Three summers ago I boarded a bus in South Korea, heading to a festival in a town called Boryeong. I wasn’t thinking about husbands. I was thinking about the beach ahead, and the beer in my bag. If one of the friends with me had said, “Your future husband’s gonna be on this bus,” I would have laughed; I would have bet my life he probably wasn’t.
My future husband sat three rows behind me. If his eyes hadn’t been as blue or if I had taken a different bus on a different day, we probably would never have met. But his eyes were blue and they were beaming. I saw them, kept turning around from my seat three rows ahead to see them again.
This summer we will marry each other on a beach near a forest on the Oregon coast. When I imagine this moment I see us standing next to a row of trees. My hands are in his hands and the tide is pulling out, the sun low, not sunset, but late late afternoon when everything is gold and the whole evening lies ahead, the stars preparing to glow.
Joe is from Chicago and I’m from Victoria. In Korea we realized this would eventually mean time apart, that the line dividing Washington from British Columbia would come to represent distance. Four weeks ago, after being in the U.S. for my allotted six months as a tourist, I flew to Saskatoon, the city I was born in. My dad, my stepmom, my sister, and their cairn terrier Geordie have welcomed me. Joe is in Portland with our kitten Cleo, in our apartment on 20th Ave.
The first step in acquiring a fiance visa for the U.S. takes an average of 7.5 months to process. We filed in August. Every day Joe checks the mail for a letter from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrations Services, which should tell us our initial petition has been approved. Once that arrives, we’ll wait for the National Visa Center, the U.S. Embassy, several forms, and the staff of Canada Post to join forces in a bureaucratic surge of destiny. This will culminate with me sitting in the Embassy office in Vancouver, showing photos to Embassy officials of Joe and I on a ski hill in Korea, in the Thar desert in Rajasthan, of us with his family on their back deck in Crystal Lake, Illinois; with my mom in her apartment in Victoria. We have no guarantee of how long the time will be from now until my interview, but are hopeful that by July I will return to Portland, visa approved, to Joe and Cleo, to the balcony planters I want to fill with herbs before the summer is over.
My second week here I went for a walk along the Saskatchewan river with my cousin Heather. The water was grey and frozen with ice. The combination of sky and snow was so bright I wished I’d brought sunglasses, despite the lack of sun. I know that in Portland the pink petals of the cherry blossoms are already falling, the same way they fall along the Oncheonjeong River in Busan, Korea this time of year. In Victoria, buds are sprouting from their branches.
But this city, too, is home. I borrow my sister’s boots, walk past the glassed-in porches of the houses along Lorne Ave, their yards still hidden beneath the freeze. I watch birds lift in scattered blankets of black against the white sky. They appear unfettered by the long winter, the delay between seasons. They land together, perched on the bare limbs of an elm tree, singing.