About a year ago, I was at an interview for a job at Queen’s— one of many hopefuls trying to scramble their way to the second round. The job required intimate knowledge of the university grounds, so one of the first questions was, “What is your favourite room on campus?” Embarrassingly, I was taken aback. An answer didn’t immediately present itself the way it should have— I was finishing up my third year at that point, didn’t I have a favourite room? After an awkward few moments, I stammered through a half-hearted answer about some room I had worked in earlier that year. I walked home dejected, making peace with the fact that I probably wouldn’t be getting a callback (I didn’t). I made my way into my living room, and was greeted with a chorus of “How’d it go?” from my housemates.
“They asked me what my favourite room on campus was, and I didn’t have an answer,” I told them. My housemates laughed. I lamented on how poorly the interview went, until eventually, I realized something. “My favourite room isn’t on campus,” I remember saying. “This,” I declared with a sweeping gesture around my living room, “Is my favourite room. Hands down.”
My living room is kind of like an ancient ruin: many people visit it, the infrastructure upholding it is very old, and things often get lost in there. It can also morph into a kind of concert hall— simply shove the coffee table to the side, use the couch as a stage, and blare the speakers so loudly that the Christmas lights hanging above shake in protest.
The floors have withstood many a dance party; both the ones packed with people and spilled drinks, and the impromptu ones with just me and my four housemates. The walls have yet to crumble, despite the many voices that have sloppily sung along to the music at too many parties, the shouting, the laughter, and the late-night talks. Our living room has been a Sanctuary for the Hung-over, a Sometimes School-Work Friendly Zone, a Place to Crash for the tired, the lonely, the way-too-drunk-and-can’t-make-it-home. If this room were a person, they would say, “I’ve seen it all,” and everyone around would nod their heads in solemn agreement. It has been loyal, this room.
Pretty soon, Queen’s will feel nostalgic for me, as I know it will for many other graduating students. I am certain that when I look back on memories, when I let myself re-visit these four years, my living room will be the backdrop in which I re-create all of the greatest moments. I’ll be able to conjure it up so quickly; the purple tapestries strung across two walls, with patterns designed to trip you out if you stare at them too long. The little floral couch tucked under the window, the other sectional couch, which was off-white when given to us, and is now on a gradient somewhere between grey and yellow. And most famously, the proverbial abstract Vagina Painting (pictured on the right). Yes, it is exactly what it sounds like. A friend from home gifted it to us at the beginning of third year, and it has both embarrassed and baffled the many people who have visited our living room. Childishly, we often like to ask boys what they think it is. Some guess correctly. Some think it’s a hot dog and an olive (God help them).
This, and so many other aspects of the room, feels iconic to me. There’s the fake foliage from Dollarama that’s still taped to our walls from last year’s jungle-themed party, the stolen beer menu from The Brooklyn that is stuck up beside the doorway, and the Maple Leafs duct tape stuck on top of parts of the floor that jut out sharply. Even the tangled mess of wires shoved into the corner has plugged in everything from iPhone chargers, to black lights, to Nintendo sets. Although I know that these things would seem insignificant through someone else’s eyes, our living room to me is like a living diary. Its contents are markers of our undergraduate years, both the fondest memories and the ones better forgotten. It’s all there in the living room, a physical representation of this astoundingly short, incredible time in our lives.
In about a month or so, five new girls will move into our house, into our living room— that is, after we painstakingly remove the millions of treasured items (read: junk) strewn between those four walls. They’ll move in their own furniture, begin to create their own real-life scrapbook. Perhaps it will be a little more minimalist, or maybe they’ll be even messier than us— but they definitely won’t have a Vagina Painting to hang.
Our living room will morph into dozens, perhaps hundreds, of different spaces suited for different people. But to me, it will always be the same vignette, holding memories and conversations and moments and music, fading into the background. What looks like just another student house living room will always be iconic to me. And sure, campus is beautiful, but just past Brock Street, at the corner of University— that’s where my all-time favourite room is.
Shauna McGinn, Online Columnist
Images: Hannah Iacono and Jackie McPhedran