Whenever high school senior Schereéya boarded an airplane, it was with a particular thought in mind: “What if I meet the person I’m going to marry on board?”
Schereéya, who uses they/them pronouns, had always figured meeting a partner on a plane was inherently romantic and, as such, was always prepared for an in-flight meet-cute.
“I always tried to be as cute as possible when I traveled, just in case,” Schereéya tells CNN Travel today, laughing.
This particular flight was already a significant one. It was 2010 and Schereéya was traveling solo to their soon-to-be-college-state of Virginia. They’d been accepted into Washington and Lee University and the flight felt like the beginning of a new stage of life, replete with possibilities.
“I went to a science and math boarding school,” explains Schereéya. “So I was just very excited to be away from school, so excited to be going somewhere else.”
Boarding the plane, Schereéya did their usual scan around the other passengers – were any of the travelers future-spouse material?
Quickly, Schereéya attention zoned in on a young guy, sat near the back, in a red sweatshirt.
He was attractive, thought Schereéya, and looked like he could be a high school senior. Maybe he was also traveling to the Washington and Lee acceptance day? Perhaps they’d get chatting? Maybe he was the one?
But when Schereéya sat down in their seat – the row in front of the red-sweatshirt-wearing stranger – they were quickly distracted by their seatmate, who happened to be from Japan.
Schereéya had studied Japanese at high school, and was thrilled to get a chance to test out these linguistic skills in person. As the plane was waiting to take off, Schereéya and their seat neighbor started chatting in Japanese.
That’s when the guy behind Schereéya took notice.
It turned out Schereéya’s instincts were correct – this was Anton, also a high school senior, and he was also en route to the Washington and Lee University college acceptance day. Schereéya and Anton have asked that only their first names be used for privacy reasons.
Anton says he was immediately enthralled by Schereéya – who he’d noticed when they boarded the plane – and bowled over at the ease and confidence in which they slipped into Japanese.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘Who is that?’” Anton recalls.
Anton had grown up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It was his second visit to Washington and Lee, but his first time flying there. In fact, it was his first time flying, period.
“So my mind was sort of wrapped up in that – I was super excited about it – I’m a bit of a nerd,” says Anton. “I’m interested in flight and so being able to fly for the first time was a huge deal for me.”
When the aircraft took off, Anton stopped focusing on Schereéya, and was completely engrossed in the flying experience.
“Once the plane started moving, I just stared out the window the whole time,” he says.
The aircraft landed in Roanoke Regional Airport, which is about 50 miles from Washington and Lee University. The college had put on transport for the transiting students.
It was while disembarking the airplane that Schereéya spotted Anton again. Soon they found themselves standing together at the airport, both unsure of their next steps.
Schereéya was wearing a Washington and Lee sweatshirt, and hoped the stranger might notice that and make conversation.
But Anton, who is a little more reserved, didn’t say anything.
“I was super nervous and self-conscious,” he says.
Eventually, Schereéya introduced themselves. The two figured out they were both heading to the same place. Before long, they were sat next to one another for the hour-long bus ride to their college.
“I remember thinking like, this is such a good day. I’m going to college. There’s a cute boy,” says Schereéya.
“It was a good day,” agrees Anton.
The accepted students were due to spend the whole weekend getting a taste of the college lifestyle.
They recall going to a party together, and dancing. They also attended a panel discussion for Black students on campus.
“Seeing another person there who was kind of just as outgoing in that setting and asking a bunch of questions too, also made me pay attention,” says Anton.
When the weekend wound to a close, Schereéya left Virginia regarding Anton as a good friend, and looked forward to spending more time together when the semester started later that year.
“But we didn’t really hang out that much the first few years of college,” says Schereéya.
Anton was focused on studying, and when he wasn’t concentrating on his school work, he was involved in an organization or club.
While the two did have mutual friends, they often moved in different circles.
But despite the fact they didn’t see one another often, Schereéya always thought fondly of the guy from the plane.
“In my mind, because of that first weekend, we were just like besties – like we went all the way back,” says Schereéya.
They’d often text one another via Blackberry messenger, especially during vacations, when Anton was less focused on studying.
“Most of the time that we had more intense interactions was over the summers,” says Anton.
“We kept trying to have these connections to hang out and then they kept just getting missed all the time,” adds Schereéya.
Their time at college rolled on. They rarely met up, but they remained in one another’s orbit.
“I just liked talking to him, text back and forth,” says Schereéya. “And I just got really used to it, he became a person that I loved talking to – and then he started dating somebody.”
When Schereéya heard Anton was in a relationship, they were shocked.
Schereéya recalls their college roommate raising an eyebrow at this reaction.
“I was not expecting you to have this reaction to the news that Anton was dating someone,” Schereéya’s roommate said.
“I was not expecting me to have this reaction either,” Schereéya recalls responding.
“That’s actually how I found out that I liked him.”
Anton says he’d always liked Schereéya, but he never thought he had a chance with them.
“I just thought Schereéya was out of my league,” he recalls.
The winter of their senior year, Schereéya was going through a tough time.
“I was just struggling. And he noticed,” Schereéya says, recalling Anton approaching them at a party when they were sitting in a corner.
Schereéya opened up to Anton, and he listened.
“No one else would ever listen to some person in the corner crying about how hard life is when everyone’s trying to party,” says Schereéya.
After this moment of connection, the two started spending time together, just the two of them, for really the first time since they’d crossed paths on the airplane years earlier.
“He was like, ‘We’ll have lunch together, you need some more levity in your life,’ or ‘Let’s go get ice cream.’ So we started hanging out a lot and talking a lot more,” says Schereéya.
New Orleans road trip
Winter rolled into spring, and Anton invited Schereéya on a road trip he was planning with some friends to New Orleans, some 13 hours away.
“We had been hanging out a ton and we were getting pretty close by that point,” says Anton. “And we ended up traveling down together, and we talked the entire 13 hours.”
“And I, at that point had like a full-fledged, like a full-blown crush,” says Schereéya, laughing. “I was telling my roommate as I was packing my stuff like, ‘We should be dating by the time we get there and engaged by the time we get back. Thirteen hours, are you kidding me? It’s such a long drive.’”
For Anton, this experience cemented his feeling that he and Schereéya could be an item. It was something he’d been wondering about since they’d started spending more time together. Now he felt sure.
“I was thinking to myself, ‘If I can talk to you for 13 straight hours, we can do anything together. We’ll never be bored.’”
Early in the New Orleans trip, the two were walking down a street when they noticed a jazz band playing at a restaurant.
“That looks like it would be a good place for a date,” Anton said, indicating at the bar.
“Are you asking me on a date?” Schereéya asked.
Anton admitted he was.
“So then we went on the date,” Schereéya recalls today.
“And then we’re not even paying attention to the other people on this trip anymore. It was just how many dates in New Orleans can we fit in before we have to go back home.”
It was March, and Schereéya and Anton were due to graduate college in May. Their fledgling relationship had a bit of a question mark hanging over it, as they didn’t know what their future would be.
But they soon realized they were naturally factoring one another into their plans – both short-term and long-term.
“Because we were in such a transitional phase of life – where we were trying to imagine what the future looks like – we began to have conversations. It was like, ‘When we’re at the Oscars, because you’re winning for a movie that you’ve written,” or ‘When we’re going to school dances, because you’re the principal of the school,’” Schereéya recalls.
“I guess when I imagine the future, I do imagine that you’re in it,” Anton recalls telling Schereéya.
Schereéya was soon whiling away afternoons wedding planning on Pinterest, daydreaming about a future with Anton.
Anton was more practical-minded, but also felt increasingly certain. He knew he shared a lot of important core values with Schereéya , and that was only becoming clearer as they spent more time together.
“Seeing those values line up was one of the things that gave me the peace to say, ‘Well the timing is bad, because we’re about to graduate, and I don’t know if this is going to work out. But it feels right. And we believe the same things. So maybe we’ll just see what happens,” he recalls.
“I think things sort of organically evolved. And we found out that we wanted so many of the same things in life. And eventually – this was after graduation – but eventually I thought ‘This is real.’”
Anton started planning a proposal.
An aviation engagement
Anton was determined to make the engagement as meaningful as possible.
“I knew that I needed to put thought into it to make it memorable, and I didn’t have a job, and I don’t come from a family of means, so I had to lean into the meaning side of it,” he recalls.
His mind returned to Roanoke Airport. Proposing inside the airport wouldn’t be easy, but some friends of Anton’s from his church told him about the Roanoke Star, an illuminated star-shaped sculpture on nearby Mill Mountain that overlooks the runways.
It was the perfect location, and when Anton and Schereéya arrived there one June evening, the ring in Anton’s pocket, Anton was certain it was the right choice.
“We get to this star and it’s dark, and then the mountain is overlooking pretty much all of Roanoke – and it just so happens that there are fireworks in all directions on this night,” Anton recalls.
“Airplanes flying ahead – it was beautiful,” says Schereéya.
Anton was nervous. He was paranoid that Schereéya had realized there was a ring in his pocket when they’d put their hand in there as an affectionate gesture earlier that day.
“I had been planning like, ‘What does one say?’ in this moment in my head. And that’s never good, because once I got in my head, it felt super awkward,” he recalls.
“But eventually I was like, I’m just going to pretend I’m about to tie my shoe, and that’s how I’ll be on the ground. And then I’ll propose from there.”
Schereéya, despite having spent the last few months dreaming of marriage, wasn’t expecting the proposal. Surprised and delighted, they said yes and the two opened a bottle of champagne and toasted the occasion, watching the airplanes taking off and landing at Roanoke below.
Much of their engagement played out long distance, as their post-college choices initially took them in different directions, but the two got married in 2015, a year after their graduation.
“It was a very, community, sort of family-based thing,” says Schereéya of their wedding, who also recalls wearing “an absolutely gorgeous dress” and thrifting china cups for the table centerpieces.
The two said personal vows to one another. They also did symbolic cord tying, as well as first communion. They also jumped over a broom, an African American tradition.
Schereéya says they loved every minute of the ceremony.
“Then afterwards, we just fed everybody, had a lot of drinks and danced for hours, it was a huge part, it was really fun,” they add.
Schereéya and Anton have now been married for seven years, and have two kids. They spent a year living in the UK, where Schereéya studied theater at graduate school, before returning to the US right before the pandemic.
Schereéya is a writer and recently published a poetry collection called Prayers & Pixies, and posts updates on their writing on their social media accounts. Anton, who has worked in education and software programming, just started his own real estate business in Pittsburgh, where the two now live.
Their relationship, and life together so far, has been a journey, the couple say, and it’s one they’re committed to taking together.
“If you get engaged at 23, you do really think you’ve gotten everything figured out,” says Schereéya. “And it turns out that you actually still have to grow and change and figure out who you are. And even if you figure that out, in five years it might be different again, and another five years – and just the sense of realizing there is no arriving at any destination. It is just, can you travel together well? Because it’s always a journey.”
In that sense, the couple note that it is symbolic that they met on an airplane. They also say they often recall their in-air meeting when they’re mid-travel.
Schereéya says some of their favorite photos were taken in the airport, or on a plane, about to embark on an adventure.
As they enter their thirties, the couple are looking forward to the future. They would love to live in South or Central America, and hope to make this dream a reality before too long.
“How do we want our lives to look like? What do we want the shape of those lives to be?” are the questions Anton says they keep asking.
Schereéya calls their time together so far “a beautiful tapestry.”
“Why wouldn’t I want to keep building this beautiful tapestry we’ve started building and see what other adventures we can have,” Schereéya says. “How many airplane rides can we take in the next 60 years? That’s what I want to know.”
Top photo: Schereéya and Anton in 2021, courtesy Schereéya & Anton