True friends are one of life’s greatest treasures. On the other hand, friends who are false often come as a great disappointment.
Between these two types of friends there are many shades of course. As from black to white we find so many shades of grey.
As a child, and then a teenager, I had many acquaintances as I was quite popular at school. From a very early age I could tell who were my “real” friends, steadfast and loyal, and the others, who were fun and nice to be with but to whom I would not confide my secrets or my inner thoughts. I had a sort of “sixth sense” that seemed to tell me who I could trust and who I should beware of, who could be a close confidante and who should be no more than just a pal to have fun with.
Take my friend Luisa, for instance. We met when I was nine and she was ten, and soon we became very close. When we had to leave Mozambique I came to live in Lisbon and she went to Madeira. Never again did we live in the same city, but we met every year during the summer holidays and we kept our friendship intact – no, in fact it grew throughout our teens and then our adult life: so many moments lived together, so many stories told and secrets shared, so many plans for life discussed sitting at a cafe by the sea, so many things in common…an indestructible friendship of a lifetime that will be there as long as we live.
As my friend Beli. We have been friends since our first year of University, when we were sweet seventeen. Again, many hours spent together, either studying hard or partying, in love or heartbroken, with our ups and downs, always together, supporting each other, laughing at each other too, sharing our lives – in this case, almost daily, as we have always lived near one another – and, even today, laughing our hearts out when we remember the crazy adventures of our youth…or my Spanish friend Rosario, whom I met later when I was about thirty, at a working seminar in Paris and who has been a close and true friend since then; she is very different from me, in so many aspects (we don’t agree about politics and she positively hates shopping!) but still we are immensely fond of each other; true friendship after all does not mean one has to have everything in common with one’s friend, in the end it’s just the sheer pleasure of being together every time you meet, and that’s definitely something that happens with us – how I love going to Madrid for work and think I’ll be seeing my friend for dinner and for a chat! And we have always managed to be together in each other’s relevant moments, such as our respective 50th birthdays…
I could mention a few others more, like my dear wise friend or my other good friends that have given me unmistakeable proof of their true affection for me – I am so grateful to them all for being true.
Although I cannot name them all here, they know they are in my heart.
But then, I’ve had some of the others, too.
I’ve had friends of many years who inexplicably changed towards me when I divorced. I would say friends stand by us in our hour of need, but in this case my friends had a critical and judgmental attitude, being much more worried about gossip about any new relationships I might have than with the fact that I might be going through a difficult moment and in need of friendly support! I would not call these friends false but they are disappointing, in the least.
But then there are those who cruelly stab you through your heart, betraying you in the most abject manner, such as a friend I had for twenty years, a close friend, with whom I thought I had many things in common. We did many things together, like travelling, going shopping, talking for hours, going out, having a lot of fun. She was great company and we shared our secrets with each other. But one day she began to change. When I was down, she stepped on me so that I should go down even more. No, she did not sleep with my husband – unfortunately a more than usual occurrence and still, in my opinion, the worst thing a friend may do another – but still, she pushed me down because she thought she might get personal advantage with that attitude, and if at first I could not believe what was happening I soon realized her definition of friendship was not the same as mine, and we had to go our separate ways. But it hurt, and sometimes, when I go to places where we used to go together, I still remember her and wish this disappointment had never come to pass. But it did, and my reaction was as strong as my hurt feelings, as when – unfortunately – she crosses my path it is as if I don’t know that person, and never did.
Such is life. But I consider myself lucky: for a few false friends, I have had many more who have been true. Loyal to the end. Sympathetic. Supportive. Merry. Being there for me, listening to my hopes and dreams and also to my complaints. Sharing my happiness and my grief. Giving me hope when I am down, and loving me unconditionally. Being my friends for who I am, not for what I do. Surprising me, believing in me, advising me, trusting me and giving me the incredible privilege of their friendship. I can only hope they feel the same about me, for I am their true friend and I will always be there for them.
I usually say the feelings you have for a friend are the most perfect of all, because in friendship you don’ t feel jealousy of possessiveness as you do in love. You’re not jealous of your friend’s other friends or the time they spend with each other; you may not see a friend for years but when you meet it is as if you had been together only yesterday; with friends you have nothing to hide and there is no need to fake: they can see you at your worst and nothing will change. It is a most perfect feeling, the only perfect one; in fact, a feeling of absolute freedom, because you’ll only be with a friend if and when you want to.
I’m grateful to life for my true friends. As for the others, they will be lost, if not entirely forgotten, with the passing of the years. They are not worth remembering. But the good friends, the true and faithful ones – they will not be remembered, as they are and will be with me every day of my life, however distant. Because I keep them close, very close – inside my heart.