A Four Year Affair

How I fell in and out of love with Canada’s Harvard

(arguably the silliest thing I’ve written in a while, around the time that there was a protest every other week in Montreal, fun though -WH)

Note: for the purposes of this article, McGill university is personified as a woman, please feel free to substitute different pronouns as they apply to your personal preferences.

I had heard about this “McGill” character a lot throughout my senior year of high school. I had been flirting around a bit in London and Kingston but I just kept coming back to the Montreal girl. She was different, lived far away, and wore a lot of red when my high school sweetheart seemed to don nothing but various shades of blue. Everyone said she played super hard to get, you had to be the smartest, most successful to even get a shot, but I was ready for the challenge. I asked her out, she said yes and I was so happy, even though I knew I was one of about 25,000 people she was seeing on a casual basis.

Our first year together was everything I thought it would be. It was new, exciting; McGill had a wild side and we spent weeks partying. Sure I had to do a little work, but that never got in the way of the fun times. McGill was understanding; even though she lived in Montreal she never demanded I learn French, despite others’ opinions on the matter. Everything was perfect, she didn’t even judge when I indulged too heavily in the RVC cafeteria. I thought this was the beginning of a wonderful four-year relationship.

That summer I didn’t know what to do with myself when I was away from her. She had shown me the greatest times in my life, introduced me to so many wonderful people. She had expanded my knowledge, made me feel like part of something bigger than myself. I could not wait to return and continue our four-year honeymoon.

When I returned things had changed, I wasn’t angry though; I knew nothing stayed the same forever. I couldn’t live with McGill anymore; I had to get an apartment. It was just a few blocks away however so of course I could see her whenever I liked. The fun and excitement of our first days together wasn’t there anymore; she was still doing those things: scavenger hunts and writing on t-shirts, but with other people. I understood though, I needed to grow on my own as well. I still saw her every day and we still had fun times like Carnival even if we didn’t go out every night like we used to.

It was around this time I began to worry about the relationship; I was moving forward with my life but I started noticing McGill was not doing the same. She was making little effort to improve herself and even when she did it took years for anything significant to happen. I spoke to the other people who knew and loved her and they said “oh that’s just McGill, she doesn’t move at the same speed as the rest of the world”. I noticed that while McGill’s friends like McCall and Brawley were still animated and interesting, a great many of her compatriots seemed increasingly apathetic. I wish I could still tell her she’s perfect, but I don’t want to validate these bizarre choices. Though I was increasingly concerned, I stayed out of loyalty and desire to have a better future.

Now I had known from the start McGill lived in an unusual neighbourhood, while a great example of diversity there was a palpable undercurrent of tension as though a conflict remained unresolved. Maybe that was why nobody of note had moved to town in years.

Then I met the neighbours.

It seemed like every week they had some new issue, and nobody seemed to want to talk it out. No these arguments took the form of big public clashes, the kind where the parties scream through the bathroom door while everyone else slips out the door and hopes it won’t come to violence this time. Even arguments about why they argue so often end in tears.

I was apprehensive about our future; could I live in this neighbourhood where I might have to walk through anarchy to see my significant other? Was it worthwhile to be so dedicated to what seemed an increasingly one-sided relationship?

At the beginning of our fourth year together these doubts were swirling in my head with increased frequency. I never considered leaving, I knew if I could make it four years it would mean something, it would validate the time I had spent, the behaviour I rationalized. But then the neighbourhood got even worse.

People began ignoring me when I didn’t speak properly enough for them; they got increasingly touchy when something was labeled in english. I didn’t like this behaviour but I was still seeing McGill so I grinned and bore it.

But now there are new things happening in the neighbourhood, promises made are going unfulfilled, there is increasing oppression of certain people and posters are going up saying you can’t wear this here, or that there. What gives these people the right to decide these things for everyone? I put up with a lot from this relationship but I can’t keep coming back if these are the rules my 24,999 friends and I will have to deal with.

“What happened?” she calls, “Didn’t we have a good thing together?”

“I can’t keep doing it” I reply, “Not if you’re okay with all of this, not if this is how I have to live”

“I didn’t change” She whispers, “I’m the same one you fell in love with”

“That’s the problem” I respond “Don’t call me”

“Not even for Alumni Donations”


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