Greenwich Village, 1958.
How did I wind up here? Well. Okay. So there’s Bleecker Street, and there’s you. What you’d see – well here’s what you’d really see:
- Red brick sidewalks
- Store windows with cats staring back at you
- Stores and cafés full of people
- Guitarists playing for small change
- A man with a clown suit on stilts
If you knew who you were looking at, you might even see me, in a long black coat with my mother’s scarf around my neck.
I try to pass the fruit store quickly, but I’m hungry and have to pinch myself to keep from reaching for one of the biggest blood oranges I’ve ever seen. It’s like, waiting for me, but Tattoo Tina’s keeping an eye on things, ready to rumble. That’s the owner. She’s not much taller than me but her arms are bigger, with ripply muscles like ropes. She decorates those muscles with tattoos. She also has eyes in the back of her head.
There are Golden Delicious and Macintoshes; tangerines and blood oranges, bananas, pears, and grapes. One of the apples looks almost about to fall, and I reach out to steady it. Tina grabs my wrist.
“What ya doin’, little robber girl?” Tina asks.
I stare back without blinking, wondering if Tina ever read The Snow Queen. The robber girl in there saved a child named Gerda so she could rescue a friend and give the story a happy ending.
Robber Girls have bigger hearts than you, I think. But then, anybody would. Next thing I know she’s grabbing me even tighter and I put my foot down hard and—well, you know the rest. Or maybe you don’t, but you can find out in The Beat on Ruby’s Street.
One day, I’m thinking, I’ll be reading poetry at the Scene and you’ll be waiting outside. I’ll tell them not to let you in, unless you start giving away all the apples you have. And the blood oranges.
I was on my way over to The Scene before all this happened, hoping to see Jack Kerouac. Stopped to wave to Mrs. Tanya’s over on Christopher Street. She’s Nell-mom’s best friend, and her daughter Sophie and me grew up together. They live over on
under the stairs by the gypsy fortuneteller’s.
I like gypsies but Sophie says not to go in there. If you don’t pay them enough, they put a
spell on you. Bedford
They seem all right to me though – at least they smile when I walk by, and they don’t do that for just anyone. I think ‘cause I look a little bit like them -- & Sophie thinks so too. If I got those big hoopy earrings, I’d be down with them special.
I’m not going to say too much more because we can’t get into spoilers here. But what I should have done was stop at Sophie’s, because we were supposed to go to The Scene together. Instead she said she’d meet me there and I went past the fruit store. Now I’m stuck—and I don't think Tattoo Tina's going to let go.