Water by the Spoonful


Quiara Alegría Hughes

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Water by the Spoonful: Scene Fourteen Summary & Analysis

In a hotel room in Puerto Rico, Yaz types on her laptop, introducing herself to the forum members as Freedom&Noise and asking if they will let her be the new administrator in place of Haikumom. She admits that she does not have any drug history or experience with chat rooms, but remembers when Odessa disappeared from her life when she was a child, popping up again ten years later with a Narcotics Anonymous necklace. Meeting her again, Yaz realized that she had never done anything so difficult in her life as fight an addiction, so she wants to give back to the world and to Odessa. Yaz is in the midst of composing a haiku for the forum when Elliot enters.
Yaz taking on the role of administrator for the addiction forum signals that she will not only start taking responsibility for her extended Puerto Rican family, but even for Odessa’s online family now that Odessa is out of commission. Her recognition that, despite being an accomplished musician and professor, she has never done anything so difficult as fight an addiction or care for other addicts suggests that her values are changing—rather than seeking fulfillment through professional milestones or achievements, Yaz is beginning to seek fulfillment in caring for family.
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Elliot tells her to close the computer; he doesn’t want to be reminded of Philadelphia while he’s in Puerto Rico. Yaz tells Elliot about a list of achievements she made as a little girl and buried in a park so she could dig it up when she was thirty and cross them all off. The goals were all for herself: be married with kids, tenure, perform concerts at Carnegie Hall, and compose original pieces of music. But now the goals seem worthless since she’ll “never have the courage to go to that spot with a shovel and face [her] list full of crumbs, decoys, and bandaids.”
Yaz’s recognition that her list of achievements and goals were fundamentally self-centered and only “decoys and bandaids” is remarkably self-aware, confirming her growth from a character who focuses on herself to a character who considers what she can offer to others. Her naming of those goals “bandaids” is particularly revealing, suggesting that personal accomplishments were her own way of trying to cover for the pains and losses of her childhood in the barrio.
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Elliot thinks those goals sound okay, but Yaz denies it, especially compared to what Odessa did for other addicts and Ginny did for their community. She wasn’t around to stop Elliot from being shot in the leg and she wasn’t there to help him through his own addiction. Rather than a list of goals, she wants to dig a hole and bury a scream. Elliot tells her that for a second, it was as if he was talking to Mami Ginny, not Yaz. Yaz remarks that Odessa saved Elliot’s life when she gave him up, and then begins gathering her things so that they can go spread Mami Ginny’s ashes.
Yaz’s desire to bury a scream, rather than a list of things to accomplish, suggest that Yaz no longer wants to run from the problems of their family and community. Instead, she wants to embrace them and feel the pain and anger of being present, because at least then she will be there to help improve the situation.
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Yaz leaves the room to make a phone call, and as soon as she is gone, the Ghost appears. Elliot calls for Yaz but she does not return. As the Ghost reaches to touch Elliot, Elliot grabs him and they begin fighting. However, the Ghost is not trying to hurt Elliot, only looking for his wallet, and when he finds it begins rifling through it and emptying it onto the floor, searching for something. The Ghost reaches and touches Elliot’s face, freezing him in place, and slides his fingers across Elliot’s nose, eyes, mouth, as if he is “taking inventory.” The Ghost disappears, leaving Elliot shaken. He pulls a bottle of pills from a pocket, puts one in his palm, and then pours the entire bottle into his palm, “wanting to throw them away.”
Elliot’s struggle with the Ghost—who is only looking for something in Elliot’s wallet—confirms what the audience already suspects; the first man Elliot shot in Iraq was killed over a misunderstanding. He wanted his passport back, saying the Arabic phrase, which Elliot mistook as an act of aggression. This explains the heavy burden of guilt that Elliot carries. Although Elliot never finds redemption or even firm resolution, allowing the Ghost to touch his face does indicate that on some level, Elliot is at least willing to confront his actions.
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