Gifty is getting too attached to the limping mouse. She feels sorry for it. One day, she asks Han if he’s ever tried Ensure. It’s been a year since they’ve shared the lab and his shyness has abated. Gifty drives to the grocery store and buys two cans of Ensure. When she returns, Han teases her, reminding her that they can’t get addicted to the stuff like the mice. This reaction isn’t what Gifty was looking for, but she wanted to find a way to relate to the limping mouse. The Ensure isn’t bad, but it isn’t good. And as Gifty finishes her can, she tells Han that her brother died of an opioid overdose.
Gifty’s attachment to the mouse further cements its identification with her brother. She tries the Ensure as a way to get a sense of the mice’s experiences in her lab, even though she knows she can’t inhabit their consciousness any more than she could have understood Nana’s addiction from the inside. But, sharing the Ensure is another important step towards the increasing intimacy and friendship between Han and Gifty, and his willingness to indulge her rather silly impulse opens the door for her to disclose more about her tragic family history to him.
Gifty remembers how confused she was the first time she saw Nana high. He looked like he was half asleep, dreaming sweetly. But after days and weeks, she figured out what was happening. Eventually, she got up the courage to ask what it felt like, but he said he couldn’t describe it, other than saying it feels good for everything to empty out of his head.
As a child, Gifty didn’t initially understand what was going on with Nana, although she was able to see that something was off. As she watched him, she learned to read his expressions to tell whether he was high or not, in much the same way that she later learns to read her mother’s expressions for signs of depression or anger. Being high looks enticing: Nana looks like he’s happy. But he can’t explain the feeling to Gifty, at least not enough for her to understand why he has become addicted.