I’d been here several times… 57, if you count the walk-bys with friends who had no idea why I’d diverted them from the usual route. New York City, 1970. October, early. There are still warm days. A gentle breeze disrupts my ponytail and instinctively I tuck the loose strands behind my ear.

Burned remnants of leaves dust my shoes – the sun bashfully flirts with me through the arms of their former owner.

I’m standing in front of it—the East Village walk-up studio I’ve been eyeing—dreaming, hoping, prophesying; picturing the soirées I’ll have with my new-found literati friends… rolling our stoned eyes in amusement at the lone drunk girl swaying on the makeshift living room/kitchen/bedroom dance floor. Nobody claiming responsibility for her. She’s seen her last Pink Squirrel for the night. The only music – a faint purr three floors below at Dempsey’s.

I’d seen Barefoot in the Park too many times. I wanted to be Elizabeth Ashley; I wanted to be Corie.

This has to happen. This needs to happen. This will happen, I whisper to myself and secretly hope He hears me… believing in Him this one time if he’ll answer my prayers. To my free-thinking, bohemian friends I don’t believe in Him. To my God-fearing grandmother…I don’t need any more Irish Catholic guilt on my shoulders. As for me… I haven’t yet decided.

I grew up in a small, remote town six hours north; four-and-a-half if my dad was driving. New York City was another world, a world away. A dream. The not-gonna-happen-by-a-long-shot of dreams. I’ve only seen my family a few times since I left, four years ago. I had to move on; on to bigger and better. If bigger and better is a closet-sized basement tenement where five strangers share a toilet, I’ve hit the big time. I miss home. I miss them. I miss clean.

This has to happen. This needs to happen. This will happen, I repeat…in case He was busy a minute ago.

Two blocks over is Tompkins Square Park. I have the perfect spot picked out where Nick Piombino will read his poetry to me—his biggest fan. His only audience. He’ll ask me to read him one of mine. He’ll pretend it’s good. We’ll talk about Burroughs and Ginsberg as if we had drinks with them the night before. We’ll remember something provocative in the conversation.

I’ll wonder if my next-door neighbors are married. They’ll mostly keep to themselves, but we’ll make shallow attempts at pleasantries when we pass in the hallway. She’s an actress… a fan of the Pink Squirrel. He’s a director. That’s how they met. They know people. The right people. Those people.

It’s starting to get chilly. As I reach for the sweater in my bag, I stare at my reflection; partially hidden by the first ‘e’ in Dempsey’s. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at myself – the only mirror in my apartment, cracked and peeling. My ponytail is a mess. My clothes look big. Frumpy. I look frumpy. My mom hates frumpy.

I look three floors up.

This has to happen. This needs to happen. This will happen… third time’s a charm.