The Perfect Friend
David Godden

 

The Perfect Friend

Piers sits before me now, silent and reflective in his cogitation of all we have discussed and all that I have laid bare this night. His glass sits untouched beside him on the half table, the brandy coats the glass like viscous oil where it was swirled around the bowl, held loosely in his hand to impart the warmth of his living blood to the fiery spirit. To mellow its harsh edge, to make it palatable to his delicate senses.

I sit across from him, my empty glass held in my hand. Sleep will overtake me soon and I will retire alone to my cold bed and sleep, god willing, a dreamless sleep, only to wake the morrow to face again the daunting empty shell that is the hollow sham I call my life.

Piers is a good friend, my only friend if the truth be known, and it was this very night that we discussed the nature of the emotion that is friendship and what makes a friend.

Piers posed the question after we had dined together and we had retired to the drawing room to take our brandy in peace before the warm fire. I was surprised at his question, as I had never before tried to analyse what it is that makes a man a friend rather than an acquaintance or colleague. But his earnest question as to the nature of friendship awoke in me a desire to take apart, piece by piece, the very fabric of friendship, that I may see it laid out before me in the way of the workings of a clock. To see each component in its simplest form, and to then assemble the pieces to make the whole. To find the answer to his question.

We both agreed that friendship is a subtle blend of two components. Principally, trust and understanding. There is more of course. The mutual interest that brings men together in the first instance, the introduction to the other through an acquaintance or colleague. But this is not the basis of friendship, this is merely the mechanics by which the friendship begins. Trust is the solid foundation upon which friendship is built. The sharing of a confidence, the telling of an inner most fear or desire, these are the corner stones upon which the foundation of trust is begun.

To share a confidence with another is to allow that individual a degree of control over you, to relinquish that control is a leap of faith. For to give such a powerful tool into the hands of another, is a means by which they can demonstrate that the trust you have placed in them is justified. It could be that they will use that power over you for their own ends. But if they use it simply to demonstrate that your trust was not misplaced, then this is the beginning of a friendship which will stand rock solid before the onslaught of all that life may throw at you.

With time the trust builds and with the trust comes respect. This is by no means a prerequisite for friendship, but to have trust without respect is a contradiction in terms to my mind. Piers agreed with me on this.

My friendship with Piers was a long time in the making. We had met on many an occasion before and slowly we began to discover that we enjoyed each other’s company and that many were the philosophies and ideas we agreed upon. Though there were many we did not find common ground on, we agreed that this was also a solid basis for a friendship. For to be too alike would be stultifying in the extreme, for what would we have to debate if we both agreed on everything?

Piers and I soon realised that we could share with one another many of the inner most fears that we had for too long held in abeyance, what with society being what it is. It would not do for us to make common knowledge that of which we were most afraid. To show fear is a weakness and society consumes the weak without pity.

The fact that we could trust each other was a revelation to me, for never before had I found anyone that I could truly say I trusted, and the surprise at the discovery was a tonic for my world weary soul. Piers too felt the same and we delighted in the fact that we were now free to entrust our deepest worries to another without fear of them being used against us.

Our friendship then began to blossom.

As I have said, friendship has two main components, trust being only one of them. The other is understanding. Piers is easy to understand, for he is but a simple soul. Despite his education and background, he has simple beliefs and an almost childlike view of the world, where as I am ever the cynic. Piers tried to change my outlook with his simple philosophy and it only endeared him to me all the more. He finds my cynicism hard to take, but he accepts it with, if not understanding, at least good grace. Good grace enough to let me wallow in my cynical perception of society without condemning me for it. This can be a bitter medicine to take, as it pains my friend to see me like this, and I have no desire to make him unhappy.

Trust and understanding now established, I found that I could confide in Piers to an even greater extent. Of course he too confided in me, but the simplistic nature of his greatest worries made it easy for me to take them onboard and to offer sage advice to him. Advice which he took and used to good ends. I try not to allow my cynicism to cloud what advice I give Piers, but sometimes it is too overwhelming not to taint my views somewhat.

So this we decided, was the true nature of friendship. Trust and of course respect, going hand in hand together as naturally as day follows night, and understanding.

This matter now being agreed upon, I deemed Piers ready to be the sole bearer of my greatest and most terrible secret. I had agonised all evening during our conversation before deciding to share with my friend, the acid that was eating away at my very soul. I was unsure if he was ready for such a burden, but I had to tell someone, and he, being my only true friend, was the only one I could trust. There is that word again, trust. Was I sure I trusted Piers enough? Did Piers have the compassion to understand what I wished to share with him?

I asked the question anyway, for it would seem innocuous enough should my courage fail me and should I decide not to see it through to the bitter end.

I asked Piers what he thought of love.

His simple face lit up. He replied that it was, next to friendship, the most noble of emotions, and that it was the ultimate goal of all who live to seek love to make them whole as a person. He believed that love was pure and that purity was divine.

I had not expected such strong views on the subject from Piers, and was somewhat taken aback by his thoughts on the subject, but I persevered and moved further on, to the next part of my question. I asked Piers what he thought of love between men?

He became thoughtful and he rubbed his chin with his hand as he was want to do when pondering a difficult question. Eventually he replied that man’s love for his fellow man was also noble and pure. For without love for one’s fellow man, there would be chaos and misunderstanding. Wars were the result of the failure of man to love his neighbour. It was truly the simple Piers solution to all things. He had no great depth of understanding on such matters as politics and he felt that if only people would talk to each other then many problems would be solved.

I tried again. This time I was as unambiguous as possible. I said, “No Piers. What I mean is, what do you feel about the real emotion of love between men?”

His simple face creased as he took in the enormity of what I was asking him to respond to. I could see many things in his face. Confusion, fear, loathing and disgust were but a few of them.

“It is surely not a fit topic for us to discuss Edward,” he said. “For what you ask my thoughts on is against nature and against god. I will not talk of such things, as I not only find them abhorrent, but blasphemous. Let us talk of other matters of a lighter nature." But I was not to be deterred.

I asked Piers what he would say if I were to tell him that I were in love with a man? His discomfort was increasing and he pleaded with me to change the subject, but I would not release him from the topic and I insisted he answer me.

Writhing in his embarrassment, he blustered to avoid a direct answer. I pushed him harder though. Eventually he could contain himself no longer and he gave me his views.

“If you were to tell me such a thing, I would of course not believe you. If you were to insist it were true, I would council you too seek a medical opinion, for it is a sickness and a form of insanity that can be cured. I would also council that you pray. For what you are telling me is, as I have said, against the law of god and must not be tolerated. Why Edward, why do you torment me with such things? Can you not see my discomfort with the subject? For the sake of our friendship, please, desist with this nonsense now.” He was crimson in the face, either with the effort of making such a statement or with the embarrassment of it, I was not sure which it was.

I got up and paced the floor of the drawing room, my agitation was apparent and Piers tried to calm me with soothing words on matters that we both talked of frequently. He talked of hunting and of the theatre, subjects that were dear to me, but I had gone this far and now I was unable to withdraw.

I faced Piers from across the room and delivered my final words on the subject.

“Piers, what would you say if I were to tell you that the object of my desire, the desire that you find so abhorrent, were you?”

It was out now. What is said cannot be unsaid, and so I waited for Piers to respond. It would be either with the understanding of a true friend, mixed with the knowledge that I had trusted him to impart such a secret. That or he would condemn me as a pervert, an ungodly sinner to be pitied and treated as insane rather than to be understood with compassion, or dare I think it possible that he might return my love?

Just as Piers was about to reply, I held up my hand in a gesture to indicate that I wished him to remain silent. He sat with open mouth in the chair by the fire, watching me. I was actually the one to feel pity now. I felt pity for Piers, because he was unable to truly appreciate the enormity of the trust I had placed in him. He was unable to appreciate the fact that I had given him the tools to destroy me should he so choose to do so. I had given my friend everything and I now doubted he would be able to treat that trust as a friend should.

As I sit here now watching Piers as he continues to ponder the terrible secret I have chosen to share with him as my only true friend, I wonder too at the wisdom I have shown in doing so. The blood runs from the bullet hole in the middle of his forehead and mingles with the drying tears he shed when I faced him with the gun. The very weapon I used to end his life before he could use the knowledge I had given him to destroy mine.

Dear Piers. You will forever be my friend, for now you are unable to betray my trust. You can never now say you do not understand what I feel for you. You are frozen in this moment of perfect friendship forever and so you shall remain my perfect friend.


    

 

 

Copyright © 2001 David Godden
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"