This entry was written by Christine Baez, a University of Miami freshman and good friend of mine.
You can find Tomás Lautaro Monzón – “Tom” – riding his pimped out bike to a class he’s not registered for at Florida International University. His illegal immigrant status makes it difficult for him to attend college – even as his high school’s valedictorian – while his New Balance shoes keep him from getting a girl.
Tom finds joy in learning even though he won’t get college credit for it, so he gracefully sits in on classes.
A milk crate hangs on the back of Tom’s bright blue bicycle filled with over-sized cameras and an outdated fanny pack. His bike inventions include double crates on the back and a stereo system using two computers speaker and a mini amplifier.
He even hopes to upgrade to a motor bicycle someday.
Although he was never the best at attracting girls, Tom was pretty famous at his high school. He wasn’t the most popular, but it was difficult to find someone who didn’t have a smile on their face when Tom was in the presence.
It’s hard not to smile when you see a tall, lanky kid wearing Old Navy shirts and accessorizing with thick-rimmed glasses, a half smile and ape-like legs.
Most people at his high school recognize him by his bicycle – a “1972 10-speed Free Spirit Brittany”. Tom rode to his homecoming dance on his bike and almost went to prom on it.
The only thing that stopped him was a flat tire.
Luckily his bike wanted him to have some dignity that day and prevented Tom from scaring his prom date away. Yes, he found one – in the form of his girl best friend, that is.
Tom may have left prom without a girl on his arm, but he had a large crown and sash with the words “Prom King” to make up for it.
He was selected as a “Senior of Distinction” at South Miami Senior High School, his alma mater. There was a photoshoot for these seniors in which each brought awards aond objects that made them, well, distinct. While everyone brought trophies and medals, Tom held his bulky video camera with one hand and his bright blue bicycle with the other.
While cruising down Miami’s Calle Ocho on his Free Spirit bicycle, with his long black hair blowing in the wind, Tom saw an attractive girl walking towards him. Looking at this girl caused him to steer off the sidewalk and into the grassy plot adjacent, landing directly in front of the bombshell. It was as if his Free Spirit had a mind of its own and strolled right up to the girl; something Tom was not capable of doing on his own.
One time he had told a girl he would pick her up at her house and they would go out somewhere. Expecting a car, “the girl’s face turned white” when she saw Tom pull up on his 70s 10-speed.
“There’s an innate aestheticism to the bicycle than can’t be matched,” Tom explained. That very appreciation for the two-wheeled vehicle cost Tom a kiss with an artsy type outside the museum. As Tom was leaning in, he got distracted by a beautiful road bicycle careening down the street at over twenty miles per hour.
By the time he came back to earth, the girl was in her car and down the street.
As an aspiring journalist, he wants to “be stuck in a cubicle poring over a news report”. Alternatively, he’d like to pursue teaching and park maintenance.
Tom’s also concerned with the sustainability of the environment, especially when it comes to transportation. In fact, as connected as Tom is to his bicycle, he fantasizes about being a bus driver. He’s even awaiting the purchase of a driving simulator, complete with a 900 degree steering wheel and force feedback – even though he’s never gotten behind the wheel of a car.
From looking at his resumé you would think that Tomás Monzón would become a Harvard graduate, create his own newspaper, or become a famous news anchor. While those plans are in the works, for the moment, those who know him can picture Tom leading a different lifestyle: riding his Free Spirit bicycle around the streets of sunny Miami, Florida.