(a tiny essay from quite a few years ago)
I was thinking recently about friendship. Which is to say I was thinking about my friends. Not just the current day’s crop, but all of my friends from the line of years. There are times in our lives when we have a few friends, times when we have many. The occasions when we lose them, when they move away, or one or the other behaves in a way that the friendship sinks. There are many points in the building of this picture. There are also the moments when we feel that we have no friends at all.
Friendship – tasting the word: buddy, pal, amigo, compadre, comrade, mate, chum. There is the whole question of close friends, friends, and the sub class, acquaintances, who might be defined as strangers that we know because they keep bumping into us. Strangers being those people who are polite enough to only bump into us once.
How many people will one person meet in their life. Hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands? Living in a city we see many, many people. Behind the wheels of cars, a busload passing, in malls, in the waiting rooms of Doctors. But those aren’t really meetings, are they?
How many people will I learn their names, shake their hands. Work with them, work around them. People we know in business, people out of business, people out of their minds.
Another class is the best friend. There is man’s best friend, the dog. Then there is the matter of the exiled prince or princess who deigns to allow you the great privilege of living to serve them. I am referring to the cat. Of course, as Norman Bates put it so clearly, “ A boy’s best friend is his mother.”
What are the responsibilities of friendship? There are times when it is necessary to lie. Mostly friendship requires the sacrifice of time. Time spent exchanging words, laughter, common views. I have one friend who talks. My job is to listen. During moments when he is mouth and nose to the oxygen tank before plunging back into monologue, I offer my scraps of life reporting.
What price do we pay for friendship. If you attempt to loan money to a friend you are walking out on ice. The cracking sound is not your knuckles. Does everyone’s mother say don’t crack your knuckles?
Can we avoid friendship? On a desert island.
The worst friendship you can ever make, is the mistake of making your lover your best friend. When you break up, you won’t have your best friend to talk to about it. That is difficult country to cross.
Friendship is about conversation. Someone to talk to, someone to listen to. Sharing the notions that get born in your cranium. They will laugh at your less than perfect jokes. They will tell you the truth about your haircut. They will listen to you adjust the truth of your romantic life. They will think a little better of you than they should.
What is friendship not? It is not a disease. It is not a cure. It is definitely not a boat.