Humans of New York has a special kind of magic. The powerhouse social media account opens our minds and hearts to stories of people from all over the world, making us laugh, cry and a whole of host of emotions in between.
But one epic post in particular has not only caught the attention of hundreds of thousands of Instagram users, but has enthralled award-winning actor Jennifer Garner.
The post in question tells the story of Cheryl and Bobby Love, a couple whose 40-year marriage was nearly shattered one very normal morning when, with no warning, the FBI burst into their home and uncovered Bobby’s secret past.
You’re gripped already, aren’t you? Well, Garner sure was, and within one slide the actor had already commented: “Holy nuts.”
As the post describes from both Bobby and Cheryl’s perspectives, the revelation sent shock waves through their family of four children, their community where Bobby was a sports coach and a deacon at the local church, and, obviously, through their marriage.
It turns out Bobby’s real name is Walter Miller. As a young man in North Carolina he made some questionable decisions and “got into all sorts of trouble”, stealing purses and cheques from mail boxes until he was sent to a juvenile detention centre.
Bobby describes how every night as he was falling asleep he would listen to the whistle of a freight train in the distance, and “wanted to know where that train was going”. So, one night he waited until the guard wasn’t looking and broke out, following the train tracks all the way until he got to Washington DC.
Here, he thought his life might turn around. One of his eight siblings lived in the city, so he slept on their sofa and began to play basketball and enrolled in a new high school. It seemed like things were going well. Until he became friends with a group who were robbing banks, and as Bobby says, “getting away with it.” After he started assisting them in the robberies it was only a matter of time before they got caught, and after a bank manager pulled a silent alarm, Bobby was shot by police as he tried to flee the scene and ended up once again in prison.
Sadly, while he was inside Bobby’s mum passed away, something which hit him especially hard as she always hoped she’d see her son “turn his life around”. From here, Bobby decided to be on his best behaviour and become a better man. He exhibited such good behaviour in prison that he got moved to a lower security, more comfortable prison and was slowly allowed privileges like having his own radio show.
Although he was well liked and his prison record was now sparkling, one guard decided he had it in for Bobby. This guard bullied and falsely accused him, until it came to a point that if there was just one more fake incident on his record, he would be transferred back to higher security prison.
Bobby didn’t want to take that chance, so he escaped from prison for the second time. After making it off the inmate bus on the way to working on the road (a type of labour work to punish inmates) he managed to seek help here and there to get a bus across the country, where he started a new life in New York.
We can’t imagine many people not being fascinated by this Great Escape-style story, but Instagram account Comments By Celebs has picked out Garner’s comments, and they’re brilliant. Throughout the 11 slides, Garner has consistently and very excitedly willed the story on, sharing our suspense.
“You are really taking your sweet time doling out the goods. We are all in agony – have mercy and give us Cheryl,” Garner comments, as Bobby explains that he came up with his new name on the spot, when a woman on a bus started to make small talk with him.
Then, the moment we’ve all been waiting for comes, as Bobby explains how he met his now wife, Cheryl. Describing her, he says: “Cheryl was innocent. The opposite of me. And that’s why I was so attracted to her. I never wanted to date someone like myself: who drank, and smoke, and had a past. Cheryl was soft. Almost naïve in a way. I never told her about my history, and she didn’t really press me.”
He continues: I never told her about Walter Miller. I didn’t see the need. Walter died a long time ago, on that Greyhound bus out of Raleigh. I was a new man now… Cheryl was a righteous woman. Most people, when they see a dollar dropped on the street, will put it in their pocket. But not Cheryl. She will stop everyone on the sidewalk, looking for the owner. She’s that kind of woman. And that’s not the kind of woman who could keep a secret like this. I’m not trying to say that she’d have called the cops on me. But she’d have made me call the cops on myself.”
At this point, much like us, Garner is on the edge of losing it. “Look at the beautiful family,” she writes. “I feel like the next bits are going to make us cry. Poor soft, righteous Cheryl.”
Over the next 40 years, Bobby became a pillar of the community. But although he was a wonderful father and family man, Cheryl says she thought at times he didn’t really want to be with her because of his unemotional, closed-off attitude which felt like he was hiding something.
“We had some beautiful love making,” Cheryl explains, “But other than that, there wasn’t much affection.”
“Not many hugs. Not much cuddling. Not much communication. I could only get so close and he’d shut down…I thought it was me.”
She continues to explain that she even prayed to have the strength to carry on in a relationship where she always felt she was “walking on eggshells”.
When Bobby was finally found out, in some ways, it was the best thing that could have happened to them. Cheryl made the decision to forgive him and fight for him. She gathered testimonials, wrote to the governor, wrote to then president Barack Obama, testified on his behalf and told them about how he had spent the last four decades. After spending one year in prison, Bobby was set free.
Speaking about what happened to them, Cheryl now says: “I think this whole mess was for the better of things. He doesn’t have to hide anymore. He can look at me when I’m speaking. Not only that, he’s hearing me too. My voice is heard.”
On the final slide Garner commented: “This is the most beautiful, inspiring love story I have ever watched as a ten hour mini series. And sitting in this big audience with everyone today has been (love heart emoji). Thank you, Humans of New York, you were right to take your time. Just like Bobby figured out Cheryl was worth every second.”
Okay, who’s buying the rights to this and turning it into a feature length film?
Images: Getty / Instagram