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And Now You Can Go: A Novelby Vendela Vida
Synopses & Reviews
What Happens When These Things Happen
It was 2:15 in the afternoon of December 2 when a man holding a gun approached me in Riverside Park. I know this because, five minutes before, a mother pushing a sleeping girl in a blue stroller had asked me for the time.
I was twenty-one and had moved to New York that September, knowing no one, and my days were the meekly sunlit rooms of a vacant house. I spent my afternoons in Riverside Park, across the street from my apartment. The trees were tall, and, by December, without birds. In my mind, the story is always in the present, always starting at 2:15. I'm walking along the park's promenade when a man behind me says, "Ma'am?"
I turn around, guessing he needs directions, or that I've dropped a glove. Who would call a young woman ma'am? The man is wearing a black leather jacket, unzipped, and glasses with thin frames. His right hand is tucked into his jacket and he appears to be holding the left side of his waist, like Napoleon. He's large--more wide than tall--and his thick legs step closer. I'm on the promenade and I can hear kids playing with their nannies, with their dogs, and the sound of their laughter is the distance between me and them. I take a step backward, then turn and keep walking in the direction I was before, but faster.
"Ma'am," the voice behind me says. "I have a gun. If you keep walking I'll shoot you. Just do as I say."
I turn back around to face him. I think, I hope, he's joking, until he opens his jacket and shows me the gun in his right hand. I've seen guns before--I've held them in my hands, at a shooting range in Florida, with an old boyfriend before we got orange and lime ice cream. I've felt their weight, been thrown back after firing a .55. But I have never seen a gun pointed at me.
"Do you want money?" I say, and empty out the pockets of my blue coat. The lining is plaid; I don't know if I've noticed this before. I rummage up eighty cents in a shaky hand and offer it to him. "It's all I have," I say. I want to believe money is what he wants.
He looks at my hand as if it has a hole in it. "I don't want your money," he says. "And stop walking away or I'll shoot." I didn't know I was walking away. Now I'm saying "No, no, no," in something like a chant, and I realize I'm not saying no to him, but to the plot I sense developing. I know what happens when these things happen.
There's a wall on the right side of the promenade, parallel to the river, and I imagine that behind this wall is where he'll take me with the gun he'll hold to my head as he rapes me.
"Let's just go over here," he says, and juts his chin toward the wall. I think about making a break for it, about running so fast I can't even look down for fear of stumbling. But I imagine myself being shot in the back. Paralyzed. No, I decide, rape is better.
The man with the gun and I are walking next to each other, along the promenade. We're a couple going for a stroll in the park.
"Let's sit on this bench here," he says. There are two benches: one faces the river and New Jersey, the other faces the park. I'm relieved when he picks the bench that faces the park and the promenade, where there are usually people, where I pray there will soon be people.
"I want to die," he says.
Vendela Vida’s fearless, critically acclaimed fiction debut follows the unpredictable recovery of a young woman as she tries to make sense of her life after an encounter at gunpoint.
Accosted one afternoon in Riverside Park by a man who doesn't want to die alone, Ellis, a young grad student, talks her way out of the situation by reciting poetry to her desperate captor. He lets her go, but is she free? Rejecting the overtures of her kind-hearted boyfriend, the police, and the suitors who would like to save her, Ellis finds herself unable to escape the event. She leaves the city to visit her family; joins her mother on a medical mission to the Philippines. When she returns, Ellis discovers something more about life–perhaps even how to take back her own.
A sharply humorous, fast-paced debut novel about the effects—some predictable, some wildly unexpected—that an encounter at gunpoint can have on the life of a (previously) assured young woman.
The gun in question is pointed at twenty-one-year-old Ellis as she walks through a New York City park. In the end she is unrobbed and physically unharmed. But she is left psychologically reeling.
Over the next few weeks Ellis keeps everyone at bay: the police, the men who want to save her (“the ROTC boy” poet and “the red-faced representative of the world”), and the university therapist who hints that her sweaters may be too tight. But when Ellis accompanies her mother, a nurse, on a mission to the Philippines, she finds that life—even if held up—cannot be held back, and neither, finally, can she.
From the Hardcover edition.
About the Author
Vendela Vida’s first book, Girls on the Verge, grew out of her M.F.A. thesis at Columbia University. She is co-editor of The Believer magazine, and lives in Northern California with her husband. This is her first novel.
From the Hardcover edition.
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