Trader Joe’s just recently. My American roommate told me about it.

I didn’t even know there was such a thing.

I previously used to do all of my grocery shopping at Walgreens. A few blocks down Powell.

I go down Powell on my way to a number of places. The college HQ, events – a lot of places. And the Walgreens logo is pretty conspicuous, so I learnt of the location pretty quickly.

I learnt about Trader Joe’s later. I think it was during Halloween. I was roaming around the city – it was me, a Spanish classmate, and my roommate. We were trying to get costumes. We hadn’t even made up our minds on what we wanted to dress as.

My roommate said he wanted to go get some sushi somewhere.

We said alright.

And then we all went to into this grocery store on California street that I never even knew existed.

I was just walking around like Ohh wait what, there’s this place? Whatt?? All this while I’ve been shopping like Walgreens is the only place to buy stuff – Whattt?

So now I shop at Trader Joe’s every now and then. More frequently than Walgreens actually.

Well not really.

Usually when I shop at Trader Joes I get more stuff, and so there’s a longer span of time before I have to go grocery shopping again.

So I don’t know.

There’s this other store my roommate talks about. Costco.

He says his whole family shops there.

There was this day he came to the room with like two whole suitcases full of groceries. In fact I think they were more than two.

He says at Costco you can get membership cards and this gives you some huge discounts on stuff you buy. So his parents do like family-sized grocery shopping at solid discounts.

Shopping at Costco. Hm. Now I’m curious.

Sounds like such an American thing.

Oh hey look at me shopping at Costco with my membership card and getting huge family-sized discounts.

Such USA, so American ooh.


I also recently learnt about 7-Eleven pizza.

I was in the room of a Kenyan classmate. I probably stopped by to chat about something. He had one of his friends around. Also Kenyan. Was studying at UC Berkeley.

As we all chatted and shared laughs, something they were eating caught my eye.

It was pizza.

But the smell though, the smell. Oh man.

It had a very distinct smell.

I asked if I could have a slice. They said sure why not.

Next thing I knew I was asking for a precise description of where they got the pizza.

Wait, so the place is called 7-Eleven right?

Oh there’s a 7-Eleven around Battery street?

Mm, and they’re open twenty-four hours?

Wait, it’s just like ten dollars for the largest size?

Oh there’s another one on Powell?

That evening I became a staunch believer in 7-Eleven pizza.

On a random evening you can find me puffing my way up Powell street, with like two cartons of 7-Eleven pizza in my arms – the largest size of pizza they have.

Sometimes I even get three at once.

The pepperoni pizza is wonderful, the BBQ is okay, and there’s this one that has all sorts of meat stuff ohh.

The hill on Powell is funny.

Sometimes I think about how many calories I could possibly gain from eating three largest-size 7-Eleven pizzas – People think about calories a lot in this place – And I’m pretty convinced I burn pretty much the same amount of calories just getting the pizzas up to my dorm room.


I’m in the “Bread” section of Trader Joe’s.

There’s this thing my American roommate introduced me to.

Cinnamon Raisin bread.

Jesus. Jesus Christ.

That thing. That freaking thing.

I mean, initially I had doubts when he suggested I try out some that he bought.

The bread looked weird and mouldy and damp.

I was like ehhh I don’t know, it looks sketchy, I don’t know….

I took one bite and became a convert.

So yeah, on a random day at Trader Joe’s you’ll probably find me stocking my trolley with a customary loaf of Cinnamon raisin bread.


I’m at the Cereal section.

I’m making up my mind on some options.

A hand touches me from behind, and slowly snakes its way around my waist.

Very surprised, I turn around to see a cheeky face smiling up at me.

Oh heyyy. Hey you.


Image: Somewhere along the Embarcadero.

San Francisco: Night out Clubbing at Ruby Skye.

The first club I visited in San Francisco, was Club X. Someone in the class mentioned on our Facebook group that they were having an event. And I think it was free for people with student IDs. It was either free, or at a significant discount.

Our student ID cards weren’t actually ready at the time. We all had our pictures taken a while back, but were yet to receive our ID cards.

The Facebook post mentioned however, that there was a way to join the event guest list. So you could be eligible for the discount/free entry even without a student ID.

All you had to do was to go comment your name on a post on Club X’s Facebook page or something like that.

And so people began to comment their names. We were all very excited.

Mm Clubbing, Mm Club X, Mm let’s go Mm


On the night of the event, it was like we were going for a meeting with school’s founder at the HQ. We were so many.

We were like thirty. Or more. Trooping along the sidewalk and chatting excitedly, our eyes alight with anticipation.

Most of us were new to San Francisco. A lot of us were new to the USA. And so that event provided an interesting opportunity to venture out into the city on our own, while still being surrounded by a group of people within which you generally felt safe.

The event was also 18+ which was great, because very few people in our class were 21 years or older. And so all 21+ events were out of our reach. Well that was unless you had a fake ID.

Club X was fun. Club X was very fun.

Clubbing at Club X became something of a regular thing over time.

At some point, some classmates began to form a negative impression of the club. They would talk about it on the group. Say it was rowdy or disorganized or not very classy, or some other concern that never resonated with me.


People generally go out for events in smaller groups now. SF is less unfamiliar and so people are more comfortable going out on their own. I myself have gradually been curating my personal algorithm for finding events in San Francisco. Eventbrite is generally where it’s at. There’s usually always something of interest happening on Eventbrite, on any given day. Given that, the question then involves which events you’re the most interested in.

Ruby Skye is a cool club people have been talking about. They generally speak very highly of it. Practically all of their events are 21+ though. So it seems to be something people just fantasize about from a distance.

I was scrolling through their website the other day. I don’t even know how I landed there, or what I was looking for.

At some point I saw something about an upcoming event. 18+.

Sorry what? Eighteen what did you just say?

I looked through it more carefully.

Yes. Yes it was an 18+ event.

Ohohohoho

I put a post up on the class’s Facebook group. A bunch of people were super stoked about it. We began to make plans. I think there was like a party Facebook Messenger group or something. We used that to correspond in more detail.

Seemed like something great was up ahead.



We’re in the club.

We’re about ten people from school.

Ruby Skye is super cool. It’s very big and spacious.

We’re dancing and having fun.

The girls go to the bathroom like every ten minutes. I have absolutely no idea what they’re always going to do in the bathroom.

And they go collectively. Like all of a sudden four girls are like, we need to go use the bathroom.

Like, do all of your bladders have synchronised timers or something- I don’t understand.


I just met this guy. He says he’s Australian. He’s a good-looking guy. Seems fun.

At some point I introduce him to one of the female classmates. She’s from Eastern Europe. They look like they might hit it off.

We keep dancing. Dancing and chatting, and there’s some flirting going around too.

The girl from Eastern Europe is back. Doesn’t seem like she and Australian guy really got something going.

We’re dancing. The room is generally very energetic. There are flashing lights and music, and every now end then there’s a super stimulating “beat drop” that just completely revs the energy level of the hall.

The Eastern European classmate looks like she’s interested in dancing up-close with me.

I don’t pay her body language any significant attention. I don’t have the energy for ambivalent and confusing signals right now.

We spent some time together over the winter break.

I used to have something of a crush on her.

We used to watch “How to Get Away with Murder” in my room. Watching steamy sex scenes of Annalise Keating and the tall muscular detective guy.

The guy was weird. Time and time again Annalise would do things to ruin his life. He lost job, his reputation was ruined, but yet he still kept indulging her- I was like dude the fuck is your problem, what is wrong with you, her own life is good- you’re the one who keeps getting in trouble- what is your problem you this guyyy.

One of those nights I indicated an interest in taking things further- I wasn’t exactly interested in spending time alone with a pretty girl in a dark room, and all we’d do would be to watch other people have sex.

She said she want interested in taking things beyond platonic movie watching.

Okay.

Okay.

I didn’t offer to have her over for movies after that night. I needed to reorder my life priorities.


Now she’s sending all of these confusing signals my way.

I don’t have the energy for this. She had her chance.


I’m at a different end of the club.

The view of the stage is different from here, mm.

Two girls walk up to me.

We talk for a bit.

At some point one is like:

“So, my friend”, she points to her African-American friend.

“She has been feeling a bit shy. And she told me she would be more comfortable dancing with someone who’s similar to her. Like racially.”

Hm.

I don’t understand what’s going on, but I don’t intend to protest.

There’s no problem shy African-American girl- I’ll be your black guy. I’ll be your safety-exuding black guy, there’s no problem.

We begin to dance.

All of a sudden she’s not so shy anymore.

In just a few seconds she went from demure-looking girl to vigorous hip-twister.

Oh she’s comfortable alright.

She’s definitely comfortable. This has to be what a mind at ease looks like.

I’m not complaining.

I’m not complaining at all.


Image: View of the Sutro Tower from somewhere. Either Corona Heights or Potrero Hill.

California Street: A Psychoactive Gift On The Fire Escape.

There’s this musician I’ve been listening to recently. A rapper.

His name is Tumi. I think his music is cool.

He’s from South Africa.

I’ve had his “I’m killing” song on replay for a while now. The song has some seriously dope vibes.

The whole Spotify thing is still somewhat surreal to me. Streaming songs on repeat.

That is something I probably would’ve never done about a year ago.

In Nigeria I always had to conserve my internet subscription. Internet subscriptions cost money, and so if I planned to listen to a song more than once, it made more sense to just download it.

But that’s not the case here in San Francisco.

There’s wifi everywhere. Our college dorms have super fast wifi and that’s just wonderful, but even out in the city free wifi is not hard to find.

That sort of access to the internet makes you see things differently.

Now if feels like my computer is really just a screen, a keyboard, and maybe some RAM.

And the entire internet is my hard drive.

Because you can access files on the internet so quickly- it’s almost like they were already on your computer.

I find all that really interesting to think about.


My roommate isn’t around. I’ve got the room to myself this evening.

I think I have some weed in one of my drawers.

A while back this Israeli guy was hanging out at the dorms. I think he was couchsurfing with an Israeli classmate or something.

I went to the patio downstairs to do something, and we crossed paths there. We got talking.

His first name was Roy.

His last name was literally something from the Bible. Like, the name of some fire-bending prophet or something.

People in Nigeria are generally very religious and so names from the Christian bible are very common. But physically meeting an Israeli guy with a Bible name made me see Bible characters as being much less otherworldly.

Like, these people in the bible were human beings. That clairvoyant prophet I’ve been hearing about in church since I was a baby, was just like this guy that’s smoking weed across the table from me.

They were all human beings, not surreal mystical characters existing on some esoteric metaphysical plane.

It felt like a very profound realisation and awareness.


Roy said he spent like the past few months working at a weed farm.

Sorry, a what?

A weed what?

I thought that was super interesting. I had never heard anything like that before.

He offered me some weed.

I took some time to weigh the situation.

I had class the next morning, and I didn’t want to be disoriented from the weed or anything.

I probably thought: I don’t know, I’m probably enough of an unserious student already. I don’t think I should aggravate my situation even more with some impromptu weed.

But he seemed like a really cool guy, and I felt like I would enjoy spending time with him.

I obliged.


We spent the next few hours smoking different strains of weed and talking about a bunch of different random stuff.

We talked about surfing, and about his time in the Israeli army.

He said the stress levels in the Israeli army could get very high. And that people relieved the stress in primarily two ways. Jerking off and fucking.

We talked about Fela Kuti.

Everybody knows Fela Kuti.

With a lot of people I meet randomly, whenever they hear I’m from Nigeria, usually Fela Kuti comes up in the conversation somehow.

Like, everybody knows this Fela Kuti guy.

At some point Roy would open up another small weed container and be like “This one. This one makes you laugh a lot. This one makes you laugh for no reason at all”, and he’d proceed to roll it into a joint.

It was a super interesting evening.


Surprisingly I did pretty well in class the next morning. It was a Formal Analysis class, and during my pre-class preparation I sort of independently came upon the concept known as “regression to the mean”.

I think it was “regression to the mean”. Some concept in Statistics.

I mentioned it in the course of the class, and was surprised to learn that it was an actual thing. Like, an actual statistical phenomenon.

That was really interesting.

Hm. Maybe I should smoke more weed.

Hm. Or maybe not.

Hm.


Tumi’s “I’m Killing” is still playing on Spotify.

Earlier in the day, I was playing the song on loudspeaker while I walked to the bathroom for a shower.

A classmate was walking by and she started nodding to the music and smiling at me.

I felt very good about that. Very very good.

I’ve had a crush on her for a while. But she doesn’t pay much attention to me. Or at least I don’t think she does.

She has a boyfriend. Some guy like that. Also a classmate. I’ve got mixed feelings about him, but generally I think he’s cool.

He can be kind of an asshole though. Everyone in the class generally agrees on that. He just has this persistent tendency to disturb and rile people up.

Hm, maybe I myself should begin to disturb everyone a lot more.

Maybe I should begin to play my music on loudspeaker, and make sure to bother everyone with it.

Maybe then my crush’ll begin to pay me more attention.

Hm, maybe that’s what makes her like that guy in the first place.

Hm.


Roy- the cool Israeli guy, he left me with some weed.

By “some weed”, I mean like three different strains. Or four even.

I’ve had them in one of my drawers for a while. I haven’t touched any of it since he gave me. That was like over a month ago. I’m not really a weed guy- I just don’t really have the space for it in my life.

But this evening I’m especially free. And I’m kind of in the mood.

I go get some.

I think smoking in the dorms could set off the fire alarm.

I heard something people do, is to head out onto the fire escape to smoke.

I’ve always thought that was kind of exciting, but I’ve never really given it too much thought.

But this evening I seem to have a lot of free time, so I find myself actively contemplating it.


I’m on the fire escape.

The night is dark, and California street is glittering with electric lights.

The air is chilly.

Tumi’s “I’m killing” is still playing in the room.

I light up a joint.

At some point I hear giggles.

I turn my head to the right, to understand what is going on.

There are two smiling faces in the window.

It’s Jakob and Fiona. They’re on the bed in the next room. They both look very excited.

Fiona opens the window and calls out my name. We all spend some time exchanging thrilled pleasantries- They from the warmth of the room next door, and me from my chilly spot on the fire escape.

We laugh and talk for a while. We’re all very excited to interact in this exhilarating situation.

At some point they close the window and return to indulging in their enviable romance.

I proceed to take a few more puffs at my joint, feeling accomplished to have scored some “cool guy” points in the books of two people I admire.


Image: View down California street on a random night.

December Nights in Berlin.

I am in the passenger’s seat of the cab.

It is dark. We’re driving along a bridge of sorts. We are headed to the Berlin Tegel Airport.

Oh my God, this is such a fucked up situation. This is so motherfucking fucked up.

I cannot believe I just completely forgot, Jesus. Jesus Christ.

Jesus!

How long till we get to the airport?

I look at the driver.

He’s like Turkish I think. Looks like late twenties.

Not too long, we’ll be there soon.

I’m berating myself in my seat.

Jesus Mayowa, Jesus. How could you fuck up like this- How? Howwww???



I’m just getting back to the dorms at Adalbertstrasse. I think I went out for a skate.

A couple of classmates are on the sidewalk.

I see Jakob.

Fiona is heading inside the building.

Colette is talking to Jakob.

“I think you just need to take time to figure your shit out. You shouldn’t bring her into your confusion…”

I’m somewhat disturbed. I wonder why she’d be saying that to him.

I think it’s very unfair. She’s speaking so harshly to him, and protecting Fiona- her friend- his girlfriend.

I think that’s very prejudiced. Very very. Fiona herself is a problematic person who very well does her part in making his life miserable. But he’s the one getting the scalding words.

I feel bad for him.

When he’s done talking with Colette, I walk up to him and ask if he’d like us to walk back together to Sonnenallee where his apartment is.

He says not tonight, that he’ll prefer to walk back on his own.

I say okay.

A couple weekends ago he messaged me, inviting me to come join him and some buddies at Skatehalle.

Skatehalle is a skatepark.

I think there’s a sizeable halfpipe there. I think that was where they were. At the halfpipe.

I’ve got no experience with halfpipes. I’m comfortable skateboarding on roads, some hills, but skateparks- not really. Every now and then I spend some time at the mini-skatepark at Warschauer Strasse.

Usually I’m supposed to be in class. But no, I’m at Warschauer Strasse. Skateboarding and thinking about my life and racking up academic penalties, while I wonder how exactly you’re supposed to skate on the smooth concrete lump in the middle of skatepark.

I was also somewhat occupied that day. So I couldn’t go hang out at Skatehalle.


I am strolling along the sidewalk with Sadie.

Sadie is the Resident Assistant for my room and a couple others.

We’re talking.

She’s asking me how the semester has been.

I say it’s been problematic.

She asks how so.

I say it’s not clear. That I’m completely immersed in the problems so I don’t have the perspective to properly evaluate them.

She smiles and says “Oh yeah the thing about the fish being in water, and how it would possibly know that it was in water”.

I say yes. Just like that.

We keep talking.

At some point I mention that I don’t feel like there’s room within the school programme to explore my personal passions.

She asks about these passions. Asks if they’re related to Social Change. It appears some people have similar concerns. About not having room to explore passions.

We keep talking.


I am walking up the staircase of the dorm building.

My head is swimming in the miry uncertainty of my very near future:

This semester is over. We’re in late December.

The next semester begins in January.

We’re to move to Argentina. From Berlin. For the new semester.

I’ve never been this uncomfortable about travelling to a new country. I didn’t even know it was possible to dread a flight to a new continent this way.

With respect to academics, this semester has been horrible. Horrendous. Absolutely horrifying. Everything is fucked up. Superlatively fucked up. Nothing makes any sense.

What I need right now, is a break. I need time to sit down on the ground somewhere for a few months and stare blankly into space, while I process all of the things that have recently happened to me.

That Buenos Aires flight is not happening, no. I am not going put myself through another few months of this.

No.

Nah.

Nuh.

Uhn uhn.

Someone calls my name. It’s Sadie. The Resident Assistant.

She says her parents are around. Asks if I would like to join the family for dinner.

I smile and say thanks, but maybe another time.

Dinner is the least of my problems right now.

I keep heading up the stairs.


I am in the sitting room of the apartment I share with two flatmates. They’ve both gone home for the holidays. One to Argentina and the other to Turkey. That’s if they’re spending Christmas in their countries of origin.

Sadie is here with me.

She’s typing on my computer. We’re sending an email to Barbara.

I asked for Sadie’s help with the intricacies of my situation:

My German visa expires this December.

I need to fly somewhere.

I recently applied for a gap year. The request was approved, which was wonderful.

Now I just don’t know where to go.

My US student visa is still valid for another year, but I’m not going to the US. I have no plans to get a job or anything of such. I just need time and space to think about my life. The US doesn’t seem like it’ll be conducive for that. Especially at such short notice.

Nigeria is a no no. The boy who travelled to the USA to study, is supposed to come back with pockets brimming with US dollars.

I have no dollars in my pockets, and I have no answers for all of the questions that await me there. So no.

We’re asking Barbara if there’s some last-minute internship work I could do, to raise some money. Sadie came up with that very valuable idea.

I plan to fly to one of the (few, given my Nigerian passport) countries I can travel to, without needing a visa.

I recently decided on Cape Verde. Information online says it’s visa-free for Nigerian passports, and the flight ticket from Berlin is not too expensive.

Sadie says Opodo is where she books her flights.

We go through Berlin – Cape Verde flights on Opodo. I think the website looks nice. The fonts look chubby and cute somehow.


I am at Barbara’s office.

We’re booking the Cape Verde fight.

I think someone somewhere is lending me the money. A staff at the college HQ in San Francisco. Something like that. We’re using her card. Very generous of her.

The flight is booked. I express my gratitude to Barbara.

I have a little over a week of internship work, to raise some money.


I am in the bathroom of my apartment.

I am lying in the bathtub. The tub is full of warm water.

December in Berlin has been somewhat cold, and very dull. I don’t even see the sun anywhere. I find myself walking sleepily around the city, just looking for it.

All of that increases the appeal of warm bathtub soaks. Plus all of my flatmates are gone. I’ve got the entire place to myself.

The bathroom is saturated with steam.

The walls are reverberating with sad poignant music. I’m probably playing Daughter.

It’s been about a week since we booked the Cape Verde flight.

I’ve been working with Barbara. Moving stuff. Chairs. Sofas. Stuff from the dorm apartments.

Right now things are not so bad. The real uncertainty now lies in the next few days. I’ll be flying to a country I have absolutely no experience with, and know little about. I’m taking the time to mentally prepare myself.

My things are ready to be packed.

What am I going to do for income generation in Cape Verde? I have no idea. Well I have some ideas, but I don’t know. There’s a lot to think about. A lot.

I should pack my things. Get ready to move out of the apartment.

Hold on, when exactly is the flight?

I know we’re in the temporal vicinity, but I’m actually not sure of the precise day and time. Somehow that has felt like a secondary detail in the face of spending an entire year in an unfamiliar country where I know no one.

Knowing the precise time of the flight has so far felt like the smallest of my concerns.

Hold on, I think I should go check. So I can begin to make the final steps of checking out.

I step out of the bathroom.

I walk into my room, warm water dripping on the ribbed wooden floor.

I open up the computer.

Hm, where’s the calendar.

Hm.

Hm, an event is about to begin. Something happens in the next few minutes.

Hm, I don’t recall booking anything for today. The semester is over. I wonder what event I’d still be booking on the calendar.

I take a closer look at the calendar.

YEEEEEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

YEH YEH YEH YEH YEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!

I am finished!!!!

HAHHHHHH!!!!

THE FLIGHT IS IN A FEW MINUTES!!!!!!!!

JEEESSSUUUUSSSSSSSS!!!!!!

JEEEESSSUUUSSSS CHRIISTTTTTT!!!!!!

HAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!

And I was there soaking in the bathtub!!!!!!!

HAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!

YEEEEEHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!

A FLIGHT WE BOOKED WITH BORROWED MONEYYY!!!


I am at the door of Joy’s apartment.

Joy is a classmate from Nigeria. We’ve been moving furniture together with Barbara.

I am knocking frantically.

Joy opens the door.

From her face she was either sleeping, or she recently woke up.

I begin to explain my situation.

I need a taxi to get me to the airport. I’ve not had a reason to book a cab since I got to Berlin, so I don’t know how to do it.

I looked online briefly before deciding it would be best to talk with someone who already had experience.

Joy says okay, and helps me book a cab. Joy is a lifesaver.


I am in the passenger’s seat of the cab.

It is dark. We’re driving along a bridge of sorts. We are headed to the Berlin Tegel Airport.

Oh my God, this is such a fucked up situation. This is so motherfucking fucked up.

I cannot believe I just completely forgot, Jesus. Jesus Christ.

How long till we get to the airport?

I look at the driver.

He’s like Turkish I think.

Not too long, we’ll soon be there.

I’m berating myself in my seat.

Jesus Mayowa, Jesus. How could you fuck up like this- How? Howwww???


This post is directly connected with a number of others. An index of these other posts can be accessed here.


Image: Somewhere in the dorms.

Dinner At Kottbusser Tor.

We met one evening a few weeks ago. Me and Ryan.

I was skateboarding along Berlin’s streets, and getting angry at the cobblestones. I had spent the previous year in San Francisco, and Berlin just felt so annoying because there were cobblestones everywhere.

You can’t skateboard on cobblestones, not really. Not with smaller harder wheels, at least.

I think we met at an intersection of two streets.

I’m not quite sure how we started talking. I probably started the conversation because he reminded me of someone else. Someone I met in San Francisco. With his blondish hair and general vibes.

We began to talk.

He was an artist. Had an art studio here in Berlin. He was also an Art teacher at some tertiary institution.

We talked some more. At some point we exchanged contact details.


It’s a few weeks later.

We’re having dinner.

Well it’s not like a full-blown dinner or anything, we’re just having light stuff to eat and it’s dark outside.

I think this restaurant/bar is interesting. It has these fun multicoloured lights over the doorway. I think they’re cool and kinda trippy.

The guy at the bar is stocky-looking, with a blonde beard.

We’re chatting.

A group of people walk into the restaurant. They walk by and sit at a table not far off. They work in the Tech team of the university I study at. It looks like they’re having some sort of Tech team dinner.

I worked on somewhat close terms with one of them last summer in San Francisco. Jason. It was really interesting. I learnt a lot. It was fun getting immediate answers to my questions about code deployment frameworks and opensource communities.

I was very shocked to see him effortlessly bypass a security mechanism on the login page of the bank I use in Nigeria. It was also really interesting to hear he studied EECS at MIT. A few years back I spent some time going through some of their Computer Science course material on MIT’s OpenCourseware.

I think his girlfriend was pregnant then. With like the fourth or the fifth kid. In my head I was thinking, Oh wow that’s a lot. He seemed pretty young to me, and so it felt like they were still going with the kids. He had a picture of she and the kids on his desk.

And then he also described her as his girlfriend.

At the time I thought a couple with that number of kids and such an established, well-defined plan for a joint future would unquestionably be married. My accrued ideas at the time of how adults ideally lived their lives, was along the lines of the “Get married and then have kids” formula.

But apparently people attach different levels of significance to words like “girlfriend” and “wife”. And some people’s notion of a “girlfriend” is about equivalent in meaning to some others’ notion of a “wife” – Something like that.

We met again a few weeks ago at a small restaurant along Adalbertstrasse. It was our first time meeting in Berlin since I moved here for the Berlin semester, and he with the tech team deployed to Berlin.

I talked with him about my challenges with the second-year curriculum. I was taking a Social Sciences course, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to go through with it. Initially I thought it would provide breadth in combination with the Computational Sciences courses I was taking, but at the time I was thinking of switching it for one in the Natural Sciences.

He talked about his experiences with settling in Berlin with the family, given the work move.


Ryan and I are talking.

He’s talking about a space in Berlin he and a friend jointly got. I think it was a living space, or some art space, something. He and his friend both moved to Berlin from the US.

He feels resentful about how things turned out with the space. I think his “friend” moved to Berlin before him, and for such a reason had more relatively-established relationships with people in the city. Somehow he leveraged that to oust Ryan of his part ownership of the space. Something like that.

He feels bitter and hurt about it. I try to empathise.

We keep talking.

At some point I ask about clubs in Berlin. Where can I find cool clubs. He says Berghain is a very popular one. Tells me a bit about it. I say Hm, sounds interesting. I take note of it.

We keep talking.

At some point dinner is over, and we’re concluding our conversation.

He seems somewhat surprised by the current direction of things. He says he thought this was a date.

Like, a date.

In my head I’m like Wait Hold up. Hold the fuck up.

What?

Wait, is this guy gay?

Is he gay? Oh man, I had absolutely no idea!

I thought this was just two guys hanging out?!

He’s gay?

Wait, I thought I saw a picture of a wife and a kid on his Facebook?

Wait, What the hell is going on?

I say Haha no. The thought that this was some sort of a romantic outing, never even crossed my mind.

I have a girlfriend.


I’m still trying to make sense of all of the homosexual attention I’ve been getting in Berlin- I honestly don’t understand it. Usually there’s a way I make sense of interactions with a biologically male person. This whole sexual thing is adding a dimension to it, which is just very unfamiliar to me.

Especially when it’s like just, everywhere. In Berlin it feels like there’s no specific social context where I should prepare for and expect homosexual inclinations. It’s just everywhere and anywhere.

We finish up dinner.

I like his boots. They’re high-heeled, goth-style boots.

It almost feels like after-the-fact he looks obviously homosexual, but I think that might just be confirmation bias.

We head out of the restaurant. As we walk by the open-air stalls of fruits and vegetables in the farmer’s market at Kottbusser Tor, I mention my struggles with academic coursework. The issues I’m facing with classes, and how I’m beginning to question the fit of the academic programme I’m in.

We walk a bit further until the paths to our apartments diverge.


Image: Somewhere in Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Berlin: College Event at Barbara’s Place.

I heard this used to be where Barbara lived with her family. Husband and I think two kids. They had just moved to a new place. Probably the rent here wasn’t up yet, so it was still available to host a college event.

I think it’s an interesting place. I like the main door. It’s this tall and somewhat grand-looking wooden door. Like something you would see in Lord of the Rings. But it was covered in graffiti.

Everywhere in Berlin is covered in graffiti. Berlin is making me see graffiti differently. I used to associate it with chaos and slummy areas. Now I’m beginning to see it as art. I think. It’ll take a while.


I just got here. Pretty much everyone else was here like thirty minutes prior.

The girlfriend was hurrying me up in the morning.

It’s time to go, get dressed Oh my God we’re going to be late Mayowa what is wrong with you

God.

At some point I told her to just go. That I would join them later.

There was already an Uber waiting. The Uber for the hurry hurry people. And she didn’t want to miss it.

Just go please. Go join your fellow serious classmates who are always prompt for every event and never miss a class. Just go, mwah.


I’m looking around the room. I see Jake. I’m happy to see Jake. We were roommates in the first year. We don’t seem to spend as much time together anymore.

Well first we’re no longer roommates. He and some fellow American, very frat-boy-ey classmates decided to share an apartment this semester.

I was annoyed.

Frat boys plotted in secret and stole my roommate. Ugh.

And he allowed himself to be stolen. He was willingly stolen. Ugh.

There was this time I came across he and Kah, on the way back to my apartment from the corner store with the Turkish guy who makes interesting pizza. The one who was asking for my thoughts on Trump. Jake and Kah were going for some hallmark Berlin event. Festival of Lights or something like that. They asked me if I wanted to come along.

At the time the girlfriend and I had already made some plans for the night. And so it was just my physical body they came across that evening. My thoughts were somewhere else entirely.

Jake recently suggested going snowboarding for the winter. Snowboarding sounds like a lot of fun. I have never done that before.

I just don’t know what my December is going to be like. I just don’t know.


I am looking around the room.

Skye is walking alongside two other women. They seem like relatives. Maybe one is her mother and the other is her aunt or something, I don’t know. They all seem very angry at each other. They’re walking side by side but they are all looking straight ahead. Skye has a particularly displeased look on her face. The look gives me the impression that she was displeased before she even walked into the room. I wonder what they’re angry at one another about.

Omer is calling me over. I head over. Omer is pretty cool. He’s one of the Israelis. They’re significantly older than the rest of the class because of the mandatory military service thing they have in their country.

I feel like if he was a number of years younger, there would be a higher likelihood of us enjoying each other’s company. At least more than is currently the case.

In San Francisco, he was usually in the common room. The one on the third floor. Always seated at that centre table and doing serious stuff. Like, always. He was always there.

There was this skateboard deck he brought into the common room. At some point someone filled an empty bottle of ginger ale up with water. I used to stand on the skateboard deck and see how long I could keep my balance with just the sideways ginger ale bottle under it. Swaying from side to side while the bottle rolled underneath the deck. Right next to the very soft and roomy and comfy chair where Esther liked to curl up and read.

I think I was the one who came up with the ginger ale bottle idea. I think.

Omer is always excited about the strangest things. One time it was one “Freakonomics” textbook. He kept talking about how cool it was. To me it just looked like a book about boring adult stuff.

India’s GDP increased by 2.5%.

What’s my business.

And Omer could be an annoying adult. Condescending. Every once in a while I would get to the common room to see a hostile poster on the door. Something like:

Go away. I am having an interview. I am an adult and I have a future and I do serious stuff. Do not disturb me you hormonal teenagers, go make out and just generally be hormonal teenagers somewhere else.

Fuck you Omer, fuck you and your important interviews and your serious adult stuff.

Omer is asking me what I think of some music he is playing on his computer. He passes me an earbud. I do not understand his excitement. It sounds like some ancient Middle Eastern music. Like something some Arabian king used to listen to, to lull himself to sleep.

I don’t understand why he is jamming his head. I don’t even see the rhythm to which a head can be jammed to. I don’t get it at all.


I keep walking around the room. I talk with Corey a bit. We talk about Professor Doyle.

I keep walking around. The girlfriend says she wants to take a few pictures. Says there’s a separate room up ahead.

Separate room.

To “take a few pictures”.

I abandon everything else and go with her. I wonder why she was so much in a hurry to leave the apartment earlier in the morning.


I am in the kitchen. Louis is helping out with some stuff. I think he’s cleaning something. Barbara is also here. I think I try to be useful at some point.


We’re back in the large main room.

I’m talking with Barbara. At some point the girlfriend’s flower-patterned scarf catches her attention. She says she used to have one just like that. I think there’s more. I think being very young is another thing she might also be thinking about at the same time. Another thing she used to have. I don’t know. It just feels like it.


I am in a different room. There are a number of different bottles of alcohol. I ask Jake to take a picture while I pose with some bottles.

Haha. This room is crazy. Why are there so many bottles of alcohol I don’t understand haha


The girlfriend says she’s leaving. Off to a cafe. To prepare for class and generally do serious stuff. She’s always hurrying somewhere. There’s always some very important thing she has to do, I don’t understand. Left to me we’d both probably still be in bed right now, wondering if going for the event with all the other college people was still a feasible possibility.

I reluctantly let go of her hand as she heads down the stairs.


Image: In the crazy room with all the alcohol bottles.

Of Summer Rendezvous and Stolen Wine.

Mister Wang is on the balcony.

I’m not quite sure what he’s doing. I think he’s just taking in the view. Or maybe he’s having a phone call- I’m not quite sure.

I am in the kitchen section of the college HQ. There is a stash of wine bottles by my right.

I never really used to pay attention to the wine. In my head, it was in the same category with the like shoulder-high rack of wine bottles in one of the meeting rooms. The one with a table and an iMac and bookshelves and sofas.

I had that room to myself on a recent afternoon. Reclining in the extremely comfortable chair, reading about a newly-popular deep learning library called Keras on the iMac screen. Thinking about neural networks and activation functions and feeling like some grey-haired Stanford professor.

In my head, the assortment of wine bottles to my left were not for consumption by mere mortals like myself. The wine was arranged there for a different species- one I had never encountered before.

In my head, the bottles by my left were not wine, they were art. To be protected from contact with my inquisitive epidermis, lest those invaluable vessels dripping with rich history, instantly crumble into regrettable dust upon contact with my lowly Homo Sapien skin.

But the bottles of wine in the kitchen- the bottles of wine here by my right? These ones are different.

Like a few weeks ago I walked into the HQ kitchen and saw a half-full bottle. I paused mid-stride to make sense of what I was seeing.

Wait, this wine is for drinking? This wine is to be drunk? By human beings?

Ohhhhhh.

Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Okay. Okay. Okay I get it now. I get it now.

I think there had been some sort of a celebration at the HQ a number of hours before. Hence the wine.


Mister Wang is on the balcony.

I intend to transport one of the wine bottles into my backpack.

I do not know if that is stealing. I know chocolates and general snacks are accessible to all, but I just don’t know about the wine.

I don’t know if it’s expensive wine. To be honest I have no idea how to identify expensive wine, either by the bottle or by the taste. I think confirmation bias could make otherwise unremarkable wine taste expensive. To like me the uninitiated, it definitely would. It probably would have much less of an effect on expert tasters and stuff though.

I wonder if Mister Wang on the balcony can hear my thoughts.

I wonder if he has already perceived my intentions. He gave me a brief glance a few seconds ago.

I don’t know. He seems to be very engrossed in whatever he is doing.

I don’t know. Or maybe he is just being disingenuous.

The wine bottle is in my bag.

In my head I am coming up with explanations for my actions. I am advocating my innocence to the skeptical college-faculty superego in my brain. I can see myself in front of a disciplinary council, drawing on ethical frameworks and logical arguments to exonerate my very pitiable self from impending doom and desolation.

The school administration has been expelling people in recent times. I wonder if I could get expelled for stealing wine from the HQ. I don’t know.

But wait, I don’t even know if this is stealing. The wine is definitely accessible to general staff. I think. For students? I don’t know. For a student sneaking a bottle into his bag to drink back at the dorms with his girlfriend? I have no idea.

The wine bottle is in my bag.

My head keeps dancing about in a web of ethical conundrums as I head out to Market Street and begin to skateboard down to Powell.


A Kenyan classmate just helped me with a wine-opener. She says something about having some sort of share in the wine.

I’m not quite sure what she’s talking about. There’s only room for two this night.

I head down the stairs. About ninety percent of the class is home for summer break- and so the building in Nob Hill which functions as our dorms, is largely empty. The girlfriend and I have been making use of a number of different rooms in the building, in addition to our assigned rooms for the summer.

I call one the “flute room”, because during the session one of the occupants used to play the flute.

It was somewhat ticklish for me being in that room with the girlfriend, and thinking about the relatively innocent conversations I had had right there, with the occupants of the room a number of months before.

Hm, if only these people knew what we’re doing in their room now. What we’re doing with their beds.

Today it’s a different room. This one has a view of California street. Like my room.

I’m heading downstairs, wine-opener in hand.

The stolen wine should set a very stimulating mood for the night.

This night should be a very interesting one.


It’s a number of days later.

I am having a conversation with a resident assistant- a classmate from Malaysia. She is telling me about a strange discovery she made while locking up one of the rooms in the building for the summer.

The room was supposed to have already been cleared out, and so she was surprised to find an unempty bottle of wine in the wardrobe. Along with a blanket. And a number of other things which had very tenuous strings to their consequently ambiguous owners.

Hm. I wonder where the wine came from. I wonder how it got there. I wonder how it got opened, and I wonder what activities the beings who drank from the bottle intended to engage in.

Hm. I wonder.

This life is a mystery.


Image: Drinking (unjustifiably?) expensive wine at Shiro- an interesting Pan Asian restaurant in Lagos Nigeria.