I was not looking my best, as I sat on the Metro on the way to my friend’s apartment in Paris. I had been traveling for a month—to Italy, Bulgaria, Greece, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, and India—to celebrate finishing my master’s in Amsterdam. I was wearing a sweater and jeans, my hair had been braided into cornrows that were getting really old after a month, and I had been in the sun so long I had broken out. But my partner, Steven, whom I met that day on the Metro, says he found me beautiful.
The train was crowded that day on September 16, 2016, and I noticed Steven briefly, but just like I noticed everyone else getting on and off the train. I was listening to music and reminiscing about my trip when I suddenly had the thought: What if I met my husband on my trip and I didn’t know?
That’s when I really started noticing the man sitting in front of me. The first thing I noticed was his arms. He was wearing a white T-shirt, but his biceps were piercing through it. He looked really strong, but he also had a really calming energy radiating from him.
I had the thought: What if this man is meant to be my husband, but I’ll never know because I’ll get off this train without ever speaking to him?
We kept looking at each other and looking away for 15 minutes. Then the person next to me got off, and I moved my legs so he could pass. The man opposite stood up to let the man next to me pass, and when he sat back, his legs were so close to mine that they were slightly touching. I thought he might be doing it on purpose, to try to catch my attention.
I saw his lips moving and I removed one of my headphones. That’s when he asked me in French—in which I’m fluent—if I wanted to put my backpack on the seat next to me, as it looked heavy. I kept it on my lap, but I thought the conversation was going to continue, so I didn’t put my headphones back in. He asked me if I was a student—due to the backpack—and I said I was not. My stop came up and he asked if he could get off with me, and I said he could do as he pleased.
He asked to carry my backpack for me. At first I said, “No, thank you.” I thought he might run away with it! But he gently insisted, and I did a calculated risk analysis: I didn’t have anything valuable in the backpack, so if he ran away with it, I wouldn’t really be losing anything. So he took my backpack, got on the next train with me, and we kept chatting until my stop.
He’s one of those people that has such a calm energy that they pass it on to you. The conversation flowed so naturally. He told me he was doing a second masters, in International Development, which was the masters I had just completed. I thought: What are the odds that we are doing our masters in the same subject?
We talked about where we were both from and, at my stop, he got off the train with me and asked if we could stay in touch. I gave him my number and he gave me a hug. It was very calming—it felt like he passed on his calming aura to me.
I left the train station, smiling from ear to ear. When I told my friend, she started teasing me about it—it was like we were teenagers. A few hours later, I received a text message from Steven, which made me smile again.
The first date
He asked me out on a date, but I told him I wouldn’t have enough time, as I was only in Paris for three days before I had to take the bus back to Amsterdam for my graduation. But he insisted. I would have been put off by his persistence if he were someone else, as that kind of behavior usually puts me off, but I thought it was cute.
We saw each other the night before I left. I didn’t have much time, so I picked a fast food place across from the station where we had previously said goodbye. I thought we would only be there for an hour or so, as I still needed to pack, but it was really nice so I changed my mind about not having time. We went for drinks in a bar in the center of Paris, and caught the last train back to my neighborhood after midnight. He walked me to the front of my friend’s building, and he kissed me goodnight.
During our date, he was really straightforward about looking for a relationship. I told him to slow down—we were still getting to know each other. But, in the end, I appreciated him being truthful about it because I had gone on dates with guys previously who weren’t looking for anything, and I usually cut them off quickly. I guess I was looking for a relationship without knowing it.
We kept in touch while I was in Amsterdam for my graduation, texting for hours every night. A few days later, I came back to Paris for a week before returning to my home in New York. In that time, I saw Steven a lot and we continued getting to know each other.
On the way to our third date, he said, “I don’t want you to go back to New York,” and I said, “Why?” He was sitting across from me on the Metro and he said, “Because I love you.”
Things were moving too fast for me. I remember saying to him, “Look, don’t you think it’s too early to be in love with me? You don’t know me.” He was quiet after that.
I never believed in love at first sight and I still don’t, because I don’t think that you can love someone that you don’t know. I’m a very logical person. I think you need to know someone on a deeper level to be able to love them as a human being. So I cannot say that I loved Steven when I first laid eyes on him. I thought he was a very interesting person that I wanted to get to know, and that he had a very calming aura that made me inquisitive, but I cannot say that I loved him.
Still, I wanted to get to know him more. We saw each other again the night before I returned home to New York and we agreed that we would stay in touch, but I didn’t have any expectations that anything would come out of it due to the distance.
Doing long distance
Back in New York, Steven and I texted, called and checked in with each other multiple times a day. It became a relationship without us forcing it. By the end of October, 2016, we had become official.
I fell in love quickly. After a phone call in November, 2016, I sent Steven a message telling him that I was in love with him. I realized that this was different from any of my previous relationships as I could be myself with him.
I think the universe had a big hand in how everything played out. I took a job in DC and it involved traveling a lot to Guinea, which meant every few months, I’d have a layover in Paris and could see Steven.
We maintained our long distance relationship for three years. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, and at one point I felt Steven was a little distant, so we had a two-month break. But we got back together and things picked up where they left off.
Things got pretty serious between us towards the end of 2017. He would jokingly ask me about my ring size, or say he was shopping for something special.
I visited him in Paris for a 10-day vacation in November, 2017. We got an Airbnb in Paris and I was exhausted from the flight so I was going to take a nap, but then he said, “Wait, I have something for you.” He went into his bag while I was sitting on the bed, and got down on one knee.
It just felt so natural, and I said yes. I knew Steven was “the one” and that I wanted to be with him. I’m a very anxious person whereas he’s really calm, so he balances me out. And he’s very supportive. When I’m with him, I don’t have to impress him or to be someone else in his presence. I can be 100 percent myself. I have never felt that comfortable around anyone else before him.
Steven joined me in Washington DC in July, 2019, and we now live in Florida. We got married in a court office on September 16, 2019—exactly three years after we first met on the Metro.
The experience has made me believe in fate, but I also believe in African spirituality. Interestingly enough, 2016 was the year that I started exploring the religion of my ancestors, learning about the orishas of love and air and all that stuff. Looking back at my trip in Egypt, I wore yellow the majority of the time, which is the color of the orisha of love, Oshun. I think that’s linked to why I met Steven. I don’t think I would have met him were it not for the African orishas—and fate.
Andye Sanon is an international development professional, living in Florida with her husband Steven. In 2019, she and Steven created a handmade apparel and home décor company called Afrayiti. Andye is on Instagram at @dyetravels.
All views expressed in this article are the author’s own.
As told to Katie Russell