The Fish Bowl — Chapter 3

Needless to say at this point, my answer put quite a damper on the rest of our holiday. The time immediately following this trip was uncomfortable because once he had asked me to marry him and I had declined it changed the relationship. I remember there being this awkward feeling of not knowing how to proceed, what to do next.

The distance between us was palpable. I knew that I had to make a decision. I either had to rethink my initial response or I had to end the relationship with this guy.

On a particularly memorable day I had coffee in the main administrative building on campus. This was a large building that originally had been paid for by the students, if I remember the story properly. Not only did it contain the administrative parts of the university, it also contained offices for the student newspapers and clubs, a bar, the graduate student lounge and a cafeteria of sorts.

The place that contained the cafeteria tables was affectionately called the fish bowl because it was a large open space that had glass on four sides extending up two or three stories and forming the roof. This area overlooked the centre of campus that had a lawn with walkways through it and was home to the cannon. These were some of the places that I used to sit with Bob the first summer when we both worked on campus.

I’m not sure what the initial significance of the cannon was, but it became a symbol on campus. Various groups and individuals would go out and paint the canon. Sometimes it would sport the team colours. Sometimes it would have slogans or messages on it and sometimes it was painted to look like something else, a zebra perhaps. Occasionally, particularly ambitious groups would steal or move the canon. That meant the university employees would have to retrieve it and replace it.

So, my best friend and I sat in the fishbowl and had a coffee together. The conversation started with my admission that Bob had asked me to marry him and that he wanted to start a family. I wanted to have a family as well, so it was something that was being discussed.

This friend and I had become acquainted during our pre-vet year, a year that was tacked onto the beginning of the veterinary degree to essentially make a four-year program into a five-year program. We both sat at the front of the class and quickly got to know one another. She had been with the same guy for a few years by the time that I met her and she was still with him at this point.

On this fateful day we started to do the math around becoming mothers. First, we had to finish veterinary medicine. Then, it was advisable to practise for a year in a city that you did not want to stay in. As new graduates, you are more likely to make a mistake so you are advised to not start where you wanted to end up.

Then, we would move to the city that we wanted to live in more long term and get a job. Once we had established ourselves in that community, we could then start our own practices and then we could start our families. So, lets see three years of schooling, one year of practice, then another two and by the time that you could establish your own business you have to add two or three….

The math said it all. We would both be well into our thirties before we had even begun to start to try to have babies. As biologists we knew the problem with this. The older you are when you start trying the harder it is to get pregnant. Some estimates put the decline of fertility beginning in the early twenties. On the other end of it, we would be in our sixties before our children were through university.

This just wouldn’t do. After a long discussion with Bob, held over several days, it was decided that it would be possible to start a family right away. He had already suggested that we have a baby sooner rather than later and he said that he wanted both of us to have part time jobs so that we could minimize childcare. He would be finished his degree before the baby was born and he would stay at home full time and care for our child while I finished my veterinary program.

I felt that it was more responsible to get married to have a child. In my estimation of things, that showed that the father was committed to the relationship and that he was in it for the long term. It was proper to be married if you were choosing to have a baby. So, we got engaged.

To mark the occasion Bob rented two videos and we had a take-out pizza. The movies that he rented were, “Lost in America” and “Paris Texas”. It is eerie to think back to this selection now. For those of you unfamiliar with these films, in the first one a couple liquidates all of their assets and then loses all of it gambling and in the second a man becomes so obsessed with his wife that he ties her to the stove. At the time I found it unnerving but how much can you read into the movies that just happened to be chosen at a video store?

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