"But we can't decide who gets pregnant," Anne says. "So wouldn't that be perfect if one of us wakes up and boom?"
Deola has finished eating her salad, but she picks at the remnants of her grilled peppers and mushrooms as the thought of artificial insemination diminishes her appetite. Or perhaps it is the realization that she might one day have to consider the procedure, if she remains single for much longer.
This is an unexpected connection to Anne, but she won't talk about her own urge to nest, which has preoccupied her lately. Anne might regard what she has to say with anthropological curiosity: the African woman's perspective.
"There's always adoption," she says, wondering if this is appropriate.
"I did think of that," Anne says. "You get on a plane and go to a country that is war-torn or struggling with an epidemic and see so many orphans, so many of them. But at the end of the day, you have to have the humility to say to yourself, 'Maybe I am not the person to raise this kid. Maybe America is not the place to raise him or her.' You have to ask yourself these questions."
"You must," Deola says, crossing her arms, as if to brace herself for more of Anne's rectitude.
"It's that mindset," Anne says. "Our way is best, everyone else be damned, the world revolves around us. But I think when you travel widely enough, you quickly begin to realize it don't, don't you think?"
Deola reaches for her wine glass and almost says the word "actually," but she stops herself this time. Actually, the tongue jolt. Actually, the herald of assertions. She could insist that America is torn apart by the war and she could easily challenge Anne's assumption that the rest of the world is incapable of transgressions.
"I expect people in England are more open-minded," Anne says.
"England? I'm not so sure."
"I guess it would be more obvious to you living there. But that's why we are in such a mess over here, and it's a question of being able to reorient yourself. That's all it takes."
"A little reorientation," Deola says, the rim of her glass between her lips.
"You know?" Anne says. "If there is one thing this job teaches you, it's that. You can't get caught up in your own whatever it is. Not in a world where people starve."
"No," Deola murmurs.
It is just as well she hesitated. She finishes her wine; so does Anne. A waiter approaches their table with dessert menus. Anne says she really shouldn't and opts for a black coffee. Deola has the passion fruit crème brûlée and asks for fresh raspberries on top.
From A Bit of Difference by Sefi Atta. Copyright © 2012 by Sefi Atta. Excerpted by permission of Interlink Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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