Uma Thurman ("The Parisian Woman") reads Jessica Ciencin Henriquez's essay, about the silence that grew in the aftermath of a terrible accident.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Modern love the pod cast supported by produced by the island at W B. You are faster. Oh, the from the New York Times and w you are Boston. This is modern the stories of love loss and redemption. I'm your host magnet Chakrabarti, the. I found the drivers name from the police report that had been filed and floor.
Seventeen years before the report was torn and creased and incorrect. it said, a boy was crossing the street on his bicycle, but there had been two boys in the road that day and no bike. It said the boy was hit and his body was thrown nineteen yards, but he wasn't thrown. He was dragged that far, caught in the dangling chains of the landscaping, trailer hitch to the truck. It said someone fled the scene.
but that some one was my older brother Alex and he didn't flee. He dropped the bucket of fish. He and Jonathan had caught and rushed over to his friend, but the boy was already dead. Oh Alex had just turned fifteen. This is the day we never spoke of My firm in reading an essay by Jessica, sense in Hand Rica's, it's called the accident. No one talked about. We were born one year and three months apart, but looked like twins with our rules, but lips and irish blue eyes. Before the accident, we were inseparable, we had our own rooms, but often shared my bed when we were little when we got too big for that
Alex started sleeping in my bedroom floor in the dark we joke about all of the things we could buy. If some day we won the lottery House made of pizza for him and an island full of monkeys for me, Alex told me go stories until I was too scared to fall asleep. He would reach up from the floor to hold my hand letting go somewhere between midnight and morning or after the accident, Alex, never slept in my room again, the on the way to the funeral. Our parents told him that what had happened was God's will that this was part of a much bigger plan on the way home, as Alex slept.
They told me that maybe it was better if you didn't bring it up again. So when I heard Alex crying in his room at night, I stayed where I was wrapped in my comforter and I didn't bring it up when Alex was nice, Teen he dropped out of college, even though he had always been the smart one. The honor roll son and I didn't bring it up at twenty three when he his first arrested on charges of driving under the influence and at twenty four when he went to jail for reckless driving and at twenty five twenty six and when seven when he was getting high in the morning and drunk at night. I never brought it up. Instead My parents posted his bail, I paid off his credit cards.
And if you needed a ride or rent money. One of us came through when none of that work to change him. I took a different tack. I started yelling at him to grow up, take responsibility, stop drinking start working and go back to school then I would soften and say how much I loved him and how proud of him I was when he a job waiting tables and yes, I would help pay for culinary school and yes, he and his. New girlfriend could stay with me whenever they visited New York City and no there was thing. I wanted more than to see him happy again when none of that worked, I still didn't bring it up
until one night, when we were thirty and thirty one and I offhandedly and uncomfortably asked over dinner, if he ever thought about the day. Jonathan died. Oh now, you want to talk about that. He shot back with a laugh. In that moment, I felt his fury over our silence. You don't need to worry about it. Now we had been communicating before we could even speak, but this conversation- we didn't, have words for. Do you remember? I asked him when you were seven and you got that awful haircut and then I begged mom for
catching mullet. He smiled but said nothing and how much you like swing dancing when we were kids, so I let you practice all those send froze on me, even though I knew I would end up on the ground. I did that for you. He said you liked swing. Not me the point I wanted to make. Didn't know. How was that I missed sharing a life with him later we both went home and let the silence continue to grow. I was desperate to reconnect and convinced that the only way to do so was to get as close as I could to the moment. His life split into a before and an after.
I needed to talk to someone who knew what Alex knew, who had seen what Alex had seen. I searched the online archives of our hometown newspaper and scrolled for hours. Until I found Jonathan's name in a write up about the accident. After a dozen phone calls, I tracked down the police report. They couldn't mail me a copy, but said I was welcome to come to the station, see it for myself So not long after I flew to Florida and did just that. sitting on a swivel chair in the police stations cramped archives office, I read: my finger over my brother's sloppy teenage script. sure underneath his witness statement. As I read
I could almost hear his voice. Traffic was speeding up. There wasn't enough time. I reached the sidewalk first, When I turned around Jonathan was Still in the middle of the road, I saw him get hit when the ambulance came. I had to go across the street and tell his mother. I wrote down the driver's name and later found his phone number listed online by the I was back in New York. I had thought of one hundred reasons not to call, but I had to he knew what Alex had been through on the sixth ring. He picked up, yeah hello, please don't I said I told him my name
plain that I wanted to know about an accident. He was involved in back in nineteen. Ninety nine two boys were crossing the street and I was the sister of the boy who lived. That choice was the hardest I ever made in my life, he said, told me that by the time he saw both boys in the road he was already too close. If he swerved onto the sidewalk, he would hit Alex if he didn't he would hit Jonathan. All I know is there were two boys in front of me. He said.
I had to decide in that very moment, and it was so fast. I chose not to hit your brother that day. What kind of choice is that I pinched the place between my forefinger and thumb a trick. I picked up in college to keep from crying I said there were questions I wanted to ask, but it was all if you didn't remember, every detail it was a long time ago. Not for me. He said for three hours. He spoke about his pain. his frustrations with his family when they didn't understand about lost jobs and addictions about
Now he never married or had children. Talking to him felt like the closest I could come to holding Alex's hand again. I told him I wanted to find a way to take away my brother's pain. You can't he said. but if you want a lesson it, you ve got to listen to what. If he won't talk to me, ask again he said he'll come round and once those words start coming, you will realise that asking was the easy part. Listening is the hard part and that's what you have to do. I hung up the phone but didn't stop. There
I tracked down the witnesses who testified in court, the on scene, paramedic, the emergency room doctor and the nurse who sat with Jonathan's mother at the hospital and the more I heard the more Alex's story became defend a year after that first phone call. I met, my brother and told him about the people I have spoken to and what they had said and his instinct was to confirm and correct each detail. That was my opening and his. Later I was able to ask, but no one in our family ever had. Could you just start at the beginning and tell me everything and he did. When I see Alex today at thirty three.
I no longer see someone who is stuck in one memory. I see a father to two beautiful little boys and a committed partner to the woman. He will one day marry I see a man who works harder than anyone. I know waking up to go to the restaurant on holidays and weekends because he no longer needs or wants the kind of help I offered before. I learned that asking and listening are the most valuable of all. The Cars in the Broadway show the parisian woman. She read Jessica sensing.
Rica's is essay. The accident no one talked about more after the break, I love felling, my boyfriend and I often play felling, be together by together. I been sitting there to each other of playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed in ferry may have happened again, I have one friend I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words and I was getting nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that
me and my dad. We like to play fun together and I wish the out I forgot to see it. J, a c k, p, o t, Jack yeah yeah now run nice. I'm same is risky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at annoying times dot com, flash games. Jessica, Ciencin Henriquez says that she still feels guilt and shame about the sea, once that grew round this accident, I felt it that I wasn't strong enough to stand up and say what's wrong. Can I help I'm here? I care You know those words are so powerful and as a young girl. I didn't understand quite yet the power that they had and so to sit there night after
Night and listen to him cry and know that he was suffering and feel so hopeless. I think I feel a little bit still a little bit of shame about that period, but you know at the same time, I am very forgiving to my younger self and that's taken a lot of time until she remains profoundly moved by her conversation with the driver who hit Jonathan and she's. is that when they spoke she didn't and to pay, that the driver would open up to her lay he did or that has expired. It would sound so much like her brothers, theirs. how much similarity there was diction there was losing jobs. There was relationships that didn't work out, alcoholism. There was, you know, just as paying this pain that rippled through the drivers that I saw rippling through my brother's life and listening to the door
tell her story. It was just so emotional for me because I was listening to it as though it was my brother speaking, but a few days after that conversation Jessica, call from the driver sister. She was very angry because her brother had come to her in so much pain, telling her about this phone call and what had happened, and it just started all of these things back up for him. And in that moment when she was. letting me know what she thought of me. All I saw was. That she was a woman who was a sister and she, doing or attempting to do exactly what I had done. She was trying to protect her brother. She was trying to take away all of his pain. And so at the end of that phone call, she said, do not count text him again and
I had to say, you're right and then I let them No, I assured them that I would step back Jessica and things, mothers are still friends and Jessica says she thought deeply about the impact. telling this story might have on their family. I we battled with the idea of how much should people have to relive. No just writing the opening scene. I I was only thinking of her if He ever reads this that. Will this be more painful for her to read than it has to be. I'm not sure had the family responded, they ve not reached out to me. I have not heard a response from them by I'm. Ok with the idea, of somebody being silent and that not ness early being a negative thing and how is Alex doing now Alex is beautiful. He
my favorite person in this world, and he has two little boys and he's such a good father. And he's such a good brother and he's just a good man, and I know that that has not come easily for him- I am completely aware of the fact that he will always have. He will always have to try harder than other people to be ok Jessica also knows that nearly two decades later Alex is burdened by what happened that day when it comes to trial, there is no end, it is part of you and it doesn't go away even when it's faced, it doesn't disappear. That experience still exists in him and
I think the idea of removing it or trying to get to the point where your quote and quote over it That is a really impossible aim. Jessica says that the accident and her family's response to it help shape the way she's raising her own son and she's. One overarching lesson: if you love someone you have to ask- and when they say nothing nothing's wrong, you have to ask again and if, for whatever reason you stop asking that come Station will never happen and Those conversations this conversation in this story. It has the power to heal, it doesn't have the power change history. It doesn't have the power to take away what is already happened. It has the power to heal, moving forward, The
that's Jessica sense in Henry KIDS, she's, a writer. Living in New York City and working on her for memoir, after the break more. Uma, Thurman and Daniel Jones I love, spelling my boyfriend and I often play spelling bee together by together I mean sitting next to each they're playing individually and not cheating. Sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed in sorry. It may have happened again. I have one friend I will send screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words that I always get nervous. I sent it to my parents or something like that.
Me and my dad. We like to play fun together and I wish other out. I forgot to see it. J, a c k, P, o t Jack, yeah yeah now run nice I'm same as earth's sky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at N Y Times dot com, slash games, here's Uma Thurman! I feel that this is a a beautiful essay about healing and about love, and I think this writer she an enormous courage and obviously very deep love for her brother, and I think this is a story about how
You can continue to heal throughout your life in an mostly significant ways with an open heart The again to them with their men for reading this week's essay, you can see her how in the parisian woman on Broadway Dan Jones. Editor of the modern love column for the New York Times says that he chose to publish this essay because it explores the consequences of ignoring trump in a way. It's a vindication of it's like never too late to talk about these in of long buried, pains from childhood, and it took a real lesson in as difficult as those stations are as much as you don't want to have them as much as you want to think you're fine and just move on how important this
relations are and how important asking questions of a kid whose whose traumatized M made. I want to answer the questions, but you gotta keep asking you gotta, give him a given the chance to talk through Other difficult material, modern love, is a production of the New York Times and W B you are fastens NPR station its produced directed. Edited by Jessica, Alpert, John Perotti and Marie Sivertson and Caitlin O'Keefe original score, and sound design by, Matt read here for the modern love podcast was conceived by LISA Tobin Adler's our executive producer Daniel. Is the editor of modern love for the New York Times and adviser to the show music for the podcast, courtesy of a p I'm making checkerberry see you next week,
Transcript generated on 2022-04-16.