As I was making my way through the mall recently, I stumbled upon a display of handwritten stories. After admiring the hundreds of life stories, I noticed a table where people were encouraged to share their own stories. Unfortunately, I was in a hurry so I couldn’t write anything.
After returning home, I did some research on the project. The Strangers Project is founded and directed by a man named Brandon Doman. He began collecting stories from strangers years ago, with now over 30,000 handwritten narratives. He has a website for his project which will be linked below.
*Also a quick heads up: I invited Zach to write his side of the story as well, and his side will be posted soon! Stay tuned & follow my site to be updated on when it is officially up!*
Zach was a junior and I was a senior when we first met. He had just moved to my school from a school about 45 minutes away. I remember hearing from classmates that a cute new guy was starting here in the second semester, but I doubted how true that was. People were always saying how cute a new kid was and then he turned out to be some strung out coke addict who voluntarily wore the same stained white t-shirt 3-4 days a week. However, when Zach walked into my Spanish class, I knew why everyone was talking. He actually was very attractive and his clothes weren’t stained (yet). I immediately noticed how beautiful his blue eyes were. They were the kind of blue that authors want their main characters to have. He sat in front of me, and I felt the urge to introduce myself. Although I would consider myself to be outgoing, I had classmates that were much more outgoing than me and introduced themselves first. I followed suit and gave him the awkward “welcome to hell” greeting.
One thing that threw me off was how quiet he was. He didn’t carry himself shyly, but when it came time to talk, few words came out. I realized later that he was just a nervous new kid, but at the time I was worried that he wouldn’t make friends. Yes, I actually was worried about the new kid after knowing him for maybe five minutes. He seemed like a sweetheart, so I was sucked in.
He eventually opened up, and it threw a lot of people off. My classmates in Spanish were not too interested in being friends with him at first, since he seemed so out of place in our small town. He came from a city school with a lot of students so adjusting to a small town with a graduating class of barely 100 students took some time. My Spanish classmates weren’t entirely dead set on being his friend, and being the follower that I am, I rarely spoke to him unless it was over schoolwork.
He was in another class of mine, as well- Speech. This is where we eventually got closer. We both got along with our classmates and eventually became what we called the “Speech Squad”. We talked everyday in class and even had a group chat on Snapchat so we could talk outside of class. Our group got closer and closer by the end of the semester, so much so that we started to feel like a family. But at around the same time, I was starting to get feelings for Zach. He grew feelings too, but not for me.
I previously published “A Letter to My Boyfriend’s Ex” which got a lot of attention. However, after thinking more about the immaturity I had displayed in some spots, I decided to pull the article from my site. In it I described their relationship in a respectful manner, so for those who didn’t get to read that, I can sum it up. But basically, I was really crushing on Zach, but he was seeing a girl who he kept secret for a while. I caught him texting her and interrogated him for a bit. I can’t lie, as any teenage girl with a crush would feel, I was a little devastated. But I had grown close to Zach, so I pushed my selfish desires to the back of my mind and continued to support him. He and this girl eventually parted ways, which I will get into shortly.
Meanwhile, I was able to persuade my Spanish classmate/ close friend to give Zach another chance. It took some time, but they finally became good friends. It was super nice for us all to get along. We even went to the mall together with a mutual friend prior to graduation. This was the beginning of a really cool friendship.
However, after school let out for the summer, our friendship faded. Of course we still cared about each other’s well being, but we didn’t talk as much as we used to. We had two or three small conversations over the length of the whole summer, but nothing motivated us to catch up in person. I started to feel like our friendship would be one that I would recall when I skimmed the yearbook and saw his name. I didn’t think we would ever be as close as we were in school and it hurt.
Now I have to readdress the girlfriend that I previously mentioned.
One summer night, I was on my way home from a night out when I checked my Snapchat. I saw a story from Zach, where he posted about how he was having a tough time. Although we hadn’t talked too much over the summer, I still had to make sure he was ok because he was still my friend and I loved him.
Turns out he and this girl had split up and he was very emotional. That’s the thing about Zach. He always dedicates his whole heart to someone, so when it breaks, it shatters. It’s a blessing and a curse. So I reassured him and told him that sometimes people are meant to be in our lives for a short time so we can learn how to act with the right person. That seemed to help him out, but I could also tell that he was at that point in a break-up where he didn’t want to hear “it’ll be ok.”
At the end of summer, when high school football began, I remembered that Zach was playing Varsity. I contacted a few old friends from high school who had remained in the area and asked them to meet up at the game so we could see him play. Afterwards, we waited outside of the locker room to see Zach. It had been almost four months since we had seen him last, so it was a little awkward. We hugged and took pictures together. It felt like we had just met, as sad as that sounds. We both changed a lot over the summer so we felt like two different people.
That night, my friends and I made a joke that we should make shirts with his name on it to wear to games. That joke quickly turned into reality, and that was when we made the pact to go to every football game possible. I won’t lie, I didn’t want to be the high school graduate who comes to every game wearing a shirt with a player’s name on it, so I often times refused to wear the shirt. Wearing the silly shirts definitely helped rekindle our friendship though, and we began talking like we used to. It was super exciting for me because I still knew that deep down I had feelings for him.
One night, Zach and I (along with our mutual girl pals) went to see “IT” in theaters. The girls and I had a separate group chat without Zach, where a particular girl called dibs on sitting next to him at the movies. Of course my friends found Zach attractive, but how could I be mad? I had no more right to him than they did. However, I was fairly upset by the comment. So I, being the manipulative devil I am, snuck behind him as we walked into the viewing so I could sit in the seat on the opposite side of him. Of course there was no flirting involved, but I was still happy to have had the same chance to sit next to him.
We were starting to become friends again and I was really excited because I missed how things used to be. I missed laughing and making fun of each other. I missed hearing his stupid stories about where he used to go to school. And most of all, I missed him.
A few weeks later, I was in school. I was supposed to be in a class, but my professor annoyed the living shit out of me, so I walked out early and went over the material from that day’s lecture in a study room set off to the side of the building. In between sections I would check my phone. At one point I went on Snapchat where I saw a picture of Zach and his friend. I messaged Zach and said that his friend was cute. I was just goofing around, but then we kept talking. I can’t remember the conversation in its entirety, but I do remember having butterflies in my stomach when we were done talking. And that was because we had both casually told each other that we thought the other was cute. I can remember there being two other girls about my age sitting across from me at another table and giving me weird looks whenever they caught me smiling at my phone. I was a little embarrassed for looking like an idiot, but I couldn’t wipe the stupid smile off my face. I knew it was wrong, but I was really crushing on him now.
Weeks went by and we entered the dreaded “talking” phase. It was a secret for a while, until we figured out how to break the news to our friends (a few of which had feelings for Zach, which made it worse). But eventually the word got out to everyone and we were free to be open about our feelings for one another. It was weird for a while for me since we had been friends for so long. I knew I had a crush on him, but I still was hesitant at times because I would think about how strong our friendship was before this. And on top of that, I was really getting to know him in a different light so at times when he would say something that surprised me or went against his character that I had preconceived, it threw me off and I had to remind myself that he was so much more than I had originally thought.
We managed to get close really fast and we trusted each other with a lot. I still had some reservations, but I still felt like if I were to eventually be comfortable, I could trust him with whatever I wanted. We talked all the time, so it was easy to get comfortable with him. Within a month of us dating, I was ready to tell him just about anything. It helped that I was such an open person because I honestly think it rubbed off on him a bit.
We immediately told each other “I love you”. At first it wasn’t in a boyfriend/girlfriend way, but more in a friend way since we had known each other for so long and grown really close in that time alone. After we started saying “I love you” in a different way, we could tell it was a deeper kind of love. It meant a lot more to both of us. I think having our friendship before we started dating helped so much in bringing us closer.
Now flash forward six months later and I am with the love of my life. I never knew I could love someone as much as I love Zachary. Not only is he my best friend, but he is my safe place and my number one supporter. We watch movies while stuffing our faces with pizza and candy. We make cookies, milkshakes, and a bunch of other goodies together. Ok wow… I’m starting to realize how much we eat together. But anyway, we do so much together and have made so many memories. I can’t imagine where I would be if we hadn’t told each other how cute we found the other on that one random day in October. And honestly, I don’t want to. I don’t ever want to know what it would be like to live without Zach now. He’s the other half of me and I’d love more than anything to spend forever with his crazy ass.
inspirational credit to: strangersproject.com