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How to Cross the Border to Meet Your Illicit Lover

Even before the world changed, you couldn’t see her with ease.

Fiction | Covid-19, Flash Fiction, pandemic, travel
February 10, 2023

She’ll be within seven hundred kilometres of you for half a day. Vancouver is closer to Spokane than Chicago. What matters is—she’ll be alone.

Do you remember that first meeting, after a year of scorching correspondence? That dim sum spot on South Wentworth? There, you brushed her cheek with your charged fingertips, itching to trace her every part.

Two years have passed since you and she last touched. Even before the world changed, you couldn’t see her with ease. You’re her little secret. 

Step one: Get vaccinated. Learn that America has decided to extend their land-border closure to Canadians, despite Canada opening it to vaccinated Americans. Learn that at least the US will allow you to fly into their fair country. Wonder, why couldn’t it be Seattle instead of Spokane? Because then you’d just fly in and out. Research prohibitively expensive car rentals because companies sold most of their fleets last year. Wonder, how will you get to Spokane?

Step two: Book a towing company to transport your vehicle just over the border to meet you at the Bellingham International Airport. Call every tow company in the area and find out they’re fully booked for the week you need to go. You’re not the only one who’s doing this, they say.  Plead. One gives you the phone number of a guy. Guy says he’ll tow your car over the border. You’re grateful, and sceptical.

Step three: Spend the two weeks prior to your departure extra isolated so as not to compromise your forthcoming, required antigen test. Remember that on that trip to Chicago, she visited your hotel room three times––each visit no longer than an hour. Close your eyes, so you can still feel her fleeting skin on yours. Recall that since then, your lover sends vintage postcards and calls when she’s alone. Know that you’re at her mercy.

Step four: Assemble a copy of your vehicle registration, your chartered flight itinerary, your passport, a recent pay stub (to prove you have a job and will come back), Customs Form 3299, and a letter stating your vehicle’s make, model, and VIN number and that you authorise Guy to take your car over the border and to Bellingham Airport. Marvel at the fact that Guy who could list all these requirements gives you a boost of faith that he will actually deliver your car to the other side.

Step five: Take a $130 antigen test within three calendar days of your departure. Pray that it comes back negative.

Step six: Drink chamomile tea to keep anxiety down. Understand she’s on tour with her band. All outdoor festivals. America can do things like that. America is fearless. You just got vaccinated three weeks ago and have eaten inside of a restaurant once. Canada is scared, and so are you. You’re scared that you’ll get sick before getting on your chartered plane, even though you’ve been extra good––staying in your apartment, having groceries delivered, forgetting what it’s like to have a glass of wine with a friend.

The morning of the big day: You receive a phone call from the airline. Your pilot is ill, and they have to find a replacement. Can you fly a bit later? What choice do you have?

Step seven: Get ready to drive to the airport, where the towing guy will retrieve your car. Just before you leave, drop the keys between your seat and the console. Use an old chopstick to dig them out.

Step eight: Google-map a route to this airport you didn’t know existed until you became a desperate lover.

Step nine: After twenty minutes, realise that Maps is somehow taking you in circles.

At what point should you give up?

You eventually arrive at the airport, which is more like a spacious room with a restaurant. With your mask on, you ask someone if you’re in the right place. He assures you that you are. The pilot will come and get you.

Three minutes until your postponed departure time and there’s no pilot. You phone the airline and they tell you the pilot is on his way. They apologise for the delay.

The plane is like that MG your childhood neighbours drove on weekends. You are flying through the sky in a tiny car from the seventies. Five minutes later, you are suspended above America.

You recall how your counsellor once said to you, You’re good at being good. Recall how your lover calls you her good Canadian girl, objectifying your Canadian-ness over your Asian-ness.

You walk across the tarmac to the tiny room that is Customs. A man waits for you and even before you’ve handed him your passport, he accuses you of being a frequent traveller. I haven’t gone anywhere in two years, you say. Yes, but before, you came to America often. Last trip was to Chicago, huh? Your face flushes. When will they ask you why you’ve come to the US?

Instead, he informs you that you’ve been randomly selected to do a three-day quarantine. He gives you a list of government-approved hotels. I can’t quarantine, you say. My test is negative. He understands, but you still must quarantine. Random selection, he repeats.

You hold the gaze of the customs agent. You silently inquire: Is this because I’m Asian? Or queer? Or both? His eyes don’t flinch. You know it’s pointless to argue with America, and you won’t let America see you cry.

Your car is delivered to the airport an hour later. You are supposed to be in Spokane at six. You sit in the driver’s seat and look blankly at the list of hotels.

Step ten: Don’t Google “What’s the penalty for breaking quarantine?” because you know America is monitoring your searches, waiting to pounce.

You pull out your phone. Hello from America, you text her.

What you don’t write: I’m tired of being good.