Now, Gifty wishes she could understand Nana’s addiction as if it were her own. Her journal is filled with an anthropological account, but the information is useless because it doesn’t let her see into his mind, his experience. He began to steal things from the family and disappear regularly. Gifty’s parents fought on the phone, her mother blaming the Chin Chin Man for his absence. When he was sober, Nana broke things: the walls, the television, picture frames.
The terrible truth about relationships is that one person will always have limited insight into another person’s mind. Gifty struggles against this knowledge as she performs her experiments. She may never know why Nana became addicted, what made his addiction so impossible to break, or why he became so violent and destructive. But if her experiment is successful, she will at least know that changing the outcome for people like Nana is possible.
It was easier when Nana was high, subdued, and distant. Once Gifty watched him shoot up, and now she can’t look at a needle without seeing him. She can’t see the vein in the crook of an elbow without remembering him nodding off on the couch.
Gifty’s acknowledgement that it was easier to deal with her brother when he was high parallels her confession that she wished him dead in her journal. She feels guilt, now, over her perceived failure to support or save her brother. But, given the traumatic nature of his addiction and the violence of his sober outbursts, her feelings are completely understandable.
The night before Nana died, Gifty’s journal entry said: “Buzz looked tired but good!” Afterwards, it seemed like a mockery. That day, her mother came home late from work. Gifty made dinner. They noticed his absence, but he was gone two days before they looked for him, and four before they called the police. They were blindsided when the police came to the door at nine o’clock to tell them that Nana had died of an overdose.
Just like the day he got injured, the day Nana died was normal and didn’t offer any hints that life was about to be irrevocably changed. It’s not possible to pinpoint the moment when things change, any more than it would have been to change the trajectory of events. Importantly, Gifty makes dinner that night, indicating how much of a caretaking role she's taken on in her family. The child/caretaker roles between her and her mother are already beginning to shift, even before her mother’s depression begins.