Another Perspective


One true friend is sometimes enough.

By 7.16.10

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I have lived most of my life with but one or two persons I would call good friends. My fiancée, who collects friends like a baleen whale collects plankton, finds my lack of friends odd. I don't doubt that it is.

It's not that I am unable to play well with others. It is rather that I have a hard time finding persons who interest me enough to want to be friends. This is, I suppose, what attracted me to books and magazines so many years ago -- the opportunity to be in the company of interesting people with engaging stories to tell.

All but one of the friends of my youth has long since disappeared from my radar screen, which is a common enough occurrence after high school. The thing is, I never felt particularly close to any of them. Other than the fact that we were going through the same teenage crises, we had little in common. What brought us together wasn't not mutual values and interests -- they liked cars and girls, I liked guitars and girls -- but that we had grown up in close proximity to each another. It was friendship based on location, coincidence, and social class.

I do, however, remain close to my best childhood friend, if only because we live two blocks apart. It is a friendship based on our shared past with very little to reinvigorate it. Thus we tend to see each other only by chance and at funerals.

Same with my college pals. These were friendships of convenience that faded once we graduated and went into the world to seek our various fortunes (which most of us are still seeking).

I once heard the interviewer Charlie Rose ask Christopher Hitchens if he and Martin Amis were still friends. "He's my only friend," said Hitchens. It seemed rather sad, but I could relate. Like Hitchens, I have gotten along okay with one or two friends at most. "If you have one true friend you have more than your share," wrote Thomas Fuller, and I am in no position to argue. "He who has many friends has no friend," quoth Aristotle. Or time, I might add, since friends are thieves of it. Such words were a comfort when my fiancée and I sat down recently to draw up the guest list for our upcoming nuptials. Her friends list stretched on for pages. Mine had three entries. Four, if I wanted to stretch it.

I PROBABLY HAVE but one friend who I see on a regular basis. We met by chance a few years ago. He was a Realtor attempting to unload my house for me after my divorce. While showing the house, he took notice of my bookshelves and CD collection and figured I might prove a suitable drinking companion. We actually have little in common, save for a love of history, a sense of the absurd, and women, drinking, and money problems. However, he amuses me. And I suspect if I showed up at his home at 3 a.m. with a dead body, he would help me unload that too.

I am fortunate to have lots of siblings who more or less enjoy each other's company. Siblings, though, are like spouses: you may get along tolerably well, you may understand and accept each other's foibles, but you are not the unbiased outsider looking in, as is the friend.

I am content with the few friends I have and, therefore, I have no need for the fake friends of Facebook. Compared to my fiancée's hundreds of social media friends, my two dozen or so -- mostly family -- seems rather paltry. That's okay. I have gotten friend requests from friends of former friends I might have seen for an hour or two when I was 17, and from college friends living half a world away who feel the constant need to update me on what cocktail they are currently imbibing. I suppose they think having a lot of friends will make their enemies think them popular, but I have no desire to add to their delusion.

A real friend may be, as the musician Chuck Prophet said, someone who will pick you up at the airport. But I think Edgar Allen Poe was nearer the truth when on his deathbed he cried: "My best friend would be the man who would blow my brains out with a pistol."

I would have no trouble telling my best friend that, although I would not lay down my life for him, I would happily blow his brains out with a pistol.

I have a strong suspicion my friend would do the same.

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About the Author
Christopher Orlet writes from St. Louis.