Meeting Strangers: A Stranger On Love & Divorce

Daily Origami is a way for us to record our off the cuff thoughts, feelings and observations about the world around us. Published every weekday, Monday through Friday.

Editor's Note:
This is Part 4 of our Daily Origami series
"Strangers You Meet Between Places."
Here's Part 1Part 2, and Part 3.


Ivan here. 

You know what they say: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. But when it comes to matters of the heart, it’s like we all live in the same asylum. Time and time again, like moths to a campfire, we offer up our prayers to the open flame, before making graceful swan-dives into the same mistakes. 

The most recent marriage data from the National Survey of Family Growth is not encouraging:

  • The probability of a first marriage lasting at least a decade is 69%. 
  • The probability marriage makes it past the second decade drops to 54%.

If I’m interpreting this data correctly, the average marriage lasts long enough for you to run out of options, but not long enough for you avoid dying old and alone. 

On the bright side, we do have slightly better odds than a coin toss. 

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1. Before the Honeymoon

(October 2016, Taipei Tao-Yuan International Airport)

Jennie and I were in line checking in for our flight to Okinawa, where we were looking forward to some much needed R&R after our $10,000 international wedding.

The wait was long, but we both lived for those moments, engulfed by the excitement and anticipation of a new adventure. 

The only thing missing in my life was a string of Buddhist prayer beads. It's a bracelet I like to wear around my wrist, so I can take it off every now and again to rub when I need to count my troubles. 

2. Fate Intervenes

I mention the beads because the stranger standing in front of us in line happened to be wearing exactly what I was looking for.

So I tapped him on the shoulder and struck up a conversation by asking him where he got them from. 

3. He Tells A Sad And Familiar tale

The stranger turned out to be a Frenchman in his forties, hair cropped short and prematurely grey. He looked like a California surfer: complete with a tan, a Hawaiian shirt, and forearm tattoo. We learned that he was a chocolatier and former pastry chef in Europe, who now consults for major hotel and restaurant chains in Asia. 

At some point, we mentioned we were on our way to Okinawa for our honeymoon. At this, he chuckled.  

“That’s funny,” he said. “I’m on my way to Okinawa because of my divorce.”
“What do you mean?” I asked. 

Turns out he recently went through his second divorce with his second Taiwanese ex-wife, which put his visa status in jeopardy (again).

“I fly over to Okinawa, smoke a few cigarettes outside the airport, fly back here, and get my visa stamped for another six months,” he explained. 

Jennie and I looked at each other, temporarily overcome by his Frenchness. 

The wait in line took nearly forty five minutes. In that time, he told us about his two ex-wives. They had an awful lot in common: both were Taiwanese, loved their shopping and designer labels, and lived under the thumbs of two overbearing mothers, who may as well have been the same person. 

Towards the end of the conversation, he told us he was dating his third Taiwanese girl now. 

What a Greek tragedy, we thought. All roads seemed to lead to divorce.

Taiwan is for lovers?

After we received our boarding passes, the three of us walked together through security and said goodbye for the final time. As he was putting on his prayer beads, he hesitated, and then held them out to me.

"Here," he said. "You can have these."  

I shook my head. I told him he needed it more than I did. We shook hands and wished each other luck. 

When it comes to love, we’re all just operating on a hope and a prayer.