Water by the Spoonful

by

Quiara Alegría Hughes

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Water by the Spoonful: Scene Seven Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Odessa and John (Fountainhead) sit together in-person in a café booth, chatting about religion, family, addiction. When Odessa asks John how many days he’s been clean for, he tries to change the subject by talking about how much he loves going to Puerto Rico, assuming that Odessa has been there until she reveals that she’s never been farther from Philadelphia than Atlantic City. Odessa’s phone rings and she answers angrily, shouting at the caller and swearing while she tells them where she is. The outburst surprises John, but Odessa responds that her family knows how to get at her.
Odessa’s angry and profane outburst contradicts the demeanor she maintains as Haikumom on the forum, suggesting a dissonance between her internet persona and her actual self. This once again highlights the difference between internet relationships and real human interactions, where one is not able to filter or moderate themselves through a keyboard.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Freedom, Identity, and Dissonance Theme Icon
Odessa tells John about several therapy and rehab options until John admits that he lied in his forum post. He’s actually been a crack addict for two years and has never been clean—he’s in his “seven-hundredth day of hell.” Odessa understands the deception, and guesses correctly that his first dealer was a woman he had sex with. When she surmises that John actually doesn’t want to tell his wife about the crack because he feels guilty about the infidelity, he nearly leaves, but decides not to. Odessa herself was a crack addict for seven years, and has helped many people try to fight it after she got clean. She remarks that most of the people she has walked through recovery leave or disappear. Often they die.
Both Odessa’s knowledge about addiction and her admission that she’s walked with many people through recovery (often unsuccessfully) suggests that although she is removed from the world and cut off from her biological family, she has helped people in her own way. Even in isolation, Odessa finds ways to help others. Although Elliot will never truly recognize this, Yaz will, and comes to value it by the end of the play.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Yaz and Elliot enter and find Odessa, whom Elliot reveals to be his biological mom, though he was raised by Mami Ginny. Elliot and Yaz are angry at Odessa for not meeting them at the flower shop to pay her share of the fee, but Odessa makes excuses. Elliot is obviously spiteful towards Odessa. John introduces himself, but feels awkward being there for this family altercation. To try to end the tension between Elliot and Odessa, Yaz tells her that all they need is $200 from her by the end of the day, but she is not even willing to give $10, saying she is completely out of money. When John offers to pay for the flowers, Elliot coldly refuses, and John gets up to leave.
Odessa’s alienation from her own son once again underscores one of the many destructive effects of addiction, as well as reiterating that one’s true family is not always the people with whom they share DNA. Elliot’s cold refusal of John’s generosity not only indicates that he is too proud to accept benevolence from strangers, but also that the money itself is not the issue. Rather, the problem is Odessa’s unwillingness to extend herself or help the family to lay Mami Ginny to rest.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon
However, before John can leave, Elliot asks if he knows what happened to Odessa’s daughter. Odessa is pained and angry, but resigned to what is about to happen. Yaz tries to leave, but Elliot makes her stay and hear the story, saying, “You were born with a silver spoon and you can’t stand how it was for me.” Elliot goes on to recall how, when he is little and his sister is a toddler, they both have the stomach flu so bad that they are at risk of dehydration, since they can’t keep food or water down. The doctor tells Odessa to give them each a spoonful of water every five minutes; enough to keep them hydrated, but small enough that their bodies will absorb it rather than vomiting it up. Odessa takes her children home and spends part of the day spooning water into their mouths.
Odessa’s online identity as Haikumom seems both particularly poignant and ironic: although she is a mothering figure to the people in her forum and to other addicts, she was not able to be a mother to her own biological children so many years ago. Although it would seem that Odessa is redeeming her own failure at motherhood through her work in the forum, her broken relationship with Elliot and inability to even truly face him or make any attempts toward restitution suggest that she has not entirely reckoned with her own guilt and pain.
Themes
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Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
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Get the entire Water by the Spoonful LitChart as a printable PDF.
Water by the Spoonful PDF
Despite how sick Elliot is, Odessa’s tenderness and the attention she is paying his sister and him feel wonderful. He loves his mom in that moment. But Odessa is tempted away, needing her crack fix, leaving her children on their own. Elliot eventually blacks out. When he comes to, his little sister has died from dehydration. Stunned and embarrassed, John pays for his coffee and leaves. Yaz says that they never say Elliot’s sister’s name out loud: Mary Lou. She remembers how badly Odessa used to yell at her, even though she was tiny. Odessa gives Elliot her house key and tells him to pawn her computer off and use the money to buy some flowers.
The death of Elliot’s sister is both tragic and horrifying, pointedly contradicting the depiction of Odessa thus far. Odessa’s surrender of her computer, her lifeline to the forum and the support that she gives as well as receives, indicates that she is giving in to the pain that she has wrought. She knows that she is putting herself at risk of relapse in order to contribute what little she can to Mami Ginny’s burial, and thus to alleviate the pain that Elliot is experiencing.
Themes
Substance Addiction Theme Icon
Internet Communities and Human Connection Theme Icon
Family Theme Icon