Zoo Tshaj: A Journey to True Love

Short Stories
Chapter 1: The Ugly Duckling

Growing up, I was an ugly duckling. I didn’t know how to be girly, and the boys didn’t like me. All my girlfriends had boyfriends, and I was the third wheel. But I’m thankful for being a late bloomer because I made wiser choices in my search for love.

I’m not super pretty, but I’m not bad-looking either—average, I’d say. When I clean up and take care of myself, I look pretty good. I guess you could say “kuv zoo nkauj tob tob” [I’m beautiful deep within]. A few people who have walked my path with me have told me that.

Chapter 2: First Encounters

I wasn’t picky about finding “the one.” I felt like whatever God provided, I’d accept. The guys I met were decent to good-looking, so I couldn’t complain. But some men can really smooth talk and sweep girls off their feet. Mistake number one: never like a man more than he likes you, or at least hide it better. If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

It was the North Carolina New Year celebration in November 2002. My sister and brother-in-law wanted me to meet this guy, who was ten years older than me. I’ll call him Muaj Nyiaj [rich]. He was tall, 27, played soccer, and was handsome with a nice nose bridge. His family owned a successful business. But I wasn’t feeling him. Good looking, but he couldn’t hold a conversation. To be nice, I hung out with him for a bit, but I wasn’t after the money.

Chapter 3: The Night Party

Later came the night party, held in a barn. My sister got us in for free. The OGs were in the nicer, warm building. I met a few people, including an old friend, Siab Zoo, from Virginia. He was my niece’s ex-boyfriend, and he loved her a lot, but they didn’t work out. Our family said he was so nice to her, so I called him Siab Zoo. We caught up, and then his cousin, Txawj Lus [smooth talker], came along.

Txawj Lus was a smooth talker. Decently good-looking, he could sweep a girl off her feet. We danced in the chilly barn and talked. The next day, we met up again at the night party, this time in the warm building. At the beginning, I hung out with Muaj Nyiaj because my sister insisted, but he never asked me to dance or tried to “wow” me, so I ditched him for Txawj Lus. We enjoyed each other’s company, dancing and talking. I met his parents, which felt fast, but a smile and a “Nyob Zoo” to the parents wasn’t going to kill me.

Chapter 4: Long Distance Love

I left for home in Wisconsin early the next morning, thinking about Txawj Lus. When I got home, the phone rang. It was him. Hearing his voice made my heart melt. We had great phone conversations over the next few weeks. It was a long-distance relationship, and we talked for hours into the night. I was falling hard for him and thought he felt the same. But one night, he called me another girl’s name, Nkauj Hmoo, his ex-girlfriend. I was hurt but shrugged it off. He started reminiscing about their relationship, and I caught on quickly, but I still liked him too much.

Chapter 5: Mother’s Intuition

A few weeks later, my mother wanted to talk to him. She asked him the 20 Hmong questions. I thought she’d be impressed, but afterward, she told me to stop talking to him. She said he wasn’t the right type of man for me. I was mad at her, but now I’m thankful. He called me a few times that week, but she told him to stop. This is when things started to change.

One weekend, he went to a party and met another girl. When we talked that Sunday, he told me to find someone else because my mom didn’t like him, and he had met someone new. I was furious at both my mother and him. That afternoon, I went to a car show with my brothers and sisters-in-law to clear my mind, but my heart was shattered.

Chapter 6: Complicated Conversations

Over the next two years, we still talked on the phone. Our conversations were more “it’s complicated.” I had some feelings for him but didn’t want to be with him because I didn’t want someone who cheats. Yet, I couldn’t let him go because my heart wasn’t ready.

I’m glad I got to know him better during those two years. I saw a different side of him through my shattered “love glasses.” Love is blind, but my love was shattered, revealing what he really was. He felt entitled to experiment with other girls and expected his ex to accept it. Thanks to Txawj Lus, I learned that a smooth talker can be the most poisonous venom to a woman’s heart.

Chapter 7: Guarded Heart

My heart was guarded after him. It wasn’t easy to let anyone else in. In May 2004, an old friend, Ib Pliag [one short moment], called. He was in town for a festival and wanted to hang out. He confessed he liked me but had a girlfriend. I told him I wasn’t that type of girl. The next day, we hung out again, but I remained guarded. At the end of Sunday, he told me he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I said no because I didn’t like love triangles.

A few days later, he called, saying he broke up with his girlfriend. So we dated for about three months. He was good-looking with a great smile, but I didn’t have feelings for him like a girlfriend should. I didn’t miss him, and he was boring on the phone compared to Txawj Lus. We eventually stopped talking.

Chapter 8: Michigan Tournament

In June, I went to Michigan for a sports tournament with my girlfriends. I met up with an old friend, X, who had moved to Michigan. We were catching up when Zoo Tshaj [the best] interrupted. We hit it off immediately, laughing and joking. After the games, we said our goodbyes. I didn’t think much of him because I was looking forward to the HLUB youth conference the next week.

Chapter 9: A New Connection

At HLUB, I had a blast with my friends. After returning home, I received an email from Ib Pliag breaking up with me because he had rekindled his relationship with his ex. I didn’t care much because I wasn’t into him. I didn’t respond or call him back.

Labor Day weekend, I went back to Michigan with my girlfriends. I saw some of Zoo Tshaj’s friends and asked if he was there. They called him over, and we picked up where we left off. We spent more time together, getting to know each other.

Chapter 10: Building a Relationship

Zoo Tshaj was handsome with a deep, soothing voice. I wasn’t trying to find “the one,” but love comes when you least expect it. We exchanged numbers and started talking. He drove three hours to do laundry at my uncle’s laundromat just to see me. He met my mom and answered her questions nervously but respectfully.

We started dating, and after two months, he stole my first kiss. It was magical. I was still guarded, but he kept coming back for more. By winter, we were serious. On Valentine’s weekend, I tested our relationship by breaking up with him. It hurt us both, and I realized I wanted to be with him. I drove three hours to see him and confessed my love. We vowed never to break up over dumb things again.

Chapter 11: True Love

Throughout our relationship, Zoo Tshaj patiently tore down the wall I had built. He was nothing like the others. Muaj Nyiaj just wanted booty, and my sister says he’s still not married. Txawj Lus lost Nkauj Hmoo forever; she got her doctorate and married someone else. Ib Pliag went back to his ex, but they never married. He later apologized to me.

Zoo Tshaj and I decided to spend our lives together. We’ve been together for seven years, going on eight. We have a wonderful son and hope for more children. He is truly the best—patient, strong-hearted, a good husband, and very loving. We’ve had our ups and downs but kept God at the center of our marriage. This is our love story.

Leave a Comment