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Lucky

by
ISBN13:

9780316096195

ISBN10:
0316096199
Format:
Paperback
Pub. Date:
9/16/2002
Publisher(s):
Little, Brown and Company

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Summary

Enormously visceral, emotionally gripping, and imbued with the belief that justice is possible even after the most horrific of crimes, Alice Sebold's compelling memoir of her rape at the age of eighteen is a story that takes hold of you and won't let go. Sebold fulfills a promise that she made to herself in the very tunnel where she was raped: someday she would write a book about her experience. With Lucky she delivers on that promise with mordant wit and an eye for life's absurdities, as she describes what she was like both as a young girl before the rape and how that rape changed but did not sink the woman she later became. It is Alice's indomitable spirit that we come to know in these pages. The same young woman who sets her sights on becoming an Ethel Merman-style diva one day (despite her braces, bad complexion, and extra weight) encounters what is still thought of today as the crime from which no woman can ever really recover. In an account that is at once heartrending and hilarious, we see Alice's spirit prevail as she struggles to have a normal college experience in the aftermath of this harrowing, life-changing event. No less gripping is the almost unbelievable role that coincidence plays in the unfolding of Sebold's narrative. Her case, placed in the inactive file, is miraculously opened again six months later when she sees her rapist on the street. This begins the long road to what dominates these pages: the struggle for triumph and understanding -- in the courtroom and outside in the world. Lucky is, quite simply, a real-life thriller. In its literary style and narrative tension we never lose sight of why this life story is worth reading. At the end we are left standing in the wake of devastating violence, and, like the writer, we have come to know what it means to survive.

Excerpts

This is what I remember. My lips were cut. I bit down on them when he grabbed me from behind and covered my mouth. He said these words: "I'll kill you if you scream." I remained motionless. "Do you understand? If you scream you're dead." I nodded my head. My arms were pinned to my sides by his right arm wrapped around me and my mouth was covered with his left.

He released his hand from my mouth.

I screamed. Quickly. Abruptly.

The struggle began.

He covered my mouth again. He kneed me in the back of my legs so that I would fall down. "You don't get it, bitch. I'll kill you. I've got a knife. I'll kill you." He released his grip on my mouth again and I fell, screaming, on the brick path. He straddled me and kicked me in the side. I made sounds, they were nothing, they were soft footfalls. They urged him on, they made him righteous. I scrambled on the path. I was wearing soft-soled moccasins with which I tried to land wild kicks. Everything missed or merely grazed him. I had never fought before, was chosen last in gym.

Somehow, I don't remember how, I made it back on my feet. I remember biting him, pushing him, I don't know what. Then I began to run. Like a giant who is all powerful, he reached out and grabbed the end of my long brown hair. He yanked it hard and brought me down onto my knees in front of him. That was my first missed escape, the hair, the woman's long hair.

"You asked for it now," he said, and I began to beg.

He reached around to his back pocket to draw out a knife. I struggled still, my hair coming out painfully from my skull as I did my best to rip myself free of his grip. I lunged forward and grabbed his left leg with both arms, throwing him off balance and making him stagger. I would not know it until the police found it later in the grass, a few feet away from my broken glasses, but with that move, the knife fell from his hands and was lost.

Then it was fists.

Maybe he was angry at the loss of his weapon or at my disobedience. Whatever the reason, this marked the end of the preliminaries. I was on the ground on my stomach. He sat on my back. He pounded my skull into the brick. He cursed me. He turned me around and sat on my chest. I was babbling. I was begging. Here is where he wrapped his hands around my neck and began to squeeze. For a second, I lost consciousness. When I came to, I knew I was staring up into the eyes of the man who would kill me.

At that moment I signed myself over to him. I was convinced that I would not live. I could not fight anymore. He was going to do what he wanted to me. That was it.

Everything slowed down. He stood up and began dragging me over the grass by my hair. I twisted and half crawled, trying to keep up with him. Dimly, I had seen the dark entrance of the amphitheater tunnel from the path. As we neared it, and I realized it was our destination, a rush of fear ran through me. I knew I would die.

There was an old iron fence a few feet out from the tunnel entrance. It was three feet high and provided a narrow space through which you had to walk in order to enter the tunnel. As he dragged me, as I scrambled against the grass, I caught sight of that fence and became utterly convinced that if he brought me beyond this point, I would not survive.

For a moment, as he dragged me across the ground, I clung feebly to the bottom of that iron fence, before a rough pull yanked me clean. People think a woman stops fighting when she is physically exhausted, but I was about to begin my real fight, a fight of words and lies and the brain.

When people talk about climbing a mountain or riding rough water, they say they became one with it, their bodies so attuned to it that they often, when asked to articulate how they did it, cannot fully explain.

Inside the tunnel, where broken beer bottles, old leaves, and other, as yet indiscriminate, things littered the ground, I became one with this man. He held my life in his hand. Those who say they would rather fight to the death than be raped are fools. I would rather be raped a thousand times. You do what you have to.

"Stand up," he said.

I did.

I was shivering uncontrollably. It was cold out and the cold combined with the fear, with the exhaustion, made me shake from head to toe.

He dumped my purse and bag of books in the corner of the sealed-off tunnel.

"Take off your clothes."

"I have eight dollars in my back pocket," I said. "My mother has credit cards. My sister does too."

"I don't want your money," he said, and laughed.

I looked at him. Into his eyes now, as if he was a human being, as if I could speak to him.

"Please don't rape me," I said.

"Take off your clothes."

"I'm a virgin," I said.

He didn't believe me. Repeated his command. "Take off your clothes."

My hands were shaking and I couldn't control them. He pulled me forward by my belt until my body was up against his, which was up against the tunnel's back wall.

"Kiss me," he said.

And he drew my head forward and our lips met. My lips were pursed tightly together. He tugged harder on my belt, my body pressing up further against his. He grabbed my hair in his fist and balled it up. He drew my head back and looked at me. I began to cry, to plead.

"Please don't," I said. "Please."

"Shut up."

He kissed me again and this time, he inserted his tongue in my mouth. By pleading, I had left myself open to this. Again he pulled my head back roughly. "Kiss back," he said.

And I did.

When he was satisfied, he stopped and tried to work the latch on my belt. It was a belt with a strange buckle and he couldn't figure it out. To have him let go of me, for him to leave me alone, I said, "Let me, I'll do it."

He watched me.

When I was done, he unzipped the jeans I wore.

"Now take off your shirt."

I had a cardigan sweater on. I took that off. He reached over to help unbutton my shirt. He fumbled.

"I'll do it," I said again.

I unbuttoned the oxford-cloth shirt and, like the cardigan, I peeled it back from my body. It was like shedding feathers. Or wings.

"Now the bra."

I did.

He reached out and grabbed them - my breasts - in his two hands. He plied them and squeezed them, manipulating them right down to my ribs. Twisting. I hope that to say this hurt isn't necessary here.

"Please don't do this, please," I said.

"Nice white titties," he said. And the words made me give them up, lobbing off each part of my body as he claimed ownership - the mouth, the tongue, my breasts.

"I'm cold," I said.

"Lay down."

"On the ground?" I asked, stupidly, hopelessly. I saw, among the leaves and glass, the grave. My body stretched out, disassembled, gagged, dead.

I sat first, kind of stumbled into a seated position. He took the end of my pants and tugged. As I tried to hide my nakedness - at least I had my underpants on - he looked down at my body. I still feel that in that gaze his eyes lit up my sickly pale skin in that dark tunnel. Made it all - my flesh - suddenly horrible. Ugly too kind a word, but the closest one.

"You're the worst bitch I ever done this to," he said. It was said in disgust, it was said in analysis. He saw what he had bagged and didn't like his catch.

No matter, he would finish.

Here, I began to combine truth with fiction, using anything to try and get him to come over to my side. To see me as pitiful, for him to see me as worse off than him.

"I'm a foster child," I said. "I don't even know who my parents are. Please don't do this. I'm a virgin," I said.

"Lie down."

I did. Shaking, I crawled over and lay face up against the cold ground. He pulled my underpants off me roughly and bundled them into his hand. He threw them away from me and into a corner where I lost sight of them.

I watched him as he unzipped his pants and let them fall around his ankles.

He lay down on top of me and started humping. I was familiar with this. This was what Steve, a boy I liked in high school, had done against my leg, because I would not let him do what he wanted most, which was to make love to me. With Steve I was fully dressed and so was he. He went home frustrated and I felt safe. My parents were upstairs the whole time. I told myself Steve loved me.

He worked away on me, reaching down to work with his penis.

I stared right into his eyes. I was too afraid not to. If I shut my eyes, I believed, I would disappear. To make it through, I had to be present the whole time.

He called me bitch. He told me I was dry.

"I'm sorry," I said - I never stopped apologizing. "I'm a virgin," I said.

"Stop looking at me," he said. "Shut your eyes. Stop shaking."

"I can't."

"Stop it or you'll be sorry."

I did. My focus became acute. I stared harder than ever at him. He began to knead his fist against the opening of my vagina. Inserted his fingers into it, three or four at a time. Something tore. I began to bleed there. I was wet now.

It made him excited. He was intrigued. As he worked his whole fist up into my vagina and pumped it, I went into my brain. Waiting there were poems for me, poems I'd learned in class: Olga Cabral had a poem I haven't found since, "Lillian's Chair," and a poem called "Dog Hospital," by Peter Wild. I tried, as a sort of prickly numbness took over my lower half, to recite the poems in my head. I moved my lips.

"Stop staring at me," he said.

"I'm sorry," I said. "You're strong," I tried.

He liked this. He started humping me again, wildly. The base of my spine was crushed into the ground. Glass cut me on my back and behind. But something still wasn't working for him. I didn't know what he was doing.

He kneeled back. "Raise your legs," he said.

Not knowing what he meant, never having done this for a lover, or read that kind of book, I raised them straight up.

"Spread them."

I did. My legs were like a plastic Barbie's, pale, inflexible. But he wasn't satisfied. He put a hand on each calf and pressed them out farther than I could hold.

"Keep them there," he said.

He tried again. He worked his fist. He grabbed my breasts. He twisted the nipples with his fingers, lapped at them with his tongue.

Tears came out of the corners of my eyes and rolled down either cheek. I was leaving now, but then I heard sounds. Out on the path. People, a group of laughing boys and girls, passing by. I had passed a party on my way to the park, a party to celebrate the last day of school. I looked at him; he did not hear them. This was it. I made an abrupt scream and, as soon as I did, he shoved his hand in my mouth. Simultaneously I heard the laughter again. This time it was directed toward the tunnel, toward us. Yells and taunts. Good-time noises.

We lay there, his hand locked in my mouth and pressing down hard into my throat, until the group of well-wishers left. Moved on. My second chance at escape now gone.

Things weren't going the way he planned. It was taking too long. He ordered me to stand up. Told me I could put on my panties. Used that word. I hated it.

I thought it was over. I was trembling but I thought he'd had enough. Blood was everywhere and so I thought he'd done what he'd come for.

"Give me a blow job," he said. He was standing now. I was on the ground, trying to search among the filth for my clothes.

He kicked me and I curled into a ball.

"I want a blow job." He held his dick in his hand.

"I don't know how," I said.

"What do you mean you don't know how?"

"I've never done it before," I said. "I'm a virgin."

"Put it in your mouth."

I kneeled before him. "Can I put my bra back on?" I wanted my clothes. I saw his thighs before me, the way they belled out from the knee, the thick muscles and small black hairs, and his flaccid dick.

He grabbed my head. "Put it in your mouth and suck," he said.

"Like a straw?" I said.

"Yeah, like a straw."

I took it in my hand. It was small. Hot, clammy. It throbbed involuntarily at my touch. He shoved my head forward and I put it in. It touched my tongue. The taste like dirty rubber or burnt hair. I sucked in hard.

"Not like that," he said and brought my head away. "Don't you know how to suck dick?"

"No, I told you," I said. "I've never done this before."

"Bitch," he said. His penis still limp, he held it with two fingers and peed on me. Just a little bit. Acrid, wet, on my nose and lips. The smell of him - the fruity, heady, nauseating smell - clung to my skin.

"Get back on the ground," he said, "and do what I say."

And I did. When he told me to close my eyes I told him I had lost my glasses, couldn't even really see him. "Talk to me," he said. "I believe you, you're a virgin. I'm your first." As he worked against me, trying for more and more friction, I told him he was strong, that he was powerful, that he was a good man. He got hard enough and plunged himself inside me. He ordered me to and I wrapped my legs around his back and he drove me into the ground. I was locked on. All that remained unpossessed was my brain. It looked and watched and cataloged the details of it all. His face, his purpose, how best I could help him.

I heard more party-goers on the path, but I was far away now. He made noises and rammed it in. Rammed it and rammed it and those on the path, those so far away, living in the world where I had lived, could not be reached by me now.

"Nail her, all right!" someone yelled toward the tunnel. It was the kind of fraternity reveler's voice that had made me feel that, as a student at Syracuse University, I might never fit in.

They passed. I was staring right into his eyes. With him.

"You're so strong, you're such a man, thank you, thank you, I wanted this."

And then it was over. He came and slumped into me. I lay under him. My heart beating wildly. My brain thinking of Olga Cabral, of poetry, of my mother, of anything. Then I heard his breathing. Light and regular. He was snoring. I thought: Escape. I shifted under him and he woke.

He looked at me, did not know who I was. Then his remorse began.

"I'm so sorry," he said. "You're a good girl," he said. "I'm so sorry."

"Can I get dressed?"

He moved aside and stood up, raised his pants, zipped them.

"Of course, of course," he said. "I'll help you."

I had begun to let myself shake again.

"You're cold," he said. "Here, put these on." He held my underwear out to me, in the way a mother would for a child, by the sides of it. I was supposed to stand up and step in.

I crawled over toward my clothes. Put my bra on as I sat on the ground.

"Are you okay?" he asked. His tone was amazing to me. Concerned. But I didn't stop to think of it then. All I knew was it was better than it had been.

I stood up and took my underpants from him. I put them on, almost falling for my lack of balance. I had to sit on the ground to put my pants on. I was worried about my legs. I couldn't seem to control t

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Excerpted from Lucky by Alice Sebold Copyright 1999 by Alice Sebold
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.



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