By Kieran Loughney
“…I don’t really know her, but I think I could love her, Crimson and Clover, over and over.” The two of us held hands on a pier at Hudson River Park. Patti, a woman I barely knew, had touched the phone in her pocket to play the song. The move seemed bold to me and I embraced the moment. Here we were, right where fate, it seemed, had led us. We danced close and slow. On that February night in 2019, our fourth date, I was captivated by this woman’s intellect, wit, and elegance. I would soon know her capacity for love and find myself transformed by it.
Patti had left our hometown nearly 40 years ago. Reading Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women as a child had sparked her desire to write. Drawn to New York City, she arrived as a young, attractive, confident woman with a dream and a turbocharged work ethic. Patti, as so many dreamers have, became a quintessential New Yorker. She rose to the top of her profession, becoming an author and a magazine editor-in chief several times over.
Although we were born months apart and were both from Scranton, Pennsylvania, our paths would not cross until later in life. In 2011 I moved next door to the home where Patti grew up. Her father still lived there, and Patti would occasionally visit. I happened to own a novel she authored, Everyday Doughnuts, inspired by co-workers she met as a teenager serving at her dad’s shop. Poignant, funny, and keenly observed, its pages radiate with Patti’s generous spirit.
One morning, after her father had passed away, I spied Patti on her dad’s front porch. Expressing my condolences, I suddenly thought of her book. Excusing myself, I grabbed the copy from my bookshelf and asked for her autograph.
Patti soon returned home to New York. More than two years later, I read with interest a comment she posted on social media. This was weeks before our dance by the river. In an instant message I wrote, “Hi Patti, you may recall I live next door to your family’s place in Scranton. What have you written lately?” She responded, “I remember you. I’ve posted some essays. What do you think of them?” I offered my impressions, and we began corresponding. “You have talent,” she wrote, to my delight. “If we had worked together, I would have encouraged you to write.” Our first phone call, revealing an easy rapport and undeniable chemistry, lasted two hours.
Soon after, New York friends had a flat available for a weekend. I booked it. Unexpectedly, fate placed it in the West Village near Patti’s apartment. A visit to Grounded, her favorite coffee haunt, revealed a cast of characters and a sip of Village culture. Patti greeted everyone by name, often with an embrace. She regarded baristas, Broadway stars, and even panhandlers as equals. On a cold morning we paused before leaving her flat while Patti stuffed gloves and hats in a bag. I was puzzled. She brought them, she explained, in case we encountered any homeless people who might need them. For Patti, nobody is ever invisible.
Given her sensibility and my ethnicity, Patti steered us to the Irish Hunger Memorial, the ruins of a stone farmhouse built on turf brought from Ireland. Patti boldly insisted we hop a gate to enter the site, where she lay on her back to make a snow angel. I returned to the Village often, exploring the city and our growing bond. On St. Patrick’s Day we tipped pints of Guinness at the White Horse Tavern with her brother Sean. Patti and I found we owned identical vintage St. Patrick pins. Such small coincidences reinforced an idea we began to share—that somehow our place was here, together.
After St. Patrick’s Day, Patti welcomed me into a circle of eclectic and gracious friends. A spring look at the profusion of flowers in Abingdon Square Park would lead to international dance at the Joyce Theater and walks on the Highline—always hand in hand. Summer brimmed with small adventures—a dance with drag queens outside the Beatrice Inn during Pride Week, a taste of literary history at Chumley’s. From a blanket at Hudson River Park we viewed movies and, again, we danced to an all-female jazz band. By Halloween, the West Village and Patti began to feel like home. On a bright November day at Hudson River Park, now “our park,” I took a knee. Patti accepted my proposal.
This woman opened my eyes to new possibilities. Patti, my muse, inspired poetry. She said my stories of people I encountered in my human services career needed sharing. I soon had work published. Buying my essay in print from a newsstand in the Village was a shared triumph. Through Patti I discovered my previously untapped creative spirit, in a place where dreams become reality, in New York.
By St. Patrick’s Day 2020, it became clear that life itself was threatened. We self-quarantined, walked emptied streets, mourned the dying. During a stroll, a bereted cyclist passed us, La Vie En Rose playing from his radio. Spontaneously, we danced, taking solace in the closeness and the life-affirming motion. We cheered for essential workers each evening and took heart in the marches for BLM and TransJustice.
With dining moved outdoors, even on chilly evenings, brass bands and vocalists on the street below our window now move us to dance in our apartment. Through it all—the loss, the beauty, the closings of Grounded and Chumley’s—we dance on. This St. Valentine’s Day, Patrice Adcroft and I will celebrate the love that sustains us and makes our dreams come true in the best part of New York City—the West Village.