By | November 11, 2015
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At first I pretended. I tricked myself into thinking it didn’t matter much that you were no longer my friend. We were good friends and then we weren’t – it’s as simple as that. It’s kind of like being told you have a terminal illness – at first you deny it, then someday you realize, that you have to learn to accept it.

We were friends then all of a sudden, within the span of a few minutes, we weren’t. I still can’t accept it, but it looks like I’m going to have to.

You like to think it’s my fault that we are no longer friends. I was not totally honest with you and that’s certainly true. You had a right to get angry, and I suppose because of it you had a right to end our friendship.

Me? Well I like to think that it’s your fault that we’re not friends because after all this time you still haven’t forgiven me. Of course, now you’ll tell me that have forgiven me, but that’s not true, you haven’t. You just like to think that way because it makes you feel better.

You like to say we’re friends and you still think of me as your friend, but you won’t talk to me. Now it’s gone so far that you won’t ever answer my letters. I don’t think that’s how friends are supposed to be, do you?

We discussed friendship often when we used to talk. We used to laugh at how diluted the words “friendship” and “love” have become over the years. Facebook helped dilute the word “friend” to a meaningless term that can encompass anyone from people you hardly know at all to people who are close to you.

But you know what, my friend? Friendship is never conditional. I don’t want a friend who says to me “I’ll be your friend IF…” We live in a conditional world. If you pay your bills on time you get a good credit rating and you can buy more and more THINGS. If you don’t pay your bills on time you get a bad credit rating and you’re a DEADBEAT. If you pay your bills on time you’re worthy, if you don’t you’re not. Most things in the world are that way – they are conditional – but love and friendship must never be.

Real friendship isn’t real easy. We can’t always be what someone else expects us to be. Sooner or later one of us is going to let the other down. Neither of us is perfect – nobody is. I can’t always live up to your expectations and you can’t always live up to mine. But true friendship rises above expectations; Friendship is never conditional. If you robbed a bank, I’d come to see you in jail. I’d write you letters. I would still be your friend – no matter what. That’s how real friendship is supposed to be. But there’s not much of that kind of friendship in this world anymore.

Sometimes we have to go through a great deal of suffering and difficult, turbulent times before we find out who are friends really are – to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Now I don’t know if I’d come to see you or write you if you were jail. I like to think I would, but I would never really know if I would unless you were. I am pretty sure you would not come to see me or write me if I were in jail. I can’t even get you to talk to me now.

I’m still paying for my sins of the past with you. Were you really ever a friend or did we just keep other company and fill up what otherwise would have been empty space and empty time?

Oh yes, we did share a million laughs. We laughed our way through springs, and summers, and winters, and autumns and rainy days and sunny ones. I can still hear the echoes of your laughter in my mind. It’s a little bit faded; it has become tinged with sadness now. And time has diluted it with loneliness and tears.

Sometimes we think friendship must lead somewhere – spending more time together, marriage, communal living, walks in a autumn forest holding hands – but there we go again with those dreaded conditions. Friendship and love are journeys not destinations. Love and friendship are never conditional. Maybe we had a little bit of both love and friendship, but not enough of either.

You’re there and I’m standing here:

“Isn’t it rich?
Are we a pair?
Me here at last on the ground,
You in mid-air..
Where are the clowns?

Isn’t it bliss?
Don’t you approve?
One who keeps tearing around,
One who can’t move…
Where are the clowns?
Send in the clowns.

Just when I’d stopped opening doors,
Finally knowing the one that I wanted was yours.
Making my entrance again with my usual flair
Sure of my lines…
No one is there.

Don’t you love farce?
My fault, I fear.
I thought that you’d want what I want…
Sorry, my dear!
And where are the clowns
Send in the clowns
Don’t bother, they’re here.

Isn’t it rich?
Isn’t it queer?
Losing my timing this late in my career.
And where are the clowns?
There ought to be clowns…
Well, maybe next year.”

(“Send in the Clowns” written by Stephen Sondheim for the 1973 musical “A Little Night Music”)

Isn’t it rich?
Does this seem fair?
All of our laughter
Has turned to despair.

I guess I will be graceful and say that I’ll remember our friendship as a good thing and as a good time in my life. One that should have lasted a lifetime. You will say I cut it short, and I will say you did. And then we both have the nerve to wonder why the world is the way it is.

Sometimes when you walk away from something you learn nothing and that is a waste. Other times you walk away from something and you learn a great deal; it was worth something. Sometimes you lose something that you can’t replace and you never miss it at all. Sometimes you lose something that you can’t replace and there’s a hole in your life for the rest of your life and nothing else and no one else can ever fill.

When you walked away, you left a hole in my life that nothing else and no one can ever fill. I’ve learned to live with it, but I will never learn to like it,

But all this pain and sorry has not been a waste. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve learned who my friends are and who my friends are not. I’ve learned what love is and what love is not. I’ve learned what friendship is and what friendship is not.

I hope I’m wrong about you. I hope you’ll forgive me and I hope, in the end, we can share a laugh again.

I’m sure getting tired of hearing nothing but echoes.

2 thoughts on “Friends

  1. Barbara C.

    I came across this essay while looking for something else. I missed it the first time around. What a beautiful and powerful portrayal of true friendship; what it is and what it isn’t. It struck a chord with me and gives me the opportunity to look at some of my own friendships both past and present.
    Thank you so much.


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