Only your cousin Dozie knows who killed your brother Nonsoby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie / January 22, 2006 / Leave a comment
It was the last summer you spent in Nigeria, the summer before your parents’ divorce, before your mother swore you would never again set foot in Nigeria to see your father’s family, especially not Grandmama. You remember the heat of that summer clearly, even now, thirteen years later, the way Grandmama’s yard felt like a steamy bathroom, a yard with so many trees that the telephone wire was tangled in leaves and different branches touched one another and sometimes mangoes appeared on cashew trees and guavas on mango trees. The thick mat of decaying leaves was soggy under your bare feet. Yellow-bellied bees buzzed around you, your brother Nonso and your cousin Dozie’s heads. Grandmama let only your brother Nonso climb the trees to shake a loaded branch, although you were a better climber than he was. Fruits would rain down, avocados and cashews and guavas, and you and your cousin Dozie would fill old buckets with fruit.
It was the summer Grandmama taught Nonso how to pluck the coconuts. The coconut trees were hard to climb, so limb-free and tall, and Grandmama gave Nonso a long stick and showed him how to nudge the padded pods down. She didn’t show you because she said girls never plucked coconuts. Grandmama cracked the coconuts against a stone, carefully so the watery milk stayed in the lower piece, a jagged cup. Everybody got a sip of the wind-cooled milk, even the children from down the street who came to play, and Grandmama presided over the sipping ritual to make sure Nonso went first.
It was the summer you asked Grandmama why Nonso sipped first although Dozie was eleven, a year older than Nonso, and Grandmama said Nonso was her son’s only son, the one who would carry on the Nnabuisi name, while Dozie was only a nwadiana, her daughter’s son. It was the summer you found the slough of a snake on the lawn, unbroken and fine like see-through stockings, and Grandmama told you the snake was called the echi eteka – tomorrow is too far. One bite, she said, and it’s over in ten minutes.
It was not the summer you fell in love with your cousin Dozie because that happened a few summers before, when you both wiggled into the tiny space behind Grandmama’s garage and he tried to fit what you both called his banana into what you…