Love like Cotton Candy
By Alisha Ackerman, one of my best friends
The first time that I can recall formally meeting Zachary Vaughn was at an elementary school carnival. I had the wonderful duty of manning the cotton candy booth for a few hours. This kid must have visited our booth six or seven times during my shift. At first glance, he was your typical “Goth” teen sporting blonde hair all the way down his back, his ever-present beanie, Tripp pants, a rock band t-shirt, and black combat boots This kid was more than different. This kid had a light. A light that emanated from the depths of his soul. A light that was so generous, it touched those that dared to cross his path. He was my favorite customer—buying 23 bags of cotton candy by night’s end.
Zach found a pole or stick somewhere on the premises. He tied those bags of cotton candy to his pole and cast it over his shoulder. He looked very much like a “hobo” but he couldn’t have cared less about the stares that he received. And in the crook of his other arm was the hand of a very special girl named N. While making his final “allowable” purchase for the night (I had to cut him off so there would be enough for the little kids), I said, “Zach, you must really have a sweet tooth! Do you really love cotton candy that much?” To which he responded, “Nah, but I do love this girl, and it’s her favorite. I would give her the world if I could.”
I thought to myself that this kid who looks a little rough around the edges has one of the most beautiful hearts that I have ever seen or heard for that matter. You see, he didn’t just say this to me—he shouted it at the top of his lungs and he wasn’t ashamed to let the whole world know. Now as I recall, N was quite embarrassed and playfully slapped him while telling him not to be so loud. And of course, the more embarrassed she became, the louder he professed, “I love N and I want the whole world to know!” I think she became just a tad bit angry by that point at her fool in love. But it wasn’t anything that a bag of cotton candy couldn’t smooth over!
For those of you that knew Zachary, you knew that to be loved by him was a gift. He gave until he couldn’t give anymore. His greatest wish was to make everyone else happy and if that meant spending his last dime on 23 bags of cotton candy, then by God, he would make it happen. To some adults running the carnival that night, he might have appeared to be a weird kid with odd hair, dark clothes, and boisterous outbursts—but I think we all can agree, there is nothing weird about being loved like that. May each one of us be so lucky as to experience this at least once in our lifetime.
I will never look at another bag of cotton candy the same again. And Zach, I still say that blue is the best!
Thank you, Alisha, I love this story. I had long since forgotten about the cotton candy. This story made me laugh through tears. I love you; you are like the sister I never had.