Paradox

Given the protests that took place yesterday, coupled with the increased homophobia and transphobia, it felt right to share a piece of creative non-fiction for this month’s short story. Written for ReedsyPrompts Contest #85, the prompt for this piece was “Start your story with the line, ‘That’s the thing about this city…’ ” Although this story was written in 2021, my feelings remain the same. The only thing I would change is the paragraph about hatred. Unfortunately, as things stand right now, I would add more examples to that part of the story.

If you read my books, you are reading the work of a queer author. Not only that, but I am aggressively overprotective of my friends, many of whom are part of the queer community. I am disgusted by what is happening in this current political climate. But I am so happy to hear that those hateful people participating in the march that pretends to care about the welfare of children were overwhelmed by counter protesters advocating for the protection of trans kids.

Queer and trans lives matter. Enough is enough.

That’s the thing about this city. It’s a paradox. Always has been, and likely always will be.

The thing about this city is that it’s both small and big.

It’s a fraction of the size of some of the bigger cities, and even the downtown area doesn’t even feel all that busy. Except maybe on major holidays. And it’s got that small town vibe that makes you feel like you know everyone. Well, not exactly. But it doesn’t take a lot of hard work to figure out that your social circle intersects with another. And next thing you know, you realize the older brother of your new best friend is someone you went to high school with. Or the wife of a friend of a friend was the lead in a play you wrote in university. Everyone knows each other, one way or another.

But it’s so much bigger than a small town. This city’s just big enough to get lost in if you don’t know your way around. If you tried to bus from one end of the city to the other, it would take hours. Even just going from one suburb to another, even if they aren’t on opposite ends of the city, can feel like it takes forever. There are even jokes made about some suburbs being so far on the edge of the city that they’re practically in the next city. Even some of those suburbs can feel like their own towns.

The thing about this city is that it’s both cold and hot.

It’s in a valley, and the weather pools in the centre as if it’s a bowl. The winters are cold. Too cold. And the wind bites your face. It always sounds like it might be a nice day until you hear what the wind chill is going to be. And it’s hard to enjoy the snow when you’re surrounded by the kind of damp cold that seeps into your bones and stays with you all day, even long after you’ve gone inside to warm up. The key to surviving the cold is to dress in layers. And if you think you’re wearing enough layers to make it through the day, you’re probably not. If you plan on living here, you should also invest in some sturdy winter boots.

But then the summer comes, and it’s hot enough to make you forget that winter is even possible in the city. The humidity clings to your skin and makes it hard to breathe. And if you don’t have air conditioning in your home, you can forget about being comfortable for the next few months. Even with the air conditioning blasting you from every angle, you can still feel like you’re suffering in the heat. It’s hard to feel motivated enough to do anything when all you want to do is lie on some cool, tile floor wile eating a popsicle.

The thing about this city is that it’s both friendly and intolerant.

There are two major tourist seasons in this city: one in the winter and one in the spring. We welcome people from all across the country, all over the world, to enjoy what makes us famous. But all year round, we welcome immigrants and refugees when the need arises. Charities and organizations exist to help out our local homeless populations. We have an annual pride week, and LGBTQIA+ organizations and charities. No one is forgotten, and everyone is loved.

But, as with any city, there is hate lurking around the corners. Old white conservatives, many of whom have been retired for ages, complain that the immigrants are taking jobs. They complain about Indigenous peoples, and how they’re nothing but a burden on society, despite the fact that they were here first. And they’re only a “burden” because we’ve treated them so poorly and haven’t cleaned up our mess. And for every marginalized person, and for every ally, there always seems to be an intolerant person as well. For such a loving city, there is still so much hate.

The thing about this city is that it’s just like every other city and it’s also completely unique.

This city has the same highs and lows as any other city. The same love, the same hate. The same big chain stores, the same fast-food restaurants. The same government, the same bureaucratic nightmares. The same late buses, the same rush hour traffic. The same schools, the same libraries. The same sun, the same sky. The same day, the same night. The same problems, the same solutions.

But there are things about this city that are totally unique. Things you won’t find anywhere else. Some of our local shops are quirky, and sell stuff you might not be able to get in another city. Like many of our local shops sell infused honey from a local apiary with flavours you would never even think to try. And one of our local breweries makes all sorts of specialty flavoured beers. Like maple syrup or blueberry pancake! And there are restaurants and meals you can’t get anywhere else. You can try to get similar food, but it won’t be the same. We have such a large population of Lebanese immigrants that this city has the best shawarma in the country. And the diners downtown have all become institutions. Each spring, almost the whole city is swarmed with tulips for the Tulip Festival. And in the winter, ice sculptures are everywhere for Winterlude. There are music festivals in the summer, and plays all year round at different theatres and festivals. Go to the Market and buy art from the street vendors. Do something fun at the convention centres; there’s one downtown and one by the airport. Bike along the parkway, ride a boat down the canal, go for a tour of the parliament buildings. And tip any buskers you see along the way.

But that’s the thing about this city. It’s my home. Always has been, and likely always will be.

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