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.

Dinner at Sonnenallee

He invited me for dinner at their place today.

Interesting.

It’s at Sonnenallee. These German names are so amusing though.

“Sonnenallee”. Like “Sonnen alley”, but with that weird, arcane, amusing German twist. Haha.

I’m excited.


I’m on the road. I’m walking this evening. For some reason I’m not taking my skateboard.

I’m walking by a building. There’s some scaffolding on the side of it. I’m on the sidewalk. Underneath the scaffolding.

There’s a building with scaffolding along Adelbertstrasse too. There’s a flower shop on the corner. I’d love to go get flowers there sometime. Possibly also engage in a conversation with the shop owner. That’ll be interesting. That’ll definitely be interesting.

There’s a guy at the junction. He just walked by me. He is like in his forties. He looks deep in thought. I wonder what he is thinking about.


I am at Sonnenallee.

Doorbell.

I’m buzzed in.

It’s an interesting staircase. Very spacious. And there’s a significantly comfortable looking rug on the stairs.

Mm.

There are aloof, yet warm-looking lamps on the wall to light up the stairway.

Mm. Interesting.

I keep going.


We are having dinner.

It’s an interesting Danish meal. He says there’s something it does to the body. Drops the body temperature so the room suddenly feels warmer.

I’m not quite sure if I feel that. There’s a lot to take in, I’m not quite sure how perceptible a not-so-extreme temperature change will be right now.

I think she made the food. That’s impressive.

We keep talking.

We talk about her. About her past relationships and her considerably discomfiting sexual tendencies. We talk about the painful effects those tendencies have had on him.

They ask if I’ve had a threesome with my girlfriend, give information on their attempts at getting another girl to join them from a number of bars.

The thought of a threesome has not even crossed my mind. My relationship is pretty young. We’re really still getting to know each other’s bodies. Mutual orgasms recently began happening. Threesomes are not on the horizon right now. These guys should calm down please.

We keep talking.

They show me around. Their bedroom is so nice though. It’s in the penthouse. There’s a window in the roof, from which they have a pretty interesting view.

It’s at night. And I don’t peer through the window. But I’m sure the view is interesting.

We keep moving about.

He showed me around a balcony with a garden earlier in the evening. There was more light then. Really interesting place.

We keep talking.


He is trying to set up “Hey Siri” on his Mac.

This guy is very smart. I feel like he doesn’t get enough credit for that from the classmates. In my opinion their impression of him is overly weighted by the pretty negative view the school administration has of him. I don’t really care what the “adults” in the faculty think. I think he is a great guy.

We keep talking.


I’m back at Adalbertstrasse. I’m at my girlfriend’s apartment.

I tell her about the night. It was a really interesting one.

“A girl you meet today will be interested in knowing what you did last year. A girl you’ve been with for a week will be interested in knowing what you did like a month ago. A girl you’ve been with for a year will be interested in knowing what you did yesterday.”

That was something the Danish guy told me during dinner.

I’ve been with my girlfriend for a number of months. It makes sense that she’s very interested in what I was up to this evening.

Feels about right.


I don’t tell her about the threesomes.


Image Credits: https://www.alamy.com/berlin-germany-21st-feb-2019-advertising-signs-shine-over-shops-on-the-sonnenallee-which-is-also-colloquially-called-the-arab-street-attention-no-consent-of-the-persons-photographed-exists-credit-stefan-jaitnerdpaalamy-live-news-image242717452.html

(Forgive the watermark. I’ve been drinking.)

4pm at Ramadan.

It is 4pm.

I have been waiting for 4pm for the entire day. There generally exists a number of different markers people calibrate their day with— Sunrise and sunset, breakfast lunch and dinner, time to go to work and time to get back from work, and so on.

All of my days for the past week have been bisected into two principal divisions: Before and after 4pm.

As the digital clock on my computer makes me aware of this significant temporal transition, my physical body switches into autopilot and my limbs begin to execute instructions that have been painstakingly rehearsed throughout the entire day.

I find myself getting dressed- putting on my blue buba1 and my purple shorts – shorts which used to be the top-half of the trousers of a two-piece suit. I have found the shorts to be much more useful, versatile and pragmatic than the trousers they used to be. I frequently do a lot of climbing and walking and general jumping about. I find shorts are much better suited to the task.

———————

I watch Mayowa engage in all of these actions, from his destination. I- his consciousness, am already there.

I am already seated on one of the logs of wood that surround the fire. I can already smell the invigorating Cafe Touba2 brewing atop the flickering flames. I can already taste the bread and very interesting Senegalese bean sauce waiting patiently for consumption. I can hear my companions with their flowing gowns and baggy trousers and thick beaded necklaces and unbelievable fat dreadlocks conversing enthusiastically in Wolof3.

I am already here. Floating amidst the bodies and the gowns and the conversation and the calming smell of Cafe Touba. All that is left is for my physical body to catch up.

I see him- Mayowa, mechanically getting dressed. Putting on his white rubber slippers that have been through multiple rounds of cobbling. He was reading about quantum physics earlier today, that guy. Something about matrices as a tool to represent quantum states. Something like that.

Me? I’ve been here all day. Watching the blackened pot of bubbling coffee sit above the fire, entirely immune to any further blackening effects of its position. A phantasm revelling in a hypothetical gathering.

The strike of 4pm transforms this figmental assembly into a physical one, and now a number of corporeal entities are on their way here.

I watch Mayowa leave his studio apartment. He briefly glances at the remarkable beach a few metres from his door, but has little attention to spare. The entrancing blue waves crashing against the shimmering sand fail to significantly grip his interest. He is hungry for something else right now.

He is hungry. Literally hungry.

Feet drift through the desert sand, trusting memory, experience and a sense of navigation to successfully arrive at the intended destination.

Oh so much procedure. His dusty feet have to venture forward, one after the other– one after the other, and slowly his entire body edges closer and closer to the party where I wait.

So much procedure. So many rules. So much anatomical bureaucracy. Ugh.

Now it makes sense, all of the interest in matrices and quantum states- it could simply all be a being attempting to understand the invisible principles that impose constraining loci on his physical existence.

I can sense his anticipation. For the coffee. For the bread. For the effervescent sound of voices in Wolof3 vibrating in the evening air. For the emotive pulsing of native Senegalese drums and Baye Fall4 chants that he relates to, not as communication with the supernatural, but simply (although not any less significantly) as enchanting mesmerising music.

Me? Anticipation does not apply to me. I am already feasting. I have been feasting since the the time before this meeting even came together. I have been feasting since this gathering was just a plan. I have been eating this bread since it was still just flour and ingredients. I have been eating the beans since it was still on the farm. I have been…

He is almost here. Mayowa is almost here.

I see him in the distance. With his white slippers and blue buba and red hair.

He is almost here.

4pm at Ramadan5.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Buba – Top half of a traditional Yoruba attire.
  2. Cafe Touba – Popular Senegalese coffee drink.
  3. Wolof – The lingua franca of the Senegalese people.
  4. Baye Fall – Senegalese Islamic sect.
  5. Ramadan – Annual Islamic religious observance.

 

Image Credits: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2015/01/23/the-roots-of-fashion-and-spirituality-in-senegals-islamic-brotherhood-the-baye-fall/

 

PS:

I was listening to  “Poye” by Issa Bagayogo while writing this.