While waiting by the luggage carousel with Joe at Toronto Pearson, I spotted Sean coming out of the men’s room dressed like an undertaker. It was near the end of the pandemic; no one would bat an eye seeing a traveller clad head to toe in black, his low baseball bill, sunglasses, and N95 casting a formidable shield. Sean was adjusting his mask strap, discretely lifting the fabric off the corner of his left cheek. A flash of sharp jawline was all the pixelated data points I needed to decode the whole picture—was freakish that way. Joe often said, half-jokingly, I should have worked as a facial recognition specialist for the National Security Bureau of China, my country of origin.

“Delayed again, damn Air Canada,” Joe mumbled beside me.

I took my eyes off Sean and glanced at my husband of ten years.

Why him?

The question lit up my tired brain, as it did a dozen times during our trip to Cape Breton, and if I was honest with myself, long before the trip. I always knew it had to be a white man, with my immigrant’s loneliness and insecurities, the ceaseless frustration standing on the sidelines of a tantalizing Western culture that had felt impenetrable. But why this one? Just because he was the first to say yes? Was it for his charming lopsided smile and boyish looks, despite being fifteen years older? Or the age gap that had kept my inferiority complex at bay? The question tormented me as I sat glumly in our parked car at the many gas stations across the East Coast, while Joe snored in the driver’s seat. It’d resurface whenever he insisted on his chicken dinners, in a seaside town that prided itself on its abundant supply of fresh lobsters.

Check out the full story in our summer issue, out in July 2024!