About Friendship

(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.


scene from The Write Summer – my play

a few bits from The Write Summer, a comedy,  one afternoon on a weekend about 1990, some friends a few friends of friends were brought together and some scenes were rehearsed and presented in an informal workshop setting.  The play remains unfinished. The premise is simple, some amateur creative writing students attend a summer residency writing course at a camp by a lake.



Three days later. Outside the cabin. Later afternoon. Three wooden lawn chairs and a small side wooden table for drinks and books. VIC and SAM are sitting together as the LIGHTS COME UP. Sam has a pair of sunglasses atop her head.




I remember that.




I do not believe you.



I do remember. I remember every detail. Everything you said. You were tired. You had been working too hard for too long, but you were happy and excited because you had finished your book, a publisher had actually published it and there it was in bookstores. You had favourable reviews and the book was getting a lot more attention than first books get. You were exhausted but you said,  “It was heaven plus ten.”



I did not.



You did. You were a little drunk. Who had the party? That I can’t remember……Martha gave you the party. Martha Jefferies.



Martha did! Of course, she did. There were so many people. I just don’t remember you there. It was six years ago.



There were many more people there. Many of them a lot more memorable than me.  I was still out in the wilderness. Quietly out there. But not silent.


I told you that I had read your book and that I enjoyed it tremendously, which I actually did. I don’t like many poets. It’s an easy time to write poetry…. to write anything. Too easy. But I did like your book. I liked the next one and the one after that. I remember you said that you felt you could always write, be able to write, nothing but writing could ever make you happy. You were so certain.



I’m not like that now. Not at all.



Not what?






Not what? Not happy writing? Or not happy?



I’m happy. Happier in some ways than I was six years ago.



I have always hated writing. It’s hard work. Always has been hard.



There have been times when I have found it hard to keep working. But then it becomes easier.



There comes the breeze. Good. This heat is turning my brain to mush. You know all I wanted from this summer was to do a little writing. Make a little bit of money with this teaching. I have a chance to teach in January, but I don’t think it’s going to come my way. I haven’t taught in a long time. The joke in all this is that I feel like a fraud up there trying to tell them about writing.  I talk and they listen. And they listen much better than I talk. And they write. God, how they try. I don’t think any of them are writers.



It’s a game with some of my students. It’s a serious summer vacation. They don’t want to just sit on a beach.  That’s not educational enough. It’s too mundane. Next year they’ll take a photography holiday in Ireland and hope that it won’t rain too much. Last year they cycled through a wine region of France, but that was too tiring, too many flat tires. Next they’ll try pottery making in the Adirondacks. Or kayaking down the Nile. It’s their summer game.



I’ve always been clumsy at games.







Is there any advice you can give me about writing, Mr. Walsh?

[Vic finishes his second drink.]


To be a good drinker you will probably have to learn how to write.

[He stands up.]

My good friend, Ernie Hemmingway said it was important to get the right typewriter. He always swore by Remington, right to the end.

Writing is easy. It’s just like walking. You just put one foot in front of the other.

[He walks backwards and exits off left.]