This is the first installment of Patrick’s three-part instructional series on acquiring, defining, and maintaining friendship.
Meeting people is easy. So easy that it takes just this: a greeting. Hello, I am so-and-so. Sure, it may take a few greetings to meet someone but what’s the adage about asking girls to do some sort of something and how many one must ask before finding the one that will engage in that sort of something? This “meeting people” takes many fewer attempts. On average. We must always consult averages.
Why, just the other day I met a man. His name is something. I don’t recall his name, because I was merely trying to meet someone. Which I did. I gave him my name and he gave me his. Fair and square. Put a tight bow around that package and send it care of Human Interaction.
The larger conundrum is returning to a person one’s met before. You should know their name by now and should be able to remember it when needed. If you’re unable then it’s possible you weren’t meant to meet this person again. It might be noticeable that I’m avoiding the term “friend.” This is because, I believe, it takes more than remembering someone’s name, even after meeting him or her several times, to have sufficient evidence to call him or her your friend.
Friends are a great many things I refuse to wonder about here. The purpose of this message is to inform the space between that initial meeting—i.e. the “hello, I am name” and the respondent “I am name”—and the subsequent meetings that might (and I stress might) result in something as nebulous as “friendship.”
Don’t get me wrong, I have friends. Not a great many, but enough. I know who my friends are, as strange as it is to say. I can look at a photograph of a person and say, “Yes, that is a friend of mine” or, instead, any of a variety of responses, including, “Certainly not,” “I know them but not too well,” “I have her telephone number somewhere in my telephone; oh, no I don’t,” or, “They’re likeable but I wouldn’t want to speak to them outside a social gathering.”
Do you see? Well, I rarely can.
But I’m confident enough that I am not friends with many more people I know than I am friends with my friends. Meaning, I have my friends and then there’s everyone else.
Perhaps an air of exclusivity is sensed. I prefer not to assess it.
I’m no longer a nihilist and don’t think that knowing a great many people, knowing their names even, and being sure that they’re not friends make them any more or less my friends than—blather, blather, blather. You get it.
So, then, the real true conundrum, and the heart of it we do approach:
How do we begin the trek toward friendship?
Also, here, I’d like to admit that I will ignore the question to myself I’ve posed.
Better then, I’ll say I notice that when I am to begin this journey, for better or worse, or, if you’d prefer, for acquaintanceship or friendship, my memory turns to friends. But always former friends. Should that be in quotes? “Former.”
If I had a friend whom, if I looked at a picture of them years ago I would say, “Yes of course, that’s Mikael; Mikael is a good friend of mine,” and looked at that same photograph now, who’s to say? I haven’t spoken with the man in years. Does he think of me as I now think of him? Are we friends? Perhaps most importantly, does it matter?
(Again, I’ll refuse the implicit question.)
It has to matter because I’m writing about it. That’s the absurd rule I’ve decided upon, and I won’t be swayed.
So then, is Mikael, who I know by way of social media to have gained roughly twenty pounds and to have married and with his wife expecting, but who used to wake me most mornings by tugging huge bong-rips into his lungs before driving to work, is he still my friend?
Perhaps an air of exclusivity is sensed. Well, I could ask.
“Hey, Mikael,” the message would read, “so good to see you appear to be happy and all those nice things. I’m good. By the by, are we still friends?”
No. Clearly this won’t do.
But to take the notion to a tribunal is in no way helpful. All say, “If once you had a strong connection then of course it would persist, thus you have remained friends.” This strikes me as presumptive.
This is why: I told Mikael a great many things that he agreed with. Trouble is, I no longer agree with the me that told him those things in the first place. Can I assume that Mikael’s changed parallel alongside me despite our years lacking any contact whatsoever?
The question’s rhetorical. I can’t trust Mikael.
I’m beginning to hate Mikael, if I’m to be frank. Fuck off, Mikael. Why do you think Anarcho-Syndicalism is a valid structure? And it is a structure, which is something, when I was telling you about it, that we both failed to notice. If there’s to be a syndicate there’s to be a structure. Also, you’re stupid. But so was I. But are you still?
But here we see digression in full swing. Constellating the sky with fires of willful ignorance.
To read the second installment of Patrick’s series, click here.
Patrick Benjamin is a writer living near Los Angeles. He lives with his sister and grandmother.