As promised, here is Part 1 of Stay in Berlin. If you really can’t wait and want to read the entire story, you can do so on Smashwords.
Now, for Part 1. Enjoy!
Remi looked at the clock on the wall for the umpteenth time that day. It was 4:41 p.m., and Kayode had still not arrived. She would have gone to a pay phone to call him for the tenth time, but there was a problem: she had no money. After arriving at Berlin-Tegel Airport two hours earlier, she had expected that Kayode would be waiting for her, but he was not there. The loneliness she felt all the way from Lagos to Berlin had now intensified, and she began to struggle with an amazing array of negative thoughts.
Berlin was exactly what Remi had feared: a city full of strangers, people who did not speak English; or if they did, it certainly did not sound like English to her ears. They all seemed to know where they were coming from and where they were going. As Remi stood close to the baggage claim area, she wondered if perhaps, she had made a mistake. Why did she feel like she was embarking on this journey alone?
“Kayode, where are you?” she whispered under her breath, as she looked at the picture of the man she had flown halfway across the world to meet. Even in his pictures, Kayode Coker looked like a man who could conquer any challenge.
That determined chin. Remi had seen it resolute whenever Kay made up his mind to do something. She would never forget the day he asked her to marry him. It was barely two months ago, while they were Skype-ing, having one of those odd chats. The conversation itself was not odd. It was just the fact that although the time difference was just one hour, they were in two different cities, each situated in different continents: Remi was in Lagos, Nigeria, and Kayode was in Berlin, Germany.
He was just telling her that he planned to get a dog soon, to keep him from feeling too lonely. All of a sudden, he got down on one knee and proposed. Remi had jumped up and down to convey a sense of excitement, because she felt like that was what she was supposed to do. When a man proposes, a woman is supposed to accept his proposal, no questions asked. But, even as she said “Yes,” she had noticed that subconsciously, her emotions refused to participate in this act her body was performing. She felt no butterflies, no thrill of excitement, no desire to jump into Kayode’s arms and have him smother her with kisses. Nothing. Just a nonchalant nothingness. So, why had she felt this compulsion to put up a show, to pretend to reciprocate whatever Kayode felt for her?
That question kept popping up in her head and she aggressively suppressed the answer with all her mental strength. She did not feel like she loved this man, but yet, she had agreed to be his wife. Did he know this? That question was not as scary as this other one: Was Kayode himself, also putting up a front? Was he playing along too?
“Well, it’s too late now,” she said bitterly, as she stroked the diamond engagement ring on her finger. And she was right. They were already married. Technically. The technicality arose from the fact that only the traditional marriage had been conducted. The groom himself was absent at the ceremony. His absence was expected, announced in advance, anticipated, but on the day of the ceremony, it was still strange to conduct a wedding without a groom.
The whole thing started the day after he proposed. They were supposed to pick a date that would be convenient for both of them for the wedding. From the very beginning, Kayode had made it clear that he was not a ‘traditional wedding kinda guy.’ He said that such things were old-fashioned and belonged in the past. For him, it was important to get married in Germany, because that was where his friends and those he wanted to attend the wedding were based. His family was still in Nigeria, but it made no difference to him whether or not they attended. His relationship with his family had seriously deteriorated ever since he put his feet down on sending money home for what he termed ‘frivolities.’
Kayode Coker came from a family of social climbers, but he had never shared the same appetite for extravagance and display of non-existent wealth that every member of his family seemed to have in excess. He was a very modest person and as soon as he started working as a mechanical engineer in Berlin, the requests started pouring in. Ridiculous requests. His younger sister, Elizabeth, for example, once asked him for money to throw a surprise party for her boyfriend who had just completed his youth service. Kayode had screamed at her in anger when he heard the nonsense that she had just vomited.
“Are you supposed to be spending money on a man who has not paid your bride price? Shouldn’t he be the one spending money on you? If you want to degrade yourself like that, you can’t use my money to do it!”
And with that, Elizabeth’s request was unceremoniously denied. Later that month, his father had called him with another monetary request and Kayode’s response was:
“Daddy, let me get this straight: you want me to send money so you can buy a diamond necklace worth over 10, 000 euros for Abike Abegunde?”
“Yes, of course,” his father had replied with the same casualness displayed by a man asking his child for a glass of water.
“Are we talking about the same Abike here? Isn’t she the daughter of Chief Abegunde, the man who refused to borrow you 30,000 naira to pay the house rent just before the landlord threw us out? He told you he was broke, and yet later that day, he was at a party spraying 100 dollar notes from a beer carton. Isn’t that the same man or am I mistaken?” Kayode had asked angrily.
“Yes, he is, Kayode, but that was many years ago, and –”
“And what? People don’t change, Daddy. You should know that even better than me. If a man who calls himself your friend, wants to help you, he will do so effortlessly. That man is heartless and I have no clue why you still want to force yourself into his inner circle. In any case, I don’t want any part in this. If you want to buy his undeserving, spoilt brat of a child a wedding gift, it’s your choice, but I won’t fund it.”
And with that, Kayode denied his father’s ridiculous request too.
But then, his mother came with her own. After singing Kayode’s special oriki in a shrill voice for a full ten minutes, with all the inflections and necessary pauses in that way that mothers do, interspersed with calculated prayers, she cunningly made her own request too.
“Kayode, oko mi,” she began, and even before she landed, he knew she was going to ask for money. He had watched her perform this trick on his father several times with positive results: his father usually parted with money ear-marked for some other project. So, Kayode stilled himself and waited.
“Oko mi,” she continued, “do you remember that my friend, Mama Sade?”
“The one who sells lace at Balogun market?” Kayode asked.
“Yes, that one! My very, very good friend. You know she used to baby sit you when you were a child? Ehen! She is celebrating her 50th birthday, and we, her closest friends, have picked one fine lace fabric for the aso-ebi. Ah, Kayode if you see the lace ehn, you will –”
“Mummy, how much will it cost?”
“Ah, it’s not very expensive. I know you people in Germany are doing better than us here in Nigeria. All I have to pay is 100, 000 naira for the lace and gele.”
“100, 000 what?! Is the lace made of gold threads? Will it jump up and dance bata at the circus? I am sure 100, 000 naira will feed an army of children. There’s no way, Mummy. I can’t send that kind of money.”
“Ahn, ahn, so 100, 000 naira is too much for you, abi? But, you’ve been sending us pictures now, and you look like you’re doing well. Remember that picture you sent of you in front of one hotel like that. It looked expensive now.”
“Yes, it was, and my employer paid for my stay at that hotel. It doesn’t mean that I own the hotel. Mummy, I am doing fine, but if I send you this type of money, I’ll be bankrupt in no time at all. Abi do you want me to go and beg for akara under the bridge?”
Kayode did not need to describe the particular bridge he had in mind to his mother. The image he had painted had done the trick, and she immediately shouted:
“Ah, bankrupt ke? Olorun maje! God forbid! It is not your portion. So can you send the money in installments instead?” she had persisted.
By the time Kayode dropped the phone, he had made it clear to his mother that the lace she was dreaming of would not be funded with money from his pocket. That apparently did not go down well with Mrs. Coker. She significantly reduced the number of phone calls she made to him and in her characteristic manner, successfully convinced the rest of the family to do the same. Whether this cold treatment was calculated to make him comply with their original requests, no one knows. Kayode saw it as good riddance and kept his distance. This was the stalemate, when he started courting Remi Bajulaiye, an old family friend.
– to be continued –
Picture via Pinterest