Without You, Zach

Without You, Zach

A Story by Angela Abate

There was an oil spill in the gulf on the same day that there was a girl sobbing in the hallway before school. Suddenly I found myself without a friend. The girl who felt uncomfortable being anywhere alone... now always alone. Everyone understood at first, “She's just grieving, give her some space, she'll be okay eventually.” But being alone felt more and more necessary.

You were always in sight. Skipping classes to eat oranges in the hallway, you left peels everywhere. I found that one you hid in my locker. It had grown mold but I almost wanted to keep it, just for the memories. I stopped working on that story, you loved it, but after you left it got to hard to look at. I only had the one copy and your handwriting was on it. “Angelerrrrr, you're amazing!” scrawled across the bottom of the last page. “Never forget me, or I'll send an army of rabid dogs to attack you in your sleep” scrawled in the same handwriting by the same hand, by the same pen even, in my yearbook. In that yearbook is the picture of a face I will never see alive again.

Nick dumped me a week after. I guess grieving has a time limit and mine ran out, he said I changed. I was too quiet and not “Angela” enough anymore. As if being “Angela” is all I am. You hated him, Zach. You would never have said that, but remembering the day you met him, how you said “We have one thing in common, we both dated Angela.” You smirked and stared him down, begging for a reaction... he hated you right back. I loved you both.

Your brother came to see me. He told me everything he saw that night. He told me about the belt you used, the gray color of your skin after he found you, and the way you had to bend your legs because the shed was too short. We cried together in the same hallway that you and I laughed in the day before. Meeting him that way was strange... I'll always wonder what you told him about me. Why did he know to come see me?

I moved three times since then. Lake Geneva was nice. Tourist town like the Dells. I didn't make any real friends there, I was still not “Angela” enough for strangers. I met someone named Zac and instantly felt compelled to save him. He wasn't like you at all, I guess the 'h' in your name is what makes you so different. He didn't need saving. I moved to Genoa City after that. Met a few guys and even made a close friend named Nate. He was a lot like you. He had ADHD so after his medication wore off I would head home. He wasn't like you after 11pm. Finally, I moved to Chicago. I love it here, just like we both knew I would. I feel like a real writer here. The city truly feels like home. “Chicago will make you feel brand new, big lights will inspire you.” I can see “Willis Tower” outside my apartment window, nobody calls it that, but I know that you'd call it “Willy Hugh Jass” and laugh about it for days.

Your family is doing well. Your nephew is growing fast, walking fine and still asking for his “Unc-unc.” Your mom called me a few months ago to tell me how much she misses my presence. You didn't miss much this fishing season. There was a terrible drought and all water levels were low, making fishing less of a sport this season. I hope you've been checking in on your headstone, I've been leaving you gifts.

The other day as I was cleaning I found something I'm sure you'll be interested in. Do you remember a certain coral colored glittery slinky? Yes, Zach, I still have it. Took it from your locker in 5th grade before the school dance. You said you were going to be there, but your mom grounded you, although it wasn't your fault that you didn't show up, I blamed you. So I took your slinky. You looked for it for days and talked about it for years afterward. I lost it so many times that I just never thought it was right to tell you about it. Until now. I have it and I will not be losing it any time soon.

College is going great, you always said you weren't smart enough for college, that's not true at all. I have met so many people that would make you look like a genius. For some reason people started calling me “Angeler” among my friend group. I keep telling them not to call me that. Not just because you wrote “Im going to call you Angeler and nobody else can call you that. Me me me me, Angeler.” in my notebook from 7th grade. It's crazy how long ago that was now. They think I'm joking when I say they're not allowed to call me that. I think they're going to whether I say no or not.

Sometimes I feel angry at you still. I know that people who kill themselves have an unimaginable amount of pain in their hearts, but I knew you so well. I knew all of your pains as my pains and you knew mine as yours. How could something like that just cross your mind without talking to me? I'm angry that you're gone and I'm here constantly thinking about you. You never realized how loved you were. There was not a dry eye in the entire school that day. I almost couldn't tell my mom what happened because I didn't want to watch her break the way everyone watched me break.

“Why is everyone crying?” I told her I didn't know why. She believed me until Nicole and her mom walked up to me crying and told me how sorry they are for my loss and how much they want to help me with anything they can. My mom began to cry for my loss before I even told her who I lost. I looked into her already tear filled eyes and said “Zach hung himself last night.” She fell to her knees and cried. I cried with her this time. In a way, it brought us all together again. Same with your family. I finally met your father. At your funeral. He wrote on a balloon and released it into the air, hoping his words would reach you, wherever you are. His tears made me hope you got them.

I'm writing this on September 10th of 2012 which means we have a few months until the end of the world that you waited so impatiently for. The day before your 18th birthday and the whole world is supposed to end. I remember talking about that one day after school. You were standing there with your signature smirk on your face and your black hoodie. I stood there as you rambled on about 2012 and the apocalypse and all I could think about was how much I loved your hair. That big black curly white-guy-afro. I still laugh when I watch family guy and they bring up “Habeeb”. You will always be my Habeeb. My “Pennay” said with a British accent.

I miss you more than you could ever know. As I was writing this I talked to someone about you and how for me this was a healing piece. She told me that it seems to her, more like a grasping piece. I'm grasping at anything I can to keep your memory alive in me and talk to you as if I will never be without you. She was right. I realize now that I will never “get over” it. Your death changed my entire life. Everywhere I go I have been asked to face the question “Who am I?” and “What shaped me as a person?” my life has been shaped by millions of moments and lives, but the one thing that changed me the fastest was you.

You were the weird boy in class. 5th grade was a rough year, everyone trying to find their places among social groups before the big change of middle school. Clear cliques being formed and enforced. That was the year I sat two rows behind you. I was in love with the back of your head. Randall was my boyfriend at the time and I'm sure he could feel it too. Every time I noticed the back of your head missing, I would wonder what happened to you. The bruises, gashes, and sad looks in your eyes made me wonder the most. For some reason the first question I got the courage to ask you was “What's your favorite color?” Ever since then I have made it a point to always ask that question first.

I'm sure your happy to see me finally making friends again. I'm less of a loner and constantly out and about. People throwing parties actually think to invite me. That was always your scene, but never mine. I plan eventually on getting a tattoo, another thing you were more likely to do. I guess all I'm saying is that I really am still here, Zach, and I wish that you were too.

© 2013 Angela Abate

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Added on January 18, 2013
Last Updated on January 18, 2013


Angela Abate
Angela Abate

Chicago, IL

Writing is my passion and my future. I am a student in Chicago, IL, majoring in Creative Non-Fiction Writing and minoring in Cultural Studies. I am known to be full of surprises. more..