I remember asking Mami how she met Papi. She turned to me, lips tight, and mumbled something about la galeria de su casa en Los Naranjos, a motorcycle passing by el frente, and Papi declaring she would one day be his mujer. The rest, she said, was history.
My boyfriend received a similar lukewarm response when asking his mother how his gringo father won her bachatera heart. She ignored him at first, washing dishes and stirring pots with a big metal spoon, but he continued to press and she finally opened up, sharing tiny fragments of their love story. That story is not my story to retell, and neither is my Mami and Papi’s. But I can tell the tale of how me and my boyfriend, Larry, met. It is a unique story that is meant to be told, if only to give a dash of hope to those looking for love.
I stood outside of 34th Street and Avenue of the Americas, snapping photos with my friend Christina whom I hadn’t seen in a month. I felt a thrill in the air, and it wasn’t just the bright, white Christmas lights that decorated the outside of the Manhattan Mall. Maybe it was the three Bacardi and Cokes I had consumed. Whatever it was my heart was open.
I bid Christina farewell before she made her way to the D/B/F/V train line. She suddenly turned and asked how I was getting home and I paused, contemplating my plan of action. I looked yonder toward 7th Avenue and sighed. It seemed like such a long walk. A walk I didn’t want to take when the D/B train was so much closer than the 1.
“But the D train doesn’t take you home,” Christina exclaimed, confused by my logic.
“But I’m lazy and don’t want to walk to take the 1 train!” I responded dramatically. Christina shook her head, chuckling at my gregariousness. I shrugged. It was decided. I was taking the D to the A (or the C) to the 1!
I walked down the stairs, swinging my hips to Juan Luis Guerra’s “Bachata En Fukuoka”, and made my way to the middle of the platform. Katy Perry’s “Fireworks” soon blasted through my earphones and I sung the lyrics to the ballad out loud. I turned my head to the left when the “oh, oh, oh” flew from my mouth and I noticed a short, light-skinned Latino with a book bag on his back and a D&G cap on his head. He’s cute, I noted, but thought nothing of it. I returned to the music, now bopping along to the beat of “Power”.
The D train finally arrived and I, along with the mysterious cutie, entered the same car. He took a seat across from me and I got a closer look. He donned charcoal gray slacks and black boots. His navy Armani Exchange peacoat covered his upper body but I could tell he was slim. And then we locked eyes; his small, droopy eyes met my big almonds. We smiled shyly. We smiled a smile that didn’t expose our teeth or spread across to our cheeks. We quickly looked away, baffled by our boldness and the natural fluidity of our quick interaction.
And I knew that I needed to speak to him.
Timing was everything. When meeting someone on the train, there is a limited time for interaction. And so I glanced over at the window toward the train tracks. It was a blur as we had yet to stop at 125th Street; the stop where I’d switch to the A or the C. But where is his stop? Is it before or after mine? It was a guessing game. And so we had to move fast. We had to be audacious and just act. And that we did. While I literally rocked to “That’s Not My Name” by The Ting Tings, Larry and I locked eyes once again. His small, droopy eyes met my big almonds. And we beamed. His smile exposed the small gap in between his front teeth while my smile revealed the small crease that forms in my left cheek. I blushed, shaking my head and laughing out loud before blurting, “I can’t believe I just smiled at a guy on the train!” He leaned in as if to touch me before pointing at his right ear.
“What are you listening to?” He asked. It was his opening line and a clever one at that. Not too smooth and not at all sleazy. Just an ordinary question to begin a conversation with a girl on the train.
“‘That’s Not My Name’ by the Ting Tings,” I responded, aware he’d have no idea of the band nor the song. He looked at me, puzzled, before standing up and taking the seat to my left.
And that’s when the magic happened.
Or the interrogation, as he puts it.
We exchanged names and in two minutes time I pounded him with questions. What’s your name? Do you have a job? Did you go to college? How old are you? Do you have any kids? Are you single?
Larry. Yes. Yes. 26. Yes, a four year old girl who I have full custody of. Yes.
And then I used my pepa™ power and asked for his number. I told him I’d call him and we arrived at the 145th Street stop where I could also catch the A or C. I gave him one last smile and exited the train doors after the “ding dong”!
And the rest, as Mami said, is history.