The 10-Foot Theory of Love


When Anique Hameed first saw Zachary Graham, he was standing about 10 feet away from her inside a Washington nightclub.

The distance between them on that occasion, which was a party hosted by the Congressional Black Caucus on Sept. 23, 2017, seemed to give credence to a theory he has.

“I honestly believe that up until the time we met, we had been living within 10 feet of each other for years,” said Mr. Graham, 29, who was at the party with his best friend, Evan Crawford. (Ms. Hameed, also 29, was there with her sister, Aliyah Epps.)

“From the moment I saw Anique I was like ‘Oh man, that is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen in my life,’” Mr. Graham said. “So I just kind of danced over to her, and we got to talking.”

They spoke for five minutes before the D.J. announced it was time to leave, but their conversation continued, outside.

“I’m not going to lie, he was looking good, real good,” Ms. Hameed said. “So tall, so handsome, he was someone I really wanted to get to know.”

During their curbside chat, Mr. Graham told Ms. Hameed that she looked “vaguely familiar,” and they soon discovered that they were classmates together at Charles H. Flowers High School in Springdale, Md., though they never met there. In 2008, Mr. Graham left his home in nearby Mitchellville, Md., for Atlanta, where he worked for years as a database administrator.

Ms. Hameed, who graduated from Howard University, went on to Georgia State University in Atlanta, from 2013 to 2016 to pursue a master’s degree in public administration, and lived during those years in the same neighborhood as Mr. Graham.

“After not connecting in high school, she comes down to Atlanta and we’re 10 feet apart from each other — same Target, same Home Depot, same everything,” he said. “It was only a matter of time before we met.”

Ms. Hameed told Mr. Graham during their initial conversation at the nightclub that she would be traveling to Atlanta from her home in Prince George’s County, Md., the following month to attend the wedding of a college sorority sister.

In the three weeks before she boarded a plane for Atlanta, Ms. Hameed and Mr. Graham video-chatted for five to six hours a night. “He was sweet, he was authentic, he was real,” she said. “He was the best part of my every night, especially after a long day at work.”

They began dating in Atlanta, though their long-distance relationship did not last too long. Mr. Graham moved back to Mitchellville in March 2018 to be with Ms. Hameed.

“I had no job there and went back to live with my parents,” he said “But it was all good, because Anique was there, and that was all that mattered.”

He proposed Feb. 2, 2019, while the pair sat together on the Ferris wheel at the National Harbor in Washington, and planned to be married April 18 at Camelot by Martin’s, a caterer in Upper Marlboro, Md., but those plans changed because of the coronavirus.

They still had not rescheduled when they learned, on March 30, that stay-at-home rules would become Maryland law that night at 8 p.m. At 5:30 that same evening, just two and a half hours before the deadline, the couple called their pastor, the Rev. Lloyd Gaines, a Lutheran minister from nearby Peace Lutheran Church, who had been on standby. They asked if he could go to the backyard of the Graham family home, where a wedding ceremony was soon underway with seven people in attendance, including the bride and groom, as well as Ms. Epps, the matron of honor, and Mr. Crawford, the best man.



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