Crushes: Zakia

During the five or so years between the end of my college career and the beginning of my new life in the Washington, D.C., there weren’t a lot of people for me to crush on.

The region I grew up in (and returned to for that time) has been a bit notorious for it’s lack of 20-somethings–at least ones that I’d ever really be interested in.

Over those years, though, there did happen to be a couple of notable crushes. Zakia was one of them.

I heard her voice long before I saw or met her. That’s all it took to get me hooked.

The first time I heard it, I was in the newspaper office working (as usual, even then) in my little corner. I heard the front door open and then a glorious sound cascaded around the corner, over the top of the divider and through the little window we had between office sections. I couldn’t see who it was, I didn’t catch a name that first time, but I head what is still one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard.

It had a slight accent, a mixed European one, perhaps. As much as I love accents, there are very few I can pinpoint outright. There was culture in that voice and knowledge and just a little bit of sexyness, even during the mundane conversation I overheard that first time. Whoever it was, I knew three things: she was older than me, she was better looking than me and I had to meet her.

Of course, by the time I poked my head around the corner, she was gone. It would be another couple of weeks before I had the chance to hear that voice again. The second time, I saw the face that went with it.

I now knew that two of my prior “knowings” were dead on. She was absolutely gorgeous and I had to meet her. The age thing, for all it mattered, remained a mystery for quite a while. Eventually I would discover that she was a couple of years younger than I was–quite the surprise at the time. Her voice carried more years than her body.

Zakia was definitely of foreign descent. Not uncommon in my neck of the woods (believe it or not), but she came across as a bit more exotic than most. Long, dark, thick hair. A slightly olive skin tone. Dark, yet bright, eyes. Her appearance wasn’t a surprise at all, not after having heard her voice. But my imagination hadn’t even begun to do her justice. It had left out the elegance with which she carried herself and the little hesitations before her well-developed self confidence took over and carried her through.

That summer was the first Narrowsburg International Independent Film Festival (NIIFF), organized by minor celebrity Richie Castallano and his wife. That was an adventure all its own that ended up making national headlines in some places. Zakia was helping the Castellanos out with the festival and I was trying to cover as much of the thing as my schedule would allow.

It also gave me a chance to be around her.

Over the course of the few weeks leading up to the festival, there was some light flirtation that went on. A quick glance–meant to just barely be noticed, a coy smile quickly covered. I never stepped up and took hold of any of the light overtures offered. Not the invitation to help run errands (I was already late getting back to my office) or the oh-so-sneaky time she eased her way between me and a nearby desk, even though there was plenty of space behind me. I had mis-read signals before and that always ended poorly.

No, I was pretty happy to just keep quiet about my crush then. Not that there was anyone who didn’t know. One of the hazards of working in a close knit office–people notice things (like you suddenly appearing anytime a certain someone enters the building, or always volunteering to run something down the street to the film festival office).

In that time we spent together, I did discover that while I could definitely crush on her, there would be no way I could ever make a relationship last. We differed greatly on some key subjects (mostly spiritual issues, which are still quite important to me) and our lives were already headed down different paths.

At the end of that summer, she went back to college (in the state of Washington, I think). We didn’t really keep in touch. The next year, when her father died, I sent her a condolence e-mail. I got a polite response, thanking me for my concern.

That was the last I heard from her directly.

Last I knew, she was getting married to someone she met at college. That was almost three years ago now, if I remember correctly.

Though I only barely knew her, and only for a little while, that time was good. It reminded me what that “crush” feeling was like and, as my time in the woods there drew out longer, served as a bright beacon of what I could hope to discover again.


I just spent some time doing a Google search for this particular crush. She was, indeed, married in 2001 or 2002. She earned an MPH and is a published author. In fact, it seems she and her husband may actually be right here in Maryland.

Anyone want to put bets on how long it’ll be before I run into her now? 🙂

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