This is the part of my story where I found color in all the grey.
Never mind that I attended a high school ranked worse than 80% of the schools in New York*; or that I would come home crying after school because I was afraid of getting jumped; or that I didn’t have the “time” for the extracurricular activities that boost college applications because I was working late night shifts at Bed Bath & Beyond and packing grocery bags on the weekends; or that I had learned about the SATs so late in the year that I bombed it; or that the college center forgot to mail-in some of my college applications.
Never mind the excuses, ignorance, failures, and obstacles that made success more difficult to achieve in high school.
Let’s talk about the day I saw the girl with the grey Sony Walkman.
Cafeteria. The place where friendships are forged, gossips are brought to light, rumors are whispered, personalities are contrived, and characters are invented. And for John Bowne High School, it’s the place where fights break out, phones are snatched, sneakers are stolen, food wars erupt, gangs scuffle, and table cliques feud with one another, just like a prison yard.
But, aside from all the pandemonium, it’s a place where lifelong stories are created and memories are made. Everyone has a special story to tell, except mine was more than special, it was extraordinary.
To the girl with the grey Sony Walkman. I can never forget the day I saw you. I was sitting in the cafeteria with a group of friends that had welcomed me into their table’s clique after watching me eat alone for the first few weeks. Being the new kid, I was still very quiet, trying to figure out how to act around my new peers in a new city. High school in Queens was a whole different animal to what I was used to back in Miami, and I wasn’t sure how to fit in. I’d become an observer, and not a participant, of the high school experience.
That particular day felt different from the rest. The usual commotion in the cafeteria was bigger, louder, and more chaotic; students were throwing food at each other, the Bloods were disputing with the Crips, the Dominicans in the Latin Kings were arguing with their own cousins in the Trinitarios, fights were breaking out in every corner, phones were being snatched, blunts were being distributed and Lloyd Banks’ brother was blasting popular G-Unit and 50-Cent tunes out of his T-Mobile Sidekick (yes, Lloyd Banks’ brother attended John Bowne).
But, behind all that raucous, there you were, sitting at the center of the lunchroom, with your eyes closed, toes tapping, and head bobbing to the music blaring out of your large grey headphones.
You weren’t doing anything different that I could see, except sit there, listening to your Walkman, ignoring the chaos and holding the world together.
And at that moment, was the moment when I realized that I wanted to start the rest of my life with you. I wanted to start the rest of my life as soon as possible. Just watching you sit there, serenly, composedly, reeling in all the disorder from your surroundings and turning it into the rhythm of your own beat, suddenly made me feel safe in this new city.
After lunch period ended, I couldn’t stop thinking about you. I wanted to talk to you, find out about your favorite music and movies, chat about what makes you happy and sad, and learn about your dreams, ambitions, and passions. I wanted to know everything about your life. I was infatuated.
I asked a mutual friend of ours to introduce me to you after school. When the last period bell rang, I quickly ran to the bus stop to meet up with your friend. We’re waiting at the bottom of the steps, searching for you in the crowds of students rushing out of the school’s blue double doors, hoping to spot your grey Sony Walkman headphones.
And there you were, at the top of the steps, searching for us amongst the crowded bus stops. Our friend frantically waves her hand in the air to grab your attention. You see us, smile, and nonchalantly walk down the steps, dodging the crowds of students running to their bus stops.
I admit, as soon as you walked towards us, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I couldn’t believe I was about to meet you, the girl with the grey Sony Walkman.
“Hi, I’m Gerome.”
You look up at me with your big brown eyes and wave your hand at me, side-to-side heartily, accompanied by your beautiful smile.
“Hi, I’m Fara.”
At this point, our friend leaves and we’re alone. I became nervous and I didn’t want to seem like an awkward kid to all your girlfriends watching my every move, so I just asked for your phone number, hoping I can begin over our introduction at a better time. You took out a Metro Card receipt and wrote your phone number on the back of it. We both smiled at each other and walked our separate ways.
That same night, I called you to see if you wanted to hang out with me on the weekend. I was new in town, so you suggested we go check out Queens Center Mall. We decided to rendezvous at the Dunkin’ Donuts by the “7” subway line and grab a cup of hot chocolate. I remember it raining that day, so we sat in Dunkin’ until the rain slowed down. I was blown away by how quickly we hit it off. We talked for a long time, and little did we know, the rain had stopped hours ago, the day became night, and sadly, it was already time to head back home.
We were just two, young, 15-year-old high school kids, but there was already an undeniable connection and chemistry between us. Right then and there, I knew I wanted to share the rest of my life with you.
Thirteen years later, I ask you to marry me.
It was a million tiny little things that, when you add them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together, and I knew it.
I knew it the very first time I touched your hand. It was like coming home, only to no home I’d ever known. And it was as simple as just taking your hand, walking side by side down the crowded streets of Flushing, and I just knew. It was like, magic.
Life with you has taught me that love does not consist in gazing at each other’s eyes, but in looking outward together in the same direction. You have supported me, comforted me, guided me, and stood by my side during every roadblock in life. I knew when I first saw you in the cafeteria of our high school, that you were going to be this important to me.
Being with you made me realize that moving to the concrete jungle was the best thing that ever happened to me because it brought me to you. I had found my soulmate in all of New York’s grey.
Dedicated to my wife, who showed me color in all the grey.