Supposing it to be correct – supposing, that is, that Waterford was indeed the “Commander” – many gaps remain. Some of them could have been filled by our anonymous author, had she had a different turn of mind. She could have told us much about the workings of the Gileadean empire, had she had the instincts of a reporter or a spy. What would we not give, now, for even twenty pages or so of printout from Waterford’s private computer! However, we must be grateful for any crumbs the Goddess of History has designed to vouchsafe us.
As for the ultimate fate of our narrator, it remains obscure. Was she smuggled over the border of Gilead, into what was then Canada, and did she make her way thence to England? This would have been wise, as the Canada of that time did not wish to antagonize its powerful neighbour, and there were roundups and extraditions of such refugees. If so, why did she not take her taped narrative with her? Perhaps her journey was sudden; perhaps she feared interception. On the other hand, she may have been recaptured. If she did indeed reach England, why did she not make her story public, as so many did upon reaching the outside world? She may have feared retaliation against “Luke,” supposing him to have been still alive (which is an improbability), or even against her daughter; for the Gileadean regime was not above such measures, and used them to discourage adverse publicity in foreign countries.
More than one incautious refugee was known to receive a hand, ear, or foot, vacuum-packed express, hidden in, for instance, a tin of coffee. Or perhaps she was among those escaped Handmaids who had difficulty adjusting to life in the outside world, once they got there, after the protected existence they had led. She may have become, like them, a recluse. We do not know.
We can only deduce, also, the motivations for “Nick’s” engineering of her escape. We can assume that once her companion Ofglen’s association with Mayday had been discovered, he himself was in some jeopardy, for as he well knew, as a member of the Eyes, Offred herself was certain to be interrogated. The penalties for unauthorized sexual activity with a Handmaid were severe, nor would his status as an Eye necessarily protect him. Gilead society was Byzantine in the extreme, and any transgression might be used against one by one’s undeclared enemies within the regime. He could, of course, have assassinated her himself, which might have been the wiser course, but the human heart remains a factor, and, as we know, both of them thought she might be pregnant by him. What male of the Gilead period could resist the possibility of fatherhood, so redolent of status, so highly prized? Instead, he called in a rescue team of Eyes, who may or may not have been authentic but in any case were under his orders. In doing so he may well have brought about his own downfall. This too we shall never know.
Did our narrator reach the outside world safely and build a new life for herself? Or was she discovered in her attic hiding place, arrested, sent to the Colonies or to Jezebel’s, or even executed? Our document, though in its own way eloquent, is on these subjects mute. We may call Eurydice forth from the world of the dead, but we cannot make her answer; and when we turn to look at her we glimpse her only for a moment, before she slips from our grasp and flees. As all historians know, the past is a great darkness, and filled with echoes. Voices may reach us from it; but what they say to us is imbued with the obscurity of the matrix out of which they come; and, try as we may, we cannot always decipher them precisely in the clearer light of our own day.
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