ALL I wanted to know was whether he caught a shark that Sunday.
Instead, tears are welling up in his eyes as he tells of how he does not know how much longer he would live; of how his American dream of so long ago was broken; of how he fishes, essentially, just hoping not to die the next day.
He would not tell me his name; nor let me take his picture or record our conversation. He would only say he fishes in *location hidden to protect his identity* whenever he “feels like it”, and confirms he caught a baby shark, measuring roughly 2-ft long, in those waters the Sunday before Thanksgiving.
I explain to him that I am a reporter, and readers want to know more about the shark – how big it was, whether he threw it back and whether the waters were, unbeknownst to city-dwellers, teeming with man-eating fish.
“I threw it back into the water. I have nothing else to tell you,” he says gruffly in Mandarin, while fiddling nervously with his fishing string.
I apologize for bothering him, but he responds: “Wait. I’ll tell you. But you can’t tell anyone else.”
An immigrant from China, this man lost his job three years ago — he was a restaurant waiter — when he was diagnosed with colon cancer. He is in his late fifties.
“Neither the doctor nor I know how much longer I have to live. I fish to pass the time. Sometimes my wife comes to join me,” he says, gesturing to his bicycle, which holds four fishing rods.
When he is not trying his luck in the waters, he is trying it at casinos in Connecticut.
“I often think, ‘Why me?’. I came to America all those years ago looking for… Never mind. It’s too hard to talk about it,” he chokes, before trailing off.
Then he pulls out a napkin that says “Mohegan Sun” and dabs the inner corners of his moistened eyes.
[Editor’s note: I was originally assigned to report this for a New York-based publication (the day before Thanksgiving, no less) but the morose man did not want his story told. We decided to respect his wishes. Happy Thanksgiving.]