The words they wrote to each other bound them together more tightly than ever before. These letters bridged the physical distance between these two people and without realizing it, each fell deeper and deeper in love with the other.
Remi woke up with Olisa on her mind every morning and Olisa’s mind was filled with thoughts of Remi almost every minute he was awake. Every time Remi replied Olisa’s e-mail, she assuaged her guilty conscience by telling herself that they were just friends. And since neither of them mentioned Kayode or the upcoming wedding in these letters, reality was kept at bay.
They both created and kept his fantasy world alive, where the only two people that mattered were Remi and Olisa. Everything and everyone else who threatened to disturb the artificial peace in this world was promptly blocked out. That included Amaka, and Kayode.
Since Remi discovered Kayode’s journal, she began to look at him more closely. It was after that discovery that she noticed the pronounced changes in his behavior towards her. He was decidedly warmer, friendlier and made deliberate efforts to make her happy. But Kayode’s re-birth came rather late as Remi was wrapped up in her deepening relationship with Olisa.
This entire time, Remi was still planning the wedding with Kayode supporting her all the way. It seemed contradictory that she was still planning to marry Kayode when her heart belonged to Olisa. But Remi kept up with it. The days rolled into weeks, and eventually five weeks passed. It was now roughly one week to the wedding.
On a Saturday afternoon, Remi and Kayode were treated to a surprise engagement party organized by Kayode’s friends. They had both gone to the house of one of his friends, for what they thought was his birthday party. But when they arrived there, they were shocked to find out that they were the guests of honor.
Amidst all the festivities and drinking, Remi forgot her cell phone at this friend’s house. She, of course, did not realize that her phone was missing until they got back home at around 11 p.m. She wanted to check to see if Olisa had sent her another e-mail, and that was when she discovered that she did not have her phone with her. A mental retracing of her steps followed, and she realized that she must have left it at the party. A quick phone call by Kayode to the friend confirmed that the missing cell phone was indeed at his house.
However, being that it was already late, she and Kayode decided wait until the following day, which was a Sunday, before going back to retrieve the phone.
Remi could not sleep that night. She was worried that if Olisa had sent an e-mail and did not receive a reply within a few hours, he would think that something was wrong. Worry drove her to get up around 3:00 a.m. in the morning to find a way to send Olisa a message. She stole past Kayode’s room, taking extra care not to make any noise. Of course, using Kayode’s phone was out of the question. Her only option was to use the desktop computer in the living room.
As soon as she logged into her mail account, she was not surprised to see that Olisa had sent an e-mail. It was a routine reply to her e-mail. They had not bothered to change the subject line or start a new thread or conversation. They had just both been hitting the reply button, so that all their e-mail messages to each other were in one single, long thread. The first e-mail in this thread was of course, the initial e-mail Olisa had sent Remi from Nigeria several weeks back.
Although Remi had expected a letter from Olisa, she was shocked when she received his message. What shocked her was the content. He was going to be in the Berlin that Sunday and wanted to see her. No, needed to see her. He would not leave Berlin without seeing her.
Remi almost screamed when she read his message. Although they had been writing back and forth to each other every day for the last couple of weeks, Olisa never mentioned coming to Berlin to her. This was his way of surprising her at the last minute. Remi was excited, but she was also worried. What if she could not control herself when she saw Olisa again? The bond between them had grown even stronger than the last time she saw him and she was not sure how she would behave in his presence. Would she throw herself into his arms and allow him whisk her back to Nigeria?
With all these questions firing away in her head, she quickly composed a reply to Olisa’s message agreeing to see him at the time and place he had chosen. Just before she sent the message, she thought heard Kayode moving about in his room. He was a very keen observer, and it was only a matter of time before he came to find out what she was doing at the computer at that ungodly hour.
In her haste, she added another e-mail address to the “CC” section. It was firstname.lastname@example.org. This was Olisa’s other e-mail address, which she remembered him giving to her on the same day he met her. All this time, their string of e-mails had been sent using their respective g-mail accounts.
The temporary panic she was thrown into forced her to include this additional e-mail address as insurance, to make sure he would get the reply in both his e-mail accounts. She hit send and by the time Kayode came to the sitting room to see why Remi was up, she had opened a new browser window to cover her tracks. All Kayode saw was Remi looking at gift ideas for brides to their grooms. Sweet deceit!
The following day, both Remi and Kayode returned to the friend’s house to retrieve Remi’s phone. Olisa had asked Remi to meet him at 5 p.m. at the Panorama Café at Panoramapunkt in the Potsdamer Platz. She had every intention of being punctual. So, she told Kayode that she wanted to do some sight-seeing on her own that afternoon. He volunteered to come with her, but she gracefully declined. Having pre-accounted for her absence for the next few hours, she set off for the agreed venue.
Technically, Remi was not lying when she said she was going to do some sight-seeing. Located on the 24th floor of the Kollhoff Tower, the Panorama Café was famous for its breathtaking views of Berlin. From that height, one could see many of the popular landmarks, which dotted Berlin’s landscape, and formed part of the city’s rich history.
After a 20-second ride in the elevator, reputed to be the fastest one in Europe, she reached the 24th floor and immediately began to look around for Olisa. Although she was an hour early, she knew he could possibly have arrived early too. But he was not there. So, she ordered a cup of coffee and sat down waiting for him to arrive.
Not quite five minutes after she sat down to enjoy her beverage, someone tapped her on her left shoulder. Could Olisa have arrived so quickly? She held her breath as she turned around to face her shoulder tapper. She almost spilled the hot liquid on her laps, for as soon as she turned around she came face-to-face with the last person she expected to see at the café: Kayode. He wore a look of defeat on his face which scared Remi even more than the fact that Olisa could walk in at any minute.
“Oh … emm … Ka-Ka-Kayode! What are you doing here? I thought–” Remi started.
“Sit down, Remi. We need to talk,” Kayode said in a quiet but firm voice.
Remi obeyed and sat down. She did not like the bad feeling that began to creep up. What could Kayode possibly want to discuss now?
“Don’t worry I won’t be long. All I want you to do is to listen. I will do the talking. And I’ll be gone before he gets here.”
On hearing the last part, Remi felt her heart drop and she felt sick to the stomach. Kayode continued without giving her a chance to recover. Taking a deep breath, he first of all apologized to her for his detachment. His explanation was a repetition of the words she had read in his journal.
“You don’t look surprised and I know why. You read my journal, didn’t you?” Kayode asked a bewildered Remi. He went on to tell her that he knew she had read his journal. He had noticed that it was placed in the far left corner of his drawer, when he typically put it in the rightmost corner. He did not challenge her then because he felt that she was entitled to know what he thought about her, especially since he had done such a poor job of communicating it directly to her.
“I hope you liked the sketches. I’m sure you recognized them.” Remi did not answer. Shame had robbed her of the power of speech.
“Does he draw too? The other guy … Olisa … ” Kayode asked suddenly. He was watching Remi intently and his words had the intended effect on her. Uncomfortable was an understatement. She wished the ground would open up and swallow her right that minute. But it didn’t happen and Kayode was not through with her yet.
“You’re wondering how I found out, ba? Me too.” He told Remi that he had known about Olisa Adigwe for a while. On a Thursday afternoon, shortly after Remi and Olisa began seeing each other regularly, Kayode had to attend a business meeting in another part of town. He had stopped at a café that afternoon to grab some coffee on his way.
The café he happened to visit was none other than Café Isabella, where Remi and Olisa was so deeply engrossed in their conversation that they did not see the customer who stared at them from the moment he entered the café to the minute he left. He instantly recognized Remi whose face was imprinted on his heart. He could pick her out from a crowd of strangers from any angle. Those hours of sketching her pictures had seared her peculiar features into his mind forever.
When he saw her with Olisa that day he had struggled with the urge to confront her with his discovery, but had resisted the urge. He believed in her and felt that she would not do anything to compromise their relationship.
“Do you know he asked me to leave Berlin and come with him to Nigeria?” Remi asked in a sorrow-laden voice.
“Well, I do now. I’m not done yet. Just listen.”
Kayode told her that after that initial discovery, he decided to be more open with his emotions, but she was too blind, too involved to see these changes. Meanwhile, his faith in her remained steadfast and he believed she would make the right decision.
After the first day when he saw them together at the café, Kayode could not get Olisa out of his head. There was something strangely familiar about his face that he could not place his finger on. All he had was Olisa’s face. At that point, he did not know his name.
“That is, until this morning after you sent that e-mail,” Kayode continued. Remi’s eyes grew bigger and bigger until they looked like they were going to pop out of her head. They didn’t but Kayode continued his revelation.
“After you left the computer, I went back to my room and I was going to go back to sleep. I picked up my phone and saw that I had a new message. As soon as I opened the message, I knew that I was not the intended recipient. I have an old e-mail account that I hardly ever check anymore. I mostly use my g-mail account, as you know. So I was surprised to get an e-mail at that abandoned mailbox. The e-mail address, you’ll be surprised to know is email@example.com. And the e-mail was from you.”
Remi stifled a scream. She realized her mistake immediately. Olisa’s secondary e-mail address was so similar to Kayode’s own that her mistake was plausible. Olisa’s correct e-mail address, which in her haste, Remi had mis-typed was firstname.lastname@example.org. A simple typographical error on her part was her own undoing.
“Of course I read the e-mail and then everything became clear to me. I finally knew the name of the man who was competing with me for your affections. Following the hunch I had had for weeks, that feeling that I had seen this guy somewhere, I did a quick Google search with his name. The answer I was looking for was there. It had been there the whole time. Remi, you deserve to know the truth.”
“What on earth do you mean, Kayode?” Remi asked puzzled.
“Do you remember my cousin, Kanyinsola, the one who lives in the UK?” Kayode asked.
“Good. We attended the same secondary school and were in the same class. About a year ago, she had sent me a link to some pictures of some of our old classmates. They were all at a wedding, which was featured on Bella Naija. The name of the bride was Amaka something … I can’t remember her last name. But the groom’s face I will never forget. He was one of those half-caste kids. And his name was Olisa Adigwe. Remi, you’ve been dating a married man.”
That last part was a bitter pill to swallow and the realization that she had been having an affair with a married man was too much for her. Hot tears of grief and pain began to roll down her cheeks.
“You know, I almost wrote to him to tell him to leave you alone. But that’s not my place. This is between you and him. Whatever you decide–” and here, his voice faltered, “What you decide is fine by me. I blame myself for everything.” That was the last thing he said. Kayode got up and made as if to walk away. Remi leapt to her feet and begged him to come back.
With tears in her eyes, she begged for his forgiveness. He offered it without restraint and asked for her forgiveness too. And for the first time since they met, Kayode held Remi in a long, warm embrace.
“I have no reason to go back to Nigeria. My future, my happiness is here with you in this city. And Kayode, for as long as you live here, I will stay in Berlin.” Shortly after, they left the café hand-in-hand.
* * *
Remi and Kayode still live in Berlin as husband and wife. Raising two little children in a city they have fallen in love with, it is hard to imagine that just a few years ago, one of them was considering leaving Berlin.