My Friend

By | January 6, 2022
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My Friend

At first, I pretended. I tricked myself into thinking it didn’t matter much that you were no longer my friend. Sometimes I make life too complicated:

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 you rationalize it, then someday you realize you have no choice but to accept it.

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

You like to think it’s my fault that we are no longer friends. I was not 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 don’t talk to me. You won’t talk to me. And you won’t even answer my email or letters. How can you say we’re friends? I don’t think that’s how friends are supposed to be.

And I don’t think you think so either.

You and I often discussed friendship 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 to people who are close to you – and even people who you don’t know at all.

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 our 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 in 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 ever  really a friend or did we just keep each other company and fill up our empty spaces and empty times?

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. Time does heal a lot of wounds — but not all of them.

Sometimes we think friendship must lead somewhere – spending more time together, marriage, communal living, walks in an 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 grateful and 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 lot. So, 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 this unfillable hole in your life and it lasts for the rest of your life.

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 sorrow have 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’m sure getting tired of hearing nothing but echoes.

5 thoughts on “My Friend

  1. Sharon Langdon

    I hate that you’ve gone through this pain. Sometimes even time does not heal. But I’m glad you’ve learned something from it. Hang in there!

  2. Deedee

    Come here, I’ll give you a hug. Remember that things change. Nothing stays the same. Try once more to talk face to face to your friend. It sounds like you have a lot of history between you both. If it’s not to be, well, it wasn’t to be. Start anew, life is a test, after all. I’m 80 years old and always learning!

  3. David John Barber

    What a brilliant essay. I’m going to save it as it made me think about what friendship really is, probably for the first time in my life.

  4. TL Sturgill

    Sad that people actually feel righteous in judging each other to the point of destroying the expected loyalty of friendships.
    Friendship cannot possibly survive in a culture that shuts you down and suggests you need remedial training for the sin of disagreement.
    Sad that today’s friendships cannot pass the boundary of social [and temporary] whims.
    Show me the person in this parting of friends that’s soul is free from harm to others.
    Show me the person who doesn’t somehow fail by throwing away the love of a steady and close friend.

  5. shari carter

    Ohhh, I will also save this essay. I don’t usually read them, but this time I did – because I have this exact situation. I won’t bother you with the details, but whoever wrote the essay is a genuine friend, and whoever the “friend” is who left without even giving you a second chance to repair any damage – real or imagined – is clearly (and very sadly) not.

    Thank you for putting this essay in the newsletter. It is more than appreciated by many of us.



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