starts with plenty small talk in hushed tones, while we wait. We are trying to get to know each other, yes – but the main priority is to keep talking, even when we are repeating things – because we must quiet the anxiety. It is a silent agreement.
So, when we run out of things to say, we talk about hunger. Some of us, after much contemplation, decide to do something about it. We walk out of the room in an awkward line.
When we come back in, it is with Coaster Biscuit and Burger Peanuts. It is not what we expected, but we laugh about it, because it works.
When Ms. Adichie comes in, a hand reaches for my own under the table. I know that it is my new friend. I don’t look at her. I just tighten my grip and together, we exhale.
It is before we’ve laid each other down and bare in front of the entire class in writing, it is before she pairs us up and asks us to write about what we know after 15 minutes, it’s even before we start the class properly. It is right there, when my new confident friend, hand still in my own, is asked to say her name and she can’t. It is when she begins to cry and apologise, her shoulders shaking uncontrollably. It is how she does this for all 25 of us – how every eye in the room is fixed on her, unbelieving, understanding. That’s when I realise it: that everyone in the room too, is human.