After spending the summer between sophomore and junior years of college in his small, rural hometown and finally feeling that he truly didn’t have any connection left with the place, Dylan returned to New York City for his junior year of art school with excitement and hope, having confirmed with some finality that Ohio was empty and bad, and the lives of his friends there were also empty and bad.

As 2011 moved into its final months and Dylan’s first semester slumped along, there was a feeling of dissatisfaction around him, or at least there seemed to be. It was long enough into the Obama presidency that it was easy to adjust to the hard fact that nothing grand or sweeping had changed about the national atmosphere. The great movement of hope that had swept Dylan and so many others his age up three years ago had begun to settle. The only thing temporarily reminding the populace that they weren’t living in an unhistorical middle year was the litany of Republican presidential debates and the death of Osama bin Laden several months previous. That death, this one victory, gave the people—especially the people of New York City—a reason to celebrate and feel like something had been achieved.

In October, during the height of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which Dylan strongly believed in, he made his way into Union Square Park. He walked past the Barnes and Noble he had made several trips to lately, sometimes buying books, but often just enjoying the feeling of being in a bookstore in Manhattan, browsing with other Manhattanites. In the park he could see a line of cops, which gave him slight trepidation, but he told himself that if he was going to chicken out because he saw some cops, he shouldn’t be doing this in the first place. He walked past two businessmen, Wall Street-types, talking to each other and heading somewhere in no particular hurry.

“I mean, I agree with what they’re saying, totally,” one said.

“Yeah, but it’s like, okay, you don’t like capitalism. What do you want to replace it with?” said the other.

Dylan slowly waded into the large crowd, looking for a spot he could feel comfortable standing in. There were kids with laptops and cameras live-blogging the event and broadcasting to streaming sites, updating their Twitter feeds and posting on Facebook.

“Mic check!” a speaker at the head of the crowd shouted.

“Mic check!” the crowd repeated, although many of the people where Dylan was standing did not seem to be participating in the callback, except for a girl with purple hair standing in front of him.

“Mic check!” she screamed back before turning around, looking at the people behind her, aggravated. “Ugh! Come on!” she said before catching Dylan’s eye and smiling at him, “no one’s doing it!”

Dylan gave his best imitation of anger and agreement, with a dose of outward happiness at the girl, and said “I know!”

“Mic check!” they called again.

“Mic check!” the girl and Dylan both said in unison.

“Yeah! You got it!” she said to him and they smiled at each other.

It was a student-oriented gathering. There were signs that said “End Tuition Hikes Now.” There was a man carrying a cart full of books under a plastic tarp with a sign that read “People’s Library.” There were some Guy Fawkes masks.

“This is a war on education,” the crowd chanted to each other. “This is a peaceful protest,” was chanted over and over again for a while. Someone held a sign with the Monopoly man on it that said “It’s Time to Stop the Game.”

After chanting about economic and education policy, the march began. As the crowd moved out of Union Square Park and down the street, people looked down from buildings. A man behind Dylan kept shouting “Fuck the NYPD!” and the girl that Dylan shared words with silently made disapproving faces at each other.

They marched through streets. They ran through streets. The marchers shouted, “We. Are. The 99 percent!” and then “so are you!” People watched with fascination from sidewalks, as if a parade had come through. “Whose streets? Our streets!” the protesters chanted as they walked, feeling like an unstoppable force.

Dylan watched the girl. She raised her fist and yelled with conviction. Dylan liked the way the tattoos on her skin stretched as she moved and yelled. He made sure to keep up with her as they ran and marched.

As night fell, they made it into the park, joining another bigger crowd. Someone had a “Ron Paul 2012” sign and was arguing with someone about it.

“So what’s your name?” Dylan said to the girl. She spun ‘round, surprised he was asking this, and smiled. “Sunflower,” she said. “I’m Dylan,” he said, smiling back at her.

They talked about how they got into this, how long they had been involved. She avoided telling him where she lived. He asked what kind of music she liked and she said, “just a bunch of hipster stuff,” which struck Dylan as being refreshingly honest. This girl knew how boring listing band names that the other person never heard of was. The big pissing contest of musical knowledge. She seemed to be able to talk a hundred words a second on other things. All Dylan had to do was smile and nod. They talked for a long time until she said she was meeting a friend, and that was the last he saw of her that night.

Dylan felt good to be really involved with something like this. It felt good being a part of what he had hoped would end up being the left-wing answer to the Tea Party. To be a part of something lasting and important, part of something bigger than himself.

After the night they met, he had lost contact with her, and found himself being involved with the movement only as a means to see her again. The only information she had given him was her “name” and the fact that she was staying in Zuccotti Park with a large contingent of other Occupy protesters.

Dylan began making frequent trips down to the park in a hopeless attempt to locate the girl, this girl who made such an impression on him, who made him start thinking about things like Girlfriend, Relationship, and Future.

All he had found at the park were interesting little eccentricities, like a well-meaning couple with dreadlocks who had traveled here from Wisconsin and had a nice little human-interest backstory and a vast array of signs expressing seemingly unrelated messages like “Global Socialism” and “Is Logical Thought Possible?”

The more Dylan thought of her, this girl Sunflower, the more she confused him. Perhaps it was the idea of her that confused him. She seemed so aware of the mess that society was, yet seemed so disengaged from that society. On the day they met, when Dylan gushed to her about The Dark Knight, she seemed totally surprised that they were still making Batman movies. This odd little person in this odd little world finding him in that exact moment in time gave Dylan a feeling that said “never let this person go.”

November came, and Dylan didn’t know if Sunflower knew that Mayor Bloomberg had ordered all the protesters to vacate the park or face arrest. Dylan didn’t know if the word would spread through the camp and to her in time, but he was compelled once again to go looking for her, to head down there now from his place on 23rd Street, go to her, because this time he would find her and save her from the fascist boot of the NYPD and she would thank him because the universe wanted this and Dylan couldn’t help but feel it was all meant to be.

He could see people’s breath as he made his journey. The city lights illuminated the puzzle of streets, buildings, trees and people. Dylan looked around the camp once he arrived, trying to make sense of the scene that too quickly clarified itself for him.

There were cops in the park and screaming protesters. Plastic tents and consumer materials getting whacked at by metal police tools. Tents being destroyed, crumpled up, items and posters, papers and books tossed and moved and trampled on.

Dylan didn’t know what to do, so he just jumped into the fray, into the mess of uniforms and ragged clothes. Then he heard singing. A girl’s voice. An angel’s voice singing the faint tune of a song Dylan was sure he recognized.

He made his way through the mad scramble, following the song that slowly became clear. There was a clicking in his head as police and protestors yelled. The girl, Sunflower, was strumming a guitar and singing the words “imagine all the people, living life as one” to a cop.

Dylan pushed through the crowd toward her. She was staring at the cop as she sang loudly but sadly, beautiful but hostile.

“Stop,” the policeman said softly. “Please, I can’t be hearing that right now.”

Dylan went up to her.

“Hi,” he said awkwardly. She stared at him. Dylan wasn’t sure she remembered him. And she gave no indication that she did.

“They killed liberty,” she said. She stopped playing and turned to Dylan.

“What?” Dylan said, glancing at the cop she was musically confronting.

“My pet rat, Liberty. When they came and smashed all the tents, he was crushed. They killed him,” Sunflower said and she started to cry.

Dylan put his hand on her shoulder.

“That’s really fucked up. I’m sorry,” he said as two cops moved in their direction.

“You guys need to move out of this area, now,” one said, and Sunflower and Dylan began walking. Sunflower carried a tattered book-bag and her guitar.

“Hey,” she said in a low, vulnerable voice. “Can I stay with you tonight?”

A great big bolt of excitement shot through Dylan, like this was all too perfect, like the financial collapse, the backlash against the banks and the government and Wall Street, the rise of the Occupy movement, and police smashing up their camp under orders from Mayor Bloomberg was all part of some grand scheme that ended with this beautiful girl spending the night with him.

“Yeah,” he said. “Yeah, of course you can.”

On the way back to his dorm, they shared whiskey that Sunflower had put in a Snapple bottle. They got to his room and the giddiness of early intoxication began spreading through Dylan. Sunflower dropped her stuff on the ground.

“You want the bed?” Dylan said.

“No, it’s okay: I’ve got a pillow and a blanket,” she said, looking at the floor.

“Uh, okay,” Dylan said, the disappointment obvious in his voice.

“So, do you have cockroaches?” she asked. Dylan hesitated.

“No. No, not really.” Dylan paused. “Well, I mean I’ve seen one crawl around down there, but that was a while ago.”

“Omigod, really?”

“Yeah, but it was a while ago.”

“Look, okay, I’ll sleep in your bed.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’ll sleep in your bed with you but we’re not going to have sex.”

“Yeah, okay. Yeah, of course,” Dylan said. So they got in bed, turned off the lights and talked for about an hour, their intoxication fueling the jumble of conversation. She talked about her “So it Goes” tattoo and then said how she would be heading to Las Vegas soon to marry a guy who was 31, who she had met at a bar.

Dylan felt himself become sufficiently disillusioned with the whole thing and settled for waiting for her to fall asleep, touching her back a little, and then falling asleep himself.

The next morning, he woke up to an empty bed, five dollars and a pack of gum missing, and a series of embarrassing, drunk Tweets he had posted about an amazing girl who stood up to cops and fought the good fight. He quickly deleted the Tweets and went back to sleep.