Gifty’s mother is sitting up in bed. Gifty offers her breakfast, but all she wants is a granola bar and some water. Although it’s the day she’s going to prep the limping mouse for optogenetics, Gifty offers to stay home, but her mother lies back down in bed. Gifty goes to the lab, both relieved and sad.
Gifty is overjoyed at the signs of life in her mother and she responds by offering her food, which serves to reaffirm their sense of intimacy and togetherness. Importantly, Gifty is willing to choose her mother over her day’s research. And when her mother refuses this offer, Gifty feels ambivalent about it, because she wants both to be successful in her science and to feel close to her mother.
At the lab, Han is celebrating getting a publication in Nature. Gifty brings him a cupcake and sings him a celebratory song. She realizes that she’s steeling herself for his departure. She also realizes that she’s reached the point where her desire to confirm her findings has become procrastination about her next steps. She wants to be famous, wealthy, and respected, and so she tests and tests again.
Gifty leaves her mother at home, after her mother refuses Gifty’s attempt to connect with her. But in the lab, she discovers that Han has reason to celebrate and so she reinforces her growing connection with him through her goofy song and celebratory offering of food. Han’s success—and a reminder that the lab is only meant to be a temporary stop in her career trajectory—inspire Gifty to finish up her own project.
Anne used to call Gifty a control freak, in a loving way. The last text she sent said, “I love you. You know that, right?” and although Gifty wanted desperately to respond, she restrained herself, exercising the control that makes her good at her work. Moreover, she still finds the process of research, flooding the mice’s brains with blue light to modify their behavior, completely compelling: to her, it's holy, even divine.
Gifty revisits the end of her friendship with Anne, confessing how badly she wanted to respond to Anne. Her refusal to acknowledge Anne’s apology seems to be less connected to any hurt Anne caused her and more a way for Gifty to prove to herself that she doesn’t need people like Anne, who will occasionally cause her to feel pain or discomfort. She reflects that, as with the thin line between therapy and harm in electroshock therapy, or between stilling Parkinson’s tremors and making a person incurably sad, there is a thin line between the ways her desire to control things are helpful and harmful to her.
Han breaks Gifty’s reverie by asking her on a dinner date. She tries to brush him off, but he persists. He tells her it’s not healthy to spend more time around mice than people. This reminds her of a fight with Raymond, who wanted to meet her family. Early on, she had implied that she was an only child and then she didn’t know how to say the truth later. She tried to keep him away from her family while also trying to assuage her guilt by lying to him, saying that they would plan a trip to Ghana with her mother.
Just as Gifty thinks about how she ended her relationship with Anne by refusing the other woman’s offer of love and intimacy, despite all of Gifty’s flaws and traumas, Han asks her on a date. This in turn reminds her of Raymond. Her relationship with him failed and ended for the same reason her relationship with Anne did: Gifty was too afraid to be honest with either one about the pain and trauma she’d endured or how badly this had hurt her.
Gifty’s mother had never returned to Ghana, and when Gifty had suggested it, her mother flatly stated: “My life is here.” Their life in America was the only connection she still had to Nana. And coming to America was, for Gifty’s mother, not all that different from the wild, important recklessness of the pioneers. Like them, her mother suffered and persevered. Even lying in Gifty’s bed, her mother is a testament to perseverance, since she’s still alive, even after crushing trials.
When Gifty was in Ghana as a child, she struggled to connect with her family and culture. She is thus not very surprised when her mother admits that she doesn’t want to go back home because her life is in America. Gifty’s life is there, too. This is one of the things that connects Gifty and her mother and separates the two of them (and Nana) from the Chin Chin Man, who never made a successful life in America. Her mother’s immigration and tenacity represent the same kind of human risk-taking behavior that can lead equally to addiction or to scientific or cultural breakthroughs.
Gifty used to believe that God wouldn’t give her more than she could handle, but that was before Nana’s death. That was too much. It took her a long time to understand that it’s hard to live in the world, that as people are given more and more, the nature of “what we can handle” changes, sometimes in miraculous ways.
Gifty recalls a platitude offered to people in her church, based on 1 Corinthians 10:13, which says that God will not allow anyone to be tempted beyond the ability he gives them to resist. She suggests, then, that she lost her faith in God because Nana’s death was too much for her to handle. Yet, she survived it relatively intact, and eventually realized that her capacity to handle things has changed over time, becoming greater as the need has arisen.