Back in her room, Offred goes back into the flashback of her family’s failed attempt to cross the Canadian border. They gave their fake passports, which covered up Luke’s past divorce, to a border guard, and Luke got out of the car to stretch and watch as Offred prayed. Then Luke got into the car and began to speed away, since he saw the border guard telephoning someone. He stopped by the side of the road, and Luke, Offred and their daughter ran into the woods, desperately trying to evade capture.
Offred has fragmented this story throughout the novel, but this is the missing piece, when she went from believing in her escape from the growing Gilead to knowing it was doomed. Her withholding of this piece for last shows that her loss of hope, even more than the moment they removed her daughter, is the most painful.
Offred breaks off there, and addresses her audience directly, saying that she doesn’t want to tell the story, and she could stop fighting and just retreat into herself. She thinks about the futility of the previous Handmaid’s Latin slogan. She switches track, getting into another memory.
These thoughts on storytelling contrast with Offred’s cynical thoughts about Janine’s desire to be in a story (Chapter 33). Before, twisting life into a story was giving up. Now, not telling the story is giving up.
Offred thinks about her conversation with the Commander about love, then muses more generally about falling in love. She thinks that it’s hard to remember the feeling of being in love. She remembers being careful and worried about safety at night. She remembers how easy it seemed to be proactive and change things when they weren’t good. Now she’s stuck in time with Luke. She cries and asks the audience for forgiveness for being so nostalgic.
Though Offred repeatedly mentions how she’s not sure if she even has an audience, this passage makes clear how much she cares about her audience’s opinion, just like she cares about Ofglen’s opinion of her actions with the Commander. The passage also strongly links love and freedom.
Finally someone knocks at Offred’s door, but it’s Serena Joy with a photo, not Cora with dinner. Offred examines the Polaroid of her daughter, looking tall in a white dress. Offred doesn’t see in the photo any signs that her daughter has remembered her, and wishes that she hadn’t seen the photo.
Offred’s conclusion that her daughter doesn’t remember or care about her is also storytelling. A photo can’t reveal much, but Offred projects her fears of the worst. As in Chapter 12, she’d rather not hope for her daughter.