I met Zach a few times before actually meeting Zach. But even from our first introduction, his presence transformed the solar system of my life. At first he only orbited silently in the outskirts of my mind…
The first time I saw Zach, I was dating Gabe. My roommates and I were throwing a Christmas Party. I had donned a short blood-red dress and applied crimson lipstick, even though Gabe didn’t like when I wore lipstick. My blonde hair was cut into a bob and I was hoping to give off a Marilyn Monroe aura.
Gabe and I had the appearance of having the perfect relationship. We were so close that sometimes when he scratched his nose, I felt a light brush on mine, and when we told jokes that no one else found funny, we still laughed together. We liked all the same things: Mario video games, rock climbing, and goofy dancing.
His adoration for me was something only dreamed of in cheesy rom coms. But still, I wasn’t happy.
We dated from when I was fifteen to twenty one, and for the last four and half years or so, I wasn’t attracted to him. He was attractive…just not to me.
Whenever we were in public, it was easy to fake how textbook of a couple we were. I became a well-rehearsed actress gushing about how happy we were. Yet, as soon as we were behind closed doors and he touched me, a shiver would rush down my spine.
I had a couple of theories about why. The most likely idea was that we had been dating for so long and we had started so early… he felt like my brother; kissing felt like incest.
Gabe was also uptight and controlling. He didn’t like me wearing anything in the least bit revealing – not even yoga pants. He was very conventional about relationships and in his mind we were on the fast track to the happily-ever-after-starring-two-and-a-half-kids-and-a-white-picket-fence.
All the while though, Gabe was my safe haven. He was my comfort zone.
The party was tinted red, green, white and gold by girls’ dresses and heels, by strong vodka and by laughing cuddling couples. It was the holidays.
Suddenly, I felt icy air on my bare arm and I turned and saw the door opening. I hurried over to it, trying not to break an ankle in my towering heels. I was a good, though slightly inebriated, host, and a group of guys were at the door. I welcomed them and noticed a guy in the center that I didn’t recognize. He was skinny with straight eyebrows. When he didn’t smile, he was intimidatingly serious looking, but when he did, his eyes creased and his face transformed goofily. It was endearing. He wore a red and white flannel shirt with no undershirt and I could see dog tags tattooed on his chest. I wanted to ask about them. I realized I was staring, blushed, and rushed away to lose myself back in the party.
During the rest of the night, I realized the mysterious man was named Zach. He was on the Frisbee team. Watching him tell jokes surrounded by everyone reinvigorated me. He was wild and free.
But I was shy and in a committed relationship. I didn’t talk to him.
Later, with Gabe’s arm draped over me, listening to his steady breathing, my thoughts swirled around Zach.
The next time I met Zach, my house was hosting a Super Bowl party. In the time between the two parties I had learned a lot about him. Some people may call it creeping, but I would refer to it as research or education. I had guiltily searched for him on every social media site.
Again at the Super Bowl party, I didn’t talk to Zach. However, thinking back on the day, the only thing that I do remember is this: the party was crowded and I was sitting on the couch and it wasn’t until I needed to use the bathroom – desperately – that I realized I was blocked in. Slightly panicking, I glanced from side to side. Zach was behind the couch, lounging in a chair. He noticed I needed to get out and offered me his hand so I could jump over the back of the dull grey couch. Ordinarily I wouldn’t have needed it, but because this gesture left me breathless, I accepted it. I mumbled a weak “thank you” as I hopped over the couch and almost fell into his lap.
I remember our hands touching.
A year later, I finally realized I needed to cut Gabe and I’s umbilical cord. It wasn’t healthy for either of us. He was controlling because he was rightly insecure of my feelings for him. We met up at Dunkin Donuts. I told him we needed to break up. I studied his grimace through the steam rising from his coffee. My coffee tasted like cardboard. After breakfast, we cried mutual tears in my car.
After the break up, I was ready to move on. I did not want to dwell on the missing person in my life or how I felt empty after losing my best friend for six years. My therapist told me I was dealing with a loss. But I didn’t want to deal.
One night, while drowning my sorrows in a drink that may or may not have been rubbing alcohol, there was Zach. Amidst sweaty pheromone-producing college kids, I again felt a connection.
Eight months later, we began dating. The best part was that it wasn’t perfect. There was no façade to hide behind. He had flaws and so did I. We fought and then we made up. We didn’t know what the future held. But that’s what made it so much more real.
Every day I know Zach, I learn more about him, me, and us. I learn more and I try to predict whether he will be a shooting star or my sun.