The Zennish Panda

Of Friendship And Other Demons

Image from Hitrecord

“Sometimes he wakes so far from himself that he can’t even remember who he is. “Where am I?” he asks, desperate, and then, “Who am I? Who am I?”
And then he hears, so close to his ear that it is as if the voice is originating inside his own head, Willem’s whispered incantation. “You’re Jude St. Francis. You are my oldest, dearest friend. You’re the son of Harold Stein and Julia Altman. You’re the friend of Malcolm Irvine, of Jean-Baptiste Marion, of Richard Goldfarb, of Andy Contractor, of Lucien Voigt, of Citizen van Straaten, of Rhodes Arrowsmith, of Elijah Kozma, of Phaedra de los Santos, of the Henry Youngs.
“You’re a New Yorker. You live in SoHo. You volunteer for an arts organization; you volunteer for a food kitchen.
“You’re a swimmer. You’re a baker. You’re a cook. You’re a reader. You have a beautiful voice, though you never sing anymore. You’re an excellent pianist. You’re an art collector. You write me lovely messages when I’m away. You’re patient. You’re generous. You’re the best listener I know. You’re the smartest person I know, in every way. You’re the bravest person I know, in every way.
“You’re a lawyer. You’re the chair of the litigation department at Rosen Pritchard and Klein. You love your job; you work hard at it.
“You’re a mathematician. You’re a logician. You’ve tried to teach me, again and again.
“You were treated horribly. You came out on the other end. You were always you.”

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

If I woke up from a slumber that stole my memories, who would I be? Who would be by my bed? Who would tell me the things which Willem told Jude in the soul-smashing A Little Life? Above all, what would I be told?

You are Deepika Ramesh. You had no friends because you abandoned all of them. Your family endured your shenanigans, failures, self-absorption, and narcissism because that’s what families do. You sucked at everything you learned. Your 9-year-old marriage was a legendary fiasco. Your career was always tumultuous because you were too lazy to try, you were rebellious, and you complained about everything in life. You were at your boyfriend’s calves like a leech. You were treated well but you sought solace in insecurity and misery. You were always you. PS: Four ‘friends’ wrote RIP on Facebook when you died and three dogs attended your funeral.

Ha! There. I massaged my not-so-bruised ego again!

I understand the meaning of words like laconic, nincompoop, obfuscate, capricious… But I can’t comprehend friendship. *dodges all the judgmental bullets*

This list must throw some light on why I can never be your friend:

Image from Buddha Doodles

If you are still reading this, you earn the right to know why we can be friends.

Are you still reading? Thank you for indulging me. I have never written anything more narcissistic than this post. Phew!

So, I am left with just a couple of pals who are courageous and generous to accept me, warts and all. With my twisted head, I will not be able to understand what friendship is, although Hanya Yanagihara said this in A Little Life.

“Why wasn’t friendship as good as a relationship? Why wasn’t it even better? It was two people who remained together, day after day, bound not by sex or physical attraction or money or children or property, but only by the shared agreement to keep going, the mutual dedication to a union that could never be codified.”

“Friendship was witnessing another’s slow drip of miseries, and long bouts of boredom, and occasional triumphs. It was feeling honored by the privilege of getting to be present for another person’s most dismal moments, and knowing that you could be dismal around him in return.”

Am I in a union that could never be codified? Am I witnessing my friends’s miseries and triumphs? Am I being that flattering light of a candle? I do not know.

What I do know is that when I die, somewhere a mongrel will throw its head up and howl at the moon. That would be the kindest, greatest, most intimate farewell.

Image from here