The Laughing Buddah
“I would marry you if you were Chinese!”
We met at university. I was majoring in Sociology and he in Business. A real degree, he’d tease.
I was selling tickets in the concourse, a meeting place alive with chatter. I heard a high-pitched giggle—like a girl, my father would say. I saw a short man trying to be tall with creased lively eyes wearing cowboy boots. He’s the laughing Buddha I thought. I felt the vibration of love at first sight—the powerful kind full of energy and possibilities. The fear of a potential heartbreak only making it stronger.
I’d hurry through my day to be with him.
I gave him my virginity.
Johnson and his family had moved to Toronto from Trinidad. His duty as a First son from a traditional Chinese family was to ‘marry Chinese’ and then assume the family business.
I had been transracially adopted and at age 18, still did not know my ethnicity. When Johnson told me his heritage, I thought he said that I was Chinese.
“No”, he giggled, you’re Indian—probably from Trinidad. How were we to know that he was right.
Johnson was the best man at his friend’s Chinese wedding. Al Martino’s song, Spanish Eyes was performed with ‘Asian Eyes’ substituted. I felt that those singing along were unkindly directing the song towards me.
Three years later, when he asked me to marry him, I said “no”.
“Your parents…you’d end up hating me.”
“I’d give up everything for you,” he said.
I didn’t believe him.
I met Jay—a Guyanese co-worker—whose parents were originally from India. Unknown to me at the time, my birth father was also Guyanese. I wondered if providence had led Jay and I together and through him, I would finally feel belonging.
Knowing me like he did, Johnson stated, “you are interested in someone else!”
I looked away. That was answer enough.
We graduated. Too confused and proud to talk about our feelings we drifted apart. In a few months we were not together anymore. Years later, we forgot who broke up with whom.
Impulsively, I married Jay in a rebound. When I made love with him for the first time, I cried.
Every few years sometimes two, sometimes ten, Johnson and I feel the pull of energy. We reach out to each other, write pages of emails and chat eagerly on the phone—so excited to hear each other’s thoughts and voices. Satisfied, we push the pause button again and more years will pass.
Over time, our passion changed to an enduring friendship. After one particularly long stretch, Johnson said, “finding you again was like finding a long-lost sister.”
At age 61, he’s now a Qigong master and believes that we were married in a past life.
I’m feeling the pull of energy again. He probably feels it too.
Charmaine Traynor-Ruitenberg (she/her) also known as Charmaine Arjoonlal is a writer and social worker living in Whitehorse, Yukon, Canada. Her writing has appeared in Brown Sugar Literary and will be forthcoming in Maclean’s in January 2022.