Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie


The more she wrote, the less sure she became.

We are in the midst of a drought. Drought reminds me of our first summer living here, fresh from the city of Atlanta. We were unfamiliar with the concept of having our own well, of being responsible for events happening under our feet. When our faucets began to splutter whenever we opened them, we headed across the road for wisdom. “Drought,” our neighbor told us. “Got to use less water.”

Ah. Of course. Use less water.

Our neighbor drove his tractor over to our house and used it to lift the wide concrete disc that covered the top of our well. Way, way, way down, we could see the glimmer of a reflection. If we’d been able to get closer, we would have seen our own worried expressions in that reflection, uncertain about how to solve the problem of not enough water.

This was back when it was just the two of us, and using less water proved remarkably uncomplicated. Do the laundry at the laundromat. Eat off paper plates. Shower at the office. But still, our water level got lower and lower. Someone told M he could shove the pipe further into the well, and that helped. For a while. But then the spluttering started up again.

I remember feeling choked whenever I thought about water, or lack of it. It was my main worry for days. And I can look back on the person I was then, 24 years old and bewildered, and think how sweet that my main worry was how to use less water. And then I realize, this is still one of my main worries. But now that worry has plenty of company. And I wonder—is age simply an increase in one’s ability and tendency to worry about more and more things?

Finally, that way-back-when summer, a storm came. A really big storm, with lots of rain. And the drought, while not over by meteorological definitions, was over for us. The well wooshed back up to full. The faucets behaved all of the time. The stream that runs alongside our house returned. And I could do laundry at home while running the dishwasher and taking a shower, all at the same time.

(Drought: a lack of water for an extended length of time. But you can also have a conversation drought, a good book drought, a friend drought, a laughter drought, a healthy food drought, a bacon drought, and a dog drought. I think I’ve had all of these. A water drought isn’t even the worst.)

I do hope we’ll get rain this week. Everything is parched and tainted yellow. We need a good gushing. We need the well to fill and the stream to overflow its banks. We need to feel like the world is clean. I need my own, far smaller version of the biblical flood, not to wash away the people but to wash away the dust and pollen and used dreams that gather on surfaces both inside and out. Holding my thumbs that a storm comes soon.

3 thoughts on “Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

  1. Andi,

    I too have been having water nightmares. I watered too much this week, including several showers, laundries and dish washer runnings. We ran out of water on Thursday night and all of that night, I thought of how we depended on water. So precious and so taken for granted. The next morning it came back, but I am still anxious. I have put a pail in the sink to collect all water that would have gone down the drain. When the pail is full, I take it outside to water all that is growing in the garden and on the deck. It makes me feel better.

  2. Absolutely beautiful. I never think of people up your way having not enough water. I never have to think about water at all, except once in a while, if the city does work and it gets all brown and sludge-y for a little bit. And your other suggestions of droughts might make me cry, if I let them. (But it is too early in the day for a cry.)

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