Are You Your Best Friend’s, Best Friend?

I’ve always been a loyal friend and my friends have always been the dearest people to my heart. In fact, there’s really no difference between family and friends, in my opinion. However, this type of devotion to friendships comes at a cost and I’ve learned over the years that I apparently value friendship much more than many of the folks whom I’ve befriended. It’s quite difficult to keep faith in human-kind when you step back from a friendship and realize that you’ve been duped…again.

In college, I became friends with a small group of people through a summer job at the local zoo. By the end of summer, I had become particularly close with two other guys and we all decided to move in together before fall quarter started. As time passed, we became closer and closer through various experiences, both sober and otherwise. We went to concerts together, we tried new drugs together, we chased new girls together, and we cried over losses together. For the most part, my friendship with each of those individuals has lasted to this day. They are the kind of friendships that do not require daily interaction. They are the kind of friendships where not a beat is missed regardless of the time passed when we’re not intimately involved in each others lives. Inevitably we “grow up”, we become entangled in webs of our own lives and personal activities and we form other, more intimate, more demanding relationships like spouses and children. Because of that, we grow apart a little in time and space but we never fade in mind or spirit. These are the kinds of friendships that I value more than anything and sadly, about ten years ago, one of those friendships was severely blemished by cowardliness and a lack of reciprocation in that value of human friendships. My eyes were opened wide by this experience.

It was September 10, 2003. My nephew was born in a room at the hospital with his aunt and his grandmother at his mother’s side. His father had decided long before that day, not to exist. Aside from all the obvious issues and details that I could go into at this point, it’s the betrayal of the value of friendship that I wish to reflect on. My friend of more than a decade, who I’d gone through so much with throughout college, whose friendship I often valued above all others, who stood at my wedding, who began sleeping with my sister-in-law immediately after my wedding, who assured me he would do the right thing when I offered-no, promised-to be there every step of the way through fatherhood, decided to ignore the existence of our friendship and of this innocent baby boy. This unknowing, pure, little person was entering the world with an entire library of textbook problems bestowed upon him. All problems that require so little from a father in order to be avoided-and this would-be father was offered all the support he’d ever need in just one, dear, under-valued, friend. This person, who I thought of as my own brother, walked away from the friendship that we’d spent so many years constructing and an imposter was unmasked.

Of course this wasn’t the first time that a person in my life had been deceitful and selfish and downright stupid but this time it came as a complete, backhanded, slap in the face. I expected one or more girlfriends in my life to break up with me for interest in another man. I expected my boss to give the other guy, his pal, the promotion even though I was more qualified for the job. Hell, from the time I was a teenager, I even expected my parent’s marriage to end by means of infidelity or at least, some sort of violence. What I never expected, not for a second, was that this friendship that I’d valued so highly and that I held onto with such safety and passion, would be thrown away with such utter disregard, like a withdraw receipt from an ATM. A friendship that, to me, was worth more than gold, maybe more than life itself, was tossed away like an old sock. This was a person I’d have died for, a brother, and in the end it was seemingly only a figment of my imagination-a cloud of smoke that I’d wrapped my arms around and tried to hold onto, until slowly but suddenly, it dissipated and vanished into thin air. Maybe I was just a fool to believe.

Today, I still believe in people and I still value friendships to the highest degree but I’m also very lucidly aware that I may be alone on that journey. I’m much more apt to spot a crack in the ceiling and more nimble in moving before it comes down on my head.

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