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Hi. Wow. It’s really you. Sorry for bugging you while you’re shopping. This is so embarrassing.

I’m Mike. You don’t know me. Obviously. Well, we kind of met once, at a party. But it would be crazy to expect you to remember me.

It was at the Australian Embassy a few years ago. I was working as a waiter back then. You were standing at the top of the stairs wearing this gorgeous navy dress. I walked by carrying a tray of goat cheese and rabbit amuse-bouche? Amuse-bouches?

They were forcing us to call them Aus-Muse-Bushes, because I guess that’s an Australian pun, and when I said it to you, you rolled your eyes and winked at me.

No, no, no! Don’t apologize! It wasn’t mean. It was hilarious. I told everyone I knew about it.

I’m not working in catering anymore. Just so you know. I work for a design firm. I finished my degree and got something entry level, but it’s going great, and I really feel like I’m starting to turn a corner-slash-find myself. Jesus. I’m babbling.

Wow. Just shut your mouth, Mike. This is so embarrassing.

I know you don’t know this, but we’re neighbors. Well, we’re basically neighbors. Now that you moved to Kalorama. I live off Columbia. My partner and I walk our dogs by your place all the time.

Yeah! The silver-haired guy in Princeton sweatshirt with the schnauzers! Wow. I can’t believe you noticed us. Ha ha ha! I get that you probably won’t be doing a ton of gardening anymore, but we’ll do our best to keep them off your lawn!

So, I’m sure you get this all the time, but I have to say it, now that I have a chance.

You are such an inspiration to me. To a lot of people.

I know we’re never going to be friends. I’m not stupid. Even still, I feel like we have so much in common.

That’s what I want to tell you.

When I listen to you talk, I feel like you understand me. I know I haven’t always made the best choices in life, like not finishing school, having trouble figuring out my career, falling for some questionable men… But you make me feel it’s never too late to make a change. To make a difference. To work toward my passions.

Your husband is amazing, but you’ve always been more impressive to me.

Watching you these past eight years has taught me that, even though I’m with someone who other people might label as more important, I can be powerful, too. I feel like you really helped me figure my life out. I still had to do the work, but you made me believe I could do it.

Jesus. I swore I wasn’t gonna cry. This is so embarrassing.

Look, I’m gonna go. I know you’re shopping and this has to be so awkward. I don’t want to hold you hostage.

Oh shit. Can I even say that? Shit, shit, shit. Shit. I just said shit. To Michelle fucking Obama. Shit.

Please don’t think I’m some kind of lunatic.

Ha ha ha. You’re right. Deep breath. I just can’t believe I’m talking to you. This is so surreal.

Thank you. For listening to me. And for the Kleenex. And for… everything else.

Welcome to the neighborhood. I promise, next time, I’ll just wave.

Zach Straus

Zach Straus peaked at 15 and is mostly held together by masking tape.

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