“You!” The Professor calls out. “Yes, you. The girl with the black scarf; answer the question.”
Chika freezes on her seat. Her head begins to ache. Why did the lecturer call me? It has never happened before. I wasn’t talking to anyone. How did she even notice me?
There was a slight drizzle outside and the weather was cool but Chika was sweating, on her palms especially. Her stomach begins to churn and her hands vibrate. She feels like the whole class is staring and the walls are closing in on her.
The professor claps her hands. “Young lady, I asked you a question. Stand up, tell us your name and department before answering. Please be fast.”
The girl sitting beside her nudges her and whispers, “She’s talking to you na.”
Chika gets up unconsciously trying not to turn and see the faces looking at her. “My name is…” she clears her throat, and as she was about to continue she then begins to cough. She coughs and coughs, the girl beside her has to get up and pat her gently at the back.
The professor lets out a chuckle. “If you think you can escape answering that question, you are only deceiving yourself and not me.”
Question? Chika has totally forgotten what the question was. She had known the answer to it when the professor asked, but, immediately she was called, everything went flying out. She coughed some more and then opened her mouth again, “My name is Chi.. Chi.. Chi…”
“Chi what?!” A guy at the back exclaims and the whole class starts laughing, the professor and the girl sitting beside her inclusive.
“Answer him,” the professor says. “Chidima? Chisom? Chidera? Chi what? “
Tears well up in her eyes. Why can’t the words come out of my mouth? I can’t say my own name! Anger towards herself stirs up inside her. She cannot understand herself any more. She cannot understand why whenever she’s around people, she is as quiet as a stick. Why she cannot make a complete sentence to someone without stammering. Why she cannot give the answer to a question she knows like the lines on her palm. Why she has no friends. Why she does not relate with her roommates. Why she cries herself to sleep every night. Why she is how she is.
“For the last time young lady, say your name and define electrons.” The professor stands akimbo now and has a frown on her face.
Chika feels like saying she is sorry. Sorry that she cannot answer but then, her mouth can form no words at all. She sniffs in, trying not to let the tears fall down her cheeks.
“Ahn ahn,” someone says.
“What’s doing this one?” says another.
“Nawa oo, ordinary name.”
The professor storms to her roll and for a moment, Chika expects a slap from her but the professor just yells, “Leave this class now! What sort of nonsense is this?”
Leave the class?? Chika has never been sent out of class in her entire life. Maybe it is because no teacher or lecturer has noticed her before now. No one has unexpectedly called her to answer a question in class. Why today? How did she even see me?
She hastily packs her bag and runs out of the class. Fast enough so she will not hear the hisses and hehehes and nawa oos from her course mates. It is her last class for the day so, she runs straight to her hostel, ignores her roommate who pretends to care, jumps into bed and cries herself to sleep.