You can’t go back and make old friends, as the sage said. In a moment of reverie we can find ourselves wayfarers along the highways of the past, darkened now and quiet, the road signs dusty but legible, most of them. And we’re looking for an address, always looking, looking and never finding; and if we do and we knock and then knock again much louder, no one ever comes to the door. No one could. This is, after all, a fanciful journey into a past that has long been lifeless and still.
A sort of mental bookkeeping, the nocturnal wizardry of clever and insane elves, takes hold of our dreams at times, and when we wake and smell the lingering smoke of those fires we do make such voyages, frantic and urgent. Along paths we have known and known well, to find long-ago friends now friends no more; still alive, surely – hopefully. It’s not the present moment that interests us but instead those friends’ incarnation at the wisp of time we shared. Whether they have changed is of little interest to us. No, we are searching for them in the past; we want to see them as they were, to see ourselves as we were with them. We are there in that silent land hoping to make amends.
There is that thing we can’t identify or name. We don’t know what it was; but it was something, because it was the agent of destruction that caused lives to diverge and friendship’s bonds to weaken and break. It was; then it was not. And in the middle was the breaker-of-friendship, close blood relative to the breaker-of-hearts. Again we try to name this thing and again we fail. We’ve seen this trap before so withdraw from the puzzle, knowing it for the black hole of emotion that it is; this question has pulled us in more than once and held us close to its jealously heaving breast, struggling, hotly pursuing but never approaching the answers we seek to the reasons for life, for balance, for entropy, for creation and dissolution of friendship as it is drawn across that tall knife edge of the present moment.
But although we endlessly seek it, we already know the answer to this riddle – and we know that we know it. That agent of friendship’s destruction was us, not through intention but something far worse: simple neglect. As we chose long ago not to tend the garden of friendship, nature’s only recourse – being nature, after all – was to repurpose that part of the universe occupied by it, so it became overgrown with weeds. And when at last we go back to harvest friendship’s delicious bounty, the garden is gone.
Perhaps it is only possible to see something after a lifetime of insisting on different answers. The truth is that friendship and love are the same thing, the very same emotion. In the universe of words we create, we may call them different things to demark lines that are arbitrary and false, lines that are barriers between one level of connection and another, as we see it. But they are the same. We maintain our “friendships” by showing our friends love. And when we neglect that love and let it wither, the friendship falls with a rattling clunk down into the bone yard of the past.