Water by the Spoonful

by

Quiara Alegría Hughes

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Water by the Spoonful: Scene Nine Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Chutes&Ladders chats with Orangutan on the forum while talking to a woman on the phone from his work desk. Orangutan is excited, telling Chutes&Ladders that she is about to get on a train to visit the town where she was born and knock on the door of the house her birth mom once lived in. Although she expects Chutes&Ladders to share her excitement, he tells her to forget the address and give it up—better not to risk being upset. According to him, it’s safer not to hope. Instead, he doesn’t use crack, doesn’t hurt anyone else, and lets that be enough accomplishment for his lifetime. The last time he extended himself by asking a co-worker on a date a few weeks ago, he only humiliated himself.
Chutes&Ladders’ hesitancy to interact with other people in the real world—or to encourage Orangutan to—again reiterates both the safety and limitations of internet relationships. Chutes&Ladders will never experience the same face-to-face shame or humiliation as he did with his coworker in an online relationship, and so views the internet a safe space in which to maintain relationships. However, this safety is enabling, allowing him to escape from the physical world and the people in it and develop a habitually-isolated lifestyle.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Orangutan is angry at Chutes&Ladders, having anticipated her trip and looked forward to sharing every detail of it with him. She calls him a coward and insists that she’s just trying to figure out how to live a real life. To counter, Chutes&Ladders tells her about the time he discovered that he had grandchildren when he showed up on his son’s doorstep, saw the kids playing in the living room, and his son pretended not to know him before politely asking him to leave. That rejection pushed Chutes&Ladders to use crack for the first time in five years.
Chutes&Ladders’ fear of real human interaction is understandable and his experience with his son is tremendously tragic, reinforcing his fear of real human connection. Even so, Orangutan’s own desire to truly live her life argues that, however terrifying physical relationships with others may be, they are still the substance of life and cannot be replaced by digital relationships.
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Related Quotes
However, Orangutan is still furious with Chutes&Ladders, calling him a coward who is afraid to live. When he tells her how difficult is to be her friend when all she does is insult him, she tells him she harasses him for the same reason “little girls tease little boys on the playground at recess.” Though her disappearance from the forum for three months kept him sleepless with worry, she just wanted to impress him. However, now that she knows he’s just a coward “looking for cowards” she’s leaving the forum and taking that train, stating finally, “into the abyss I climb, looking for a flesh-and-blood hand to grasp onto.” She logs off. In anger, Chutes&Ladders throws his phone into the trash, throws all of his the material off his desk onto the floor until all that is left is an envelope from Haikumom with a deflated water wing inside.
Although it is never explored any further in the play, Orangutan’s comment about girls teasing boys at recess implies that she has feelings for Chutes&Ladders that run deeper than friendship. In any case, Chutes&Ladders’s physical reaction to Orangutan’s anger and rejection demonstrate that, although Chutes&Ladders hides from the risk of real relationships via the online world, even there he is not safe from emotional pain, rejection, or frustration. Since he cannot truly avoid such pain, it seems best to risk it for the sake of a real, fulfilling relationship rather than an anonymous friendship.
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