“…I woke up in the middle of the night because I could hear Miro throwing up and crying in the bathroom. I don’t think anyone else heard. And I didn’t go to him because I didn’t think he wanted anyone to hear him. Now I think I should have gone. But I was afraid. There were such terrible things in my family.”
The speaker nodded.
“I should have gone to him,” Ella said again.
“Yes,” the speaker said, “you should have.”
A strange thing happened then. The speaker agreed with her, that she had made a mistake that night. And she knew, when he said the words, that it was true, that his judgement was correct. And yet, she felt strangely healed, as if simply speaking her mistake were enough to purge some of the pain of it.
For the first time then she caught a glimpse of what the power of speaking might be. It wasn’t a matter of confession, penance and absolution, like the priests offered. It was something else entirely. Telling the story of who she was and then realizing that she was no longer the same person. That she had made a mistake and the mistake had changed her. And now she would not make the mistake again because she had become someone else, someone less afraid, someone more compassionate. If I’m not that frightened girl, who heard her brother in desperate pain and dared not to go to him, who am I? But the water flowing through the grill work under the fence held no answers.
Maybe she couldn’t know who she was today.
Maybe it was enough to know that she was no longer who she was before.
Transcribed from the audiobook recording of Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card