Love at first sight in Paris
Andye was only in Paris for three days. On day one, she jumped aboard the Metro train that would change her life forever.
It was September 2016. Andye, born in Haiti and brought up in the US, was 25 and finishing up a Master’s degree in Amsterdam, in the Netherlands.
She was in that in-between phase of a degree when studies are over, but graduation is still to come.
“I decided, ‘I’m just going to travel for a month and then come back to Amsterdam,'” Andye tells CNN Travel.
Andye planned a month’s adventure exploring Italy, Greece, Egypt and India. On her way back, she returned via Paris to visit a close friend, Seyna, who lived in the French capital and was looking after some of Andye’s belongings.
“I got on the Metro to head back to my friend’s house where I’d dropped off my suitcases,” Andye recalls to CNN Travel. “And that’s where he got on.”
“He” was Steven, a 26-year-old Master’s student originally from the Central African Republic studying in Paris and working part-time in a school. (Andye and Steven have asked that only their first names be used for privacy reasons.)
When Steven boarded the train, the carriage was already full of travelers. He was one of several passengers standing.
Meanwhile, Andye was sitting, her traveling backpack on her knee and her headphones on. Steven noticed her right away.
“I found her really beautiful,” Steven tells CNN Travel.
A few stops went by, the carriage emptied out, seats freed up and Steven ended up sitting opposite Andye. He kept glancing her way. She seemed to be looking at him too. Their eyes kept meeting.
Andye also noticed Steven amid the crowds of travelers.
“We just kept looking at each other,” she recalls. “He would turn around to look at me, and I would look away, and we just kept on doing that for like a good 15 minutes, just staring at each other and looking away.”
As the train sped underground the Parisian streets, Steven tried to think of a polite way to broach conversation with the girl with the backpack. He wanted to speak to her, but he was also conscious of respecting her space and privacy.
Meanwhile, Andye was silently fantasizing about the stranger opposite her.
She recalls being struck by his “calming energy.”
“He had really nice, muscular arms. I was like, ‘Wow, he looks like someone I could really get a nice hug from.'”
As these thoughts flashed through Andye’s mind, they were followed by another, sinking realization.
“I was like, ‘What if he’s my husband, but I’ll never know? Because I’m going to get off this train without ever speaking to him.'”
“Then, at some point — when our eyes finally caught each other, and neither of us turned back — I saw his lips move. So I removed one of my headphones.”
In French, Steven was suggesting Andye could move her heavy-looking backpack onto the now vacant seat next to her.
Andye, who is fluent in French, replied that it wasn’t necessary — the bag wasn’t heavy.
“Then, somehow, I just did not put on my headphones back, because I kind of was hoping that we would keep on talking,” says Andye. “And then the conversation continued.”
Steven asked if Andye was a student — because of the backpack — and she told him about her studies. Steven explained he was also working towards a Master’s degree.
“At some point, I had to get off the train to transfer, and he asked if he could get off with me. And I said, ‘You can do as you please.'”
As they got off the train together, Steven offered to help carry her backpack.
“I felt a bit nervous because I didn’t know him and I thought about how he could probably run away with my bag,” says Andye. “But my gut felt comfortable enough to allow him to take it.”
The two waited for the next subway station together, Steven holding the backpack. Then they got on the next train together and sat next to one another.
“We just kept on talking,” says Andye. “That’s when we realized that we actually were doing our Master’s in the same field of study. We were both studying sustainable development, and we started talking about that a bit.”
When the train arrived at Andye’s stop, Steven got off with her, handed her the backpack. They exchanged numbers, then Steven asked if he could give her a hug goodbye. Andye agreed.
“I thought that was so weird, because in France people just do the kisses on the cheek, they don’t hug,” recalls Andye.
“I was like, ‘Wow, what if this guy is a mind reader? Because earlier I was just thinking I could get a really nice hug from him.'”
After their hug, the two went their separate ways. Steven, glancing at his phone, realized his Metro detour had made him late for work.
Meanwhile, Andye reunited with her friend Seyna and immediately shared details of her Metro meet-cute.
Later that evening, Steven messaged Andye and nervously waited for a reply.
“When she responded, I screamed and ran to my cousin,” says Steven, recalling announcing that Andye was the woman he would marry.
Andye and Steven messaged back and forth all evening, trying to figure out if they could meet up again before Andye returned to Amsterdam. She had a tight schedule, and at first suggested it would be easier to meet in a few weeks — after graduation she planned to return to Paris for a week before she headed home to the US.
“Even if we see each other for just a quick second, I really want to see you before you leave,” wrote Steven in response.
Eventually, the two settled on meeting for a quick dinner on Andye’s last evening. Steven wanted to impress Andye and take her to a swanky restaurant, but Andye wanted to make sure she wouldn’t be late home, given she was traveling the next day.
They settled on a casual fast food spot, right next to the Metro stop where they’d parted the first time.
As Andye was getting ready for the date, Seyna teased her about her romantic Metro meeting and the subsequent date plans.
“She was really giddy about me going on the date,” Andye laughs.
When they saw one another again, both Andye and Steven felt excited.
“I felt butterflies in my stomach,” says Steven.
“We did the usual French greeting with one kiss on each cheek AKA ‘la bise,'” recalls Andye, who remembers trying to temper her excitement, given her imminent return to the US.
Inside the restaurant, the two settled into conversation quickly.
“We started talking and getting to know each other a bit,” recalls Andye.
Steven was straightforward with Andye, explaining he was looking for a relationship.
“I thought that was like, ‘Whoa, first date, like you’re doing too much for me.’ But I appreciated his sincerity,” says Andye. “We kept on talking and I got, again, that kind of like, calm feeling being around him.”
Andye’s original plan to keep the evening short no longer seemed so important. She suggested they go into the center of Paris to a bar.
Later, Steven accompanied Andye back to her friend’s apartment. Outside the door, they kissed. Then Steven returned to where he lived, further into the suburbs of Paris.
It was later than he’d realized, and trains had stopped running, so he walked most of the way. Steven says he didn’t mind, he was just caught up in the excitement and romance of the evening.
Meanwhile, Andye excitedly told Seyna about the date and how well it went.
“Then the next day I left to go to Amsterdam, but we kept in touch. He was messaging me the whole time I was in Amsterdam,” recalls Andye.
After graduation, Andye returned to Paris for a brief stopover before her return to the US. Once again, she arranged to meet Steven at the Metro stop by Seyna’s apartment.
The two hopped on the train together and went for a stroll along the Champs Élysées, through the Trocadéro area and towards the Eiffel Tower.
Andye and Steven tried to see each other as much as they could during those few days, often riding the Metro together. On one of these journeys, Steven turned to Andye and said he didn’t want her to return to the US.
“Why?” asked Andye.
“Because I love you,” said Steven.
“How can you love me? You don’t even know me!” said Andye.
Andye boarded her flight to the US at the end of September, with no imminent plans to return to Europe.
“We didn’t make plans to meet up, we kind of held hope that we were gonna see each other again, at some point,” says Andye.
“We decided that we’re going to keep in touch, and just keep writing to each other and talking,” says Steven.
Three months later, Andye started working with an international organization based in Washington DC. She soon learned the role involved business travel, mostly to Guinea. Serendipitously, flights often included a layover in Paris.
In March 2017, six months after their first Metro encounter, Steven and Andye reunited at Charles de Gaulle airport for Andye’s 24-hour stopover.
In the intervening months, the two had been in constant communication. But it wasn’t the same as finally seeing one another in person again.
“Wow, this person actually exists,” Andye remembers thinking.
“We talked a lot, we hugged a lot,” says Steven of their reunion.
But before long they were saying goodbye again.
Andye’s role involved traveling to West Africa every three months or so. She figured that each time, she would try to incorporate a Paris layover.
But Steven felt guilty that Andye was the one always traveling — he didn’t have a visa to travel to the US, so he couldn’t reciprocate the trips.
“It was getting complicated,” he says. “Because it was always Andye who would have had to travel, I thought it would have been even more complicated later on in the process.”
Steven didn’t communicate these worries to Andye. But she sensed something was up.
“I just remember him being less attentive, really distant. And I said, ‘Look, if you’re not into this, let’s just end it. I am not going to chase you. I love you. But I don’t like one-sided relationships. I would like for this to be reciprocal. And since it’s not, I’m kind of removing myself out of the equation.'”
Reunited in Paris
A couple of months passed. Andye and Steven didn’t talk during this period, but they both thought about one another often. Meanwhile, Andye planned a trip to Paris to visit Seyna.
“I’m usually the kind of person, like once it’s over, it’s over. But with him I felt like this was more kind of a break than a breakup,” says Andye.
“I had my friend Seyna kind of reach out to him to see if he was okay, since I hadn’t heard from him, and tell him that I was coming to France for a week for vacation.”
Steven and Andye arranged to meet up during Andye’s trip.
“We talked a lot. We went out dancing, and then we kind of got back to how things were before,” she says. “I was in Paris for at least four to five days and we spent most of the time together.”
Steven says seeing Andye again after the months of silence “reignited a fire” inside him.
“At that moment I thought to myself, ‘If I don’t make it work, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life,'” he says.
The two were able to talk candidly about the situation, with Andye explaining she didn’t mind that she was always the one traveling, given she could incorporate visits into work trips.
They parted on stronger terms.
“I was really easy and confident in our relationship after that visit, but I do think that it took a while for me to warm back up into it,” says Andye.
The relationship did have another wobble when Andye was back in DC. When they came back together again, Andye was firm: She told Steven they both had to be all in.
“I was like, ‘Look, I don’t have time to play games. If this is what you want to do, it’s not for me, I was very strict on my boundaries. I told him, ‘Look, if you’re really serious about this, here’s my mom’s number. You let her know that you’re serious about her daughter.'”
Within a week, Steven had sent a long paragraph to Andye’s mother.
“I tried to tell her a bit about myself,” Steven explains. “I said I was serious about Andye.”
Steven’s message had the effect of taking Andye and Steven’s relationship to the next level. They started talking about what country they might live in the future, and plans for marriage.
The next time they reunited in France, in November 2017, Andye built a week’s vacation into her stopover.
“He came to pick me up and brought my favorite chocolate croissants to the airport,” she recalls. “He knows I’m addicted.”
It was during this trip that Steven proposed.
“When I met Andye, I felt at peace, in sync with all of nature’s elements,” says Steven. “But when I wanted to propose to her, I felt a wave of different feelings. I was asking myself what I would do if she said no and at the same time, I was excited at the idea that she would accept to be my wife. I was nervous and shaking internally.”
Andye accepted Steven’s proposal.
“I got that same calm feeling that I had that first day that I met him,” says Andye of the moment she said yes.
The couple kept the news to themselves for a short while, first telling Seyna, Andye’s Paris-based friend, and later Steven’s best friend.
The two decided to enjoy the engagement for a little while, and not rush into marriage They continued their long-distance romance and the following summer Andye spent four months in France with Steven. She’d quit her job and was in the middle of a short break, reconvening and figuring out her next steps career-wise.
“It was a really wonderful summer,” says Andye, recalling quality time spent with Steven, his family and friends.
While she was in France, Andye also looked into applying for jobs in Paris. But this proved trickier than she expected
Andye and Steven had previously figured it made most sense for Andye to move to France — Andye was fluent in French, after all. But after she struggled to find a France-based job, the couple started discussing the possibility of living together in the US instead.
Almost a year later, in July 2019, Steven’s fiance visa was approved. To celebrate, Andye and Steven went to Haiti. While there, they were inspired to plan their own Haiti-based wedding celebration.
Move to the US
Steven and Andye started their American life together in a tiny studio apartment in DC. They had a small wedding at a court office on September 16, 2019 — the three year anniversary of their Metro meeting — while anticipating a larger celebration in Haiti the following year.
Both Andye and Steven were thrilled to be living together after years of long distance. The two started a company together, Afrayiti, creating handmade apparel using African fabric.
Not long afterwards, Covid-19 hit the US. Steven lost his job, and early on, Andye caught the virus and was hospitalized.
She recovered physically, but struggled with anxiety for some time afterward.
“I became really anxious to the point where I didn’t leave my place for three months,” Andye recalls. “I didn’t even step outside of the door of our apartment.”
During this time, Andye says Steven was a huge support.
“I wouldn’t have survived this pandemic, if it wasn’t for him.”
Steven says there is no one but Andye who he’d want to spend lockdown with.
The Haiti wedding celebration canceled, the couple instead spent their time cooking, sewing and designing together.
As the pandemic waned, Steven encouraged Andye to reenter the world. She’s grateful for his patience during this period.
“I was so scared to go outside and he kind of really pushed me into taking just small steps,” says Andye.
In summer 2021, the couple relocated to Florida, enticed by the idea of more space, warm weather and proximity to the beach. They feel, says Andye, “at peace” in Florida.
A real life romantic comedy
Today, Andye and Steven are still Florida-based, planning future adventures together. Since the world opened up, they’ve visited Tanzania, Zanzibar and Costa Rica together.
When their Haiti wedding celebration was canceled, the couple decided to start a tradition where they plan a vacation to coincide with their anniversary. Right now, they’re in Mexico celebrating six years since their Metro meeting and three years since their courthouse wedding.
“One of the things that is symbolic — and I don’t think he notices — is when we’re traveling, he likes to ask me [if he can] carry my backpack,” says Andye.
Steven’s been carrying her bag, “since day one,” says Andye, laughing.
While Andye and Steven think they were fated to meet Steven on the Metro that day, they both have moments when they marvel at what happened.
“There are days where I say to him, “God, I’m married to a stranger that I met on the train in Paris,'” she says.
“What if I was late to take the train, what would have happened?” says Steven. “It’s destiny that brought us together.”
When Steven and Andye tell others how they met, they’re often told their story resembles a romantic comedy.
“Honestly, I feel like I am living a rom-com with him,” says Andye. “Especially as a Black woman, you don’t often see international love stories with Black women or Black men in them.
And I think for me, just sometimes when I think about it, I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m living my own rom-com.’ I don’t need to see it on TV, this is it.