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Charlie Carillo Headshot

Love on the BMT, or One "L" of a Courtship

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She sees him standing there on that jam-packed train, and she says to herself:

Wow.

A black-haired guy with big brown eyes, obviously Italian. Well-dressed and beautifully groomed, with shoes buffed to a high shine.

He looks a little dangerous, too. This adds to his appeal.

Two thoughts strike her -- he's the handsomest straphanger she's ever seen, and she knows him from somewhere. But where?

In this part of Brooklyn guys who carry themselves like him tend to be mobbed up, but he's no criminal. Mob guys don't get up this early, and they don't use public transportation.

So who is this man? It's driving her nuts as they rumble along on that morning rush hour BMT train to Manhattan, which they'd both boarded at an elevated station in East New York.

Suddenly, it hits her as the "L" reaches the next stop -- she met him at a church dance a few years back, when she was just 16! An older guy who didn't say much, but he did ask her to dance, and they moved well together.

One dance, and that was the last she'd seen of him. Until now.

She decides to go for it.

He sees her weaving her way through the crowd -- a sweet-faced Irish girl full of mischief, coming toward him as if he owes her money.

She reaches up and grabs the strap next to his, smiling like a lottery winner.

"Hi! Remember me? We danced once."

"Oh...sure, I remember you."

"I'm Cissy."

"Tony."

He stares at her. He tends to do that when he meets people who intrigue him, and this bold beauty certainly fits that bill.

Does he really remember that dance? Maybe. Maybe not. Main thing is, she's damn cute, and nothing like him.

He's dark and serious. She's light and cheerful. He's always heard that opposites attract, and what do you know -- it's true!

He loosens up. He tells her about his work at the Young and Rubicam advertising agency on Madison Avenue. She tell him about her job at a downtown insurance company. She does most of the talking.

Nice girl, Tony tells himself -- but she's so young! When she was in high school, I was in the Navy!

He says goodbye and gets off to switch trains at Chambers Street, and as Cissy watches him go, she wonders if he always catches that same train from Brooklyn. She hopes he does, because she's got a feeling that a major project has just begun.

They look for each other on the L every morning. Loads of time to get acquainted on that long ride into town, and it's a smooth way to grease the rails for a courtship.

It starts slowly, movies and dances. She's happy to learn that their first dance wasn't a fluke. They still move well together.

He's always reminding her: "You're young, Cis. Feel free to date other guys."

Words she does not wish to hear.

"I was dating him long before he was dating me," she will later say.

But before long, she hears the words she's been hoping to hear from Tony, pretty much from the moment she first saw him on that train:

"Will you marry me?"

And before she can say "Yes," he adds:

"I want you to be the mother of my children."

I'm one of those children, the first of three, and there are four grandchildren as well.

Seven people who would not exist if Tony and Cissy hadn't warmed to each other during all those rickety rides on that L train, and I bring it up now because they exchanged wedding vows 60 years ago.

That's not a typo -- 60 years -- six, zero years ago. January 30, 1954.

I'm forever grateful to the New York City Transit Authority for building that still-standing elevated line, and I salute my mom and dad on their remarkable anniversary.

A love story that began so long ago on a train, and it's still on track. How cool is that?

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Charlie Carillo is a producer for the TV show Inside Edition and a novelist.