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by Christopher Mudiappahpillai

Dear Toronto,

I’ve been putting this off for some time now, but after last night, I feel that I need to say something.

It’s actually kind of funny – I’ve been thinking over all the things I want to say, and now that I’m here, writing this, I can’t remember any of them. I guess I’ll just start at the beginning.

I was five when I met you. And I can still remember the whole day quite clearly. On our way here, we stopped over in The States, and after a short stay at my aunt’s house in Rhode Island, we crossed the border at Niagara Falls. An uncle of mine met us there and showed us around – the Rainbow Bridge, and of course, the Falls – it was a wonderful start to a wonderful day.

My memories of the drive from Niagara are vague at best. In fact, I have to admit that I don’t even really remember my first sight of you. Regardless, I knew where I was – in Toronto. And I felt quite thrilled by the idea even as we went about, for the rest of the day, doing mundane things like buying winter boots and coats.

You still weren’t my city, though. During the first few months after our arrival we skirted around you, staying with an Aunt in Scarborough and then in a little basement apartment in York (this was before you grew up and became a ‘megacity’) until, finally, we ended up living right on the border between you and York.

I’d like to think we were closer to you, but I’m really not sure. Still, it was during that time – I was six – that I began to see you for what you are.

Being the smart, hip, city that you are now, I’m sure you’re aware that everyone who’s anyone knows who Toronto is. You’re famous for your landmarks – the Tower and SkyDome (sorry, I guess it’s “Rogers Centre” now) – your urbanity, and your great night life. And you’re so tolerant and polite – that’s what everyone says when you come up in conversation.

But it wasn’t any of these things that drew me to you. No, for me, it was all the little things. Hours spent in your parks with friends. Visits to your libraries. Subway rides to visit family. Trips on the ferry to the island.

These things – these simple things – are what’s so great about you. They showed me that you were the my kind of city: open, honest and oh so approachable. You were nice.

But you’re not always nice anymore. And that’s what has me worried.