My obituary won’t boast that Steve Weems never met a stranger. I am not a master of social dynamics; I’ve never made friends easily. I’m more comfortable observing than participating and I’ve been accused of being anti-social a number of times. And yet, inexplicably, I find myself having friends.
What all my friendships have in common is that I did not consciously choose them. In every case, I was brought together with someone by circumstance and a bond was formed. Perhaps I’m a little superstitious about the process. Some of my friends are blood relations, some date back to my time in school. Some are of more recent vintage, met through jobs or because of my writing one way or another. Some of my friends I met while in the military.
I had a buddy in the army from when I first arrived in Schwaebisch Gmuend, West Germany. He trained me in my job and we often worked through the night hours together. I still remember the intense feeling of freedom the day we rented a Volkswagen Golf and started driving without a single destination in mind. After an impromptu tour of the Augsburg Zoo, we became hopelessly lost in Bavaria. My friend was happy as long as he had cigarettes, so we drove until we hit Munich late at night and had to turn around and head back for duty.
Just like me, my friends are flawed. Just like me, my friends do things they shouldn’t. Sometimes friends will do something that will turn your soul to ice. My buddy returned home from a tour of Iraq and murdered his wife and then committed suicide on the front lawn while his children played inside the house. Ever since that event I’ve wrestled with questions of friendship and what it means, like when is it correct to end a friendship? What is the tipping point? In this case, my buddy is already dead. Too late to disown him, except in my mind. And yet, despite his actions, I continue to feel loyalty to him. Is that wrong? I do not know.