A warm summer night. A man and a woman are animatedly conversing as they drive up into the hills. Fireflies are flashing against the velvety black woods.
She’s not quite sure how the conversation took this turn, but she finds herself on the defensive. A friend, she says, always remains a friend even when their relationship changes. Her companion insists that a man and a woman can’t be friends, a relationship has to be exclusive and doesn’t permit … at that point she is about to get out of the car, even though they are in the midst of the countryside, for their discussion is going nowhere. A car pulls up next to them. Documents please. It’s the cops. They seem to be suspicious, seeing a car just off the road in the middle of the night. Documents are shown, and the man and the woman quietly turn back to town, each of them still convinced that they are right. A friend is a friend, whether it is two men, two women, or a man and a woman. And true friends stay friends for a lifetime.
A friend, according to the dictionary, is a person whom one knows well and is fond of; intimate associate; close acquaintance. A person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations. One does hope, of course, that a husband or a companion will also be a “friend”. And one wants a mother (or a father) to be one’s friend.
I had never thought about it, but the meaning of “a friend” is not necessarily what you think it is. Different cultures have different concepts. In German, you can’t simply say “Er ist mein Freund”, he is my friend, or so I was told by my German aunt. You have to say he is a friend of mine, otherwise it means he is that very special friend, your lover or companion. I’m not sure how true that is in English, or even Italian. Of course, she was in the theater.
He or she is a friend of mine. He or she is my friend. Then there is the difference between acquaintance and friend. I’ve noticed that in Italy everyone is somehow considered “a friend”. For me, a friend is someone whose ideas we share, who accepts us for what we are. They become part of us and somehow survive in us even when physically they are no more.
There are friends you’ve met and hugged, you’ve held when they needed you.
And there are those you’ve never even seen or actually heard. As one gets older, or is forced to staying within four walls, opportunities for making friends diminish. But do they really? For nowadays, there are other ways of communication and they may be more rewarding. Letters, now instantaneous, are ways of exchanging thoughts, ideas. Yet also giving us a chance to ponder what we wish to say.
I was told that at a certain age, one doesn’t make new friends. I totally disagree. There is a richness to new friendships all the lovelier for being unexpected.
A late-blooming friendship. Of the kind that comes as a surprise and is held onto with gratitude, fearing perhaps that it will disappear. For friendships must be nurtured and, with my newest “poetic” friendship, I am doing my best to keep it alive and growing.