The Citizen (KZN)

I’ll be there for you, friend


Sometimes I smile when I think about my friends – and those I haven’t met yet. On Saturday, I got a call from friends in South Africa. Someone had tried to break into my house, again.

All was well, they assured me. He had nailed the broken window shut. She would get the pane replaced on Monday and, in the interim, was giving her bull terrier the run of the place, even putting up a sign: “Daar is ’n varkhond binne.”

I’m fortunate to have good mates like this, next door neighbours who became friends.

The same night, we went out to dinner with our Irish neighbours, also our friends. Yes, we got lucky twice over, moving in next door to another couple we get on well with.

We’re unlikely friends: she’s a neuroscien­tist, he’s a surgeon, we’re two self-employed writers.

Our connection wasn’t instantane­ous, starting with a polite neighbourl­iness, Christmas drinks, and over-the-fence chats, but it grew into real friendship over the years.

I seem to gather friends this way, by happenstan­ce, by proximity, by attrition: the childhood playmate whose mother was friends with my own; somebody Himself knew who I started walking dogs with; an older woman from college; the girl I sat next to during the first week of high school.

Are all my friends circumstan­tial?

Even my bestie in Benoni was an accidental friend: I knew her vaguely through her brother as a teenager, but we bonded in 1994 when we started working together at a shared desk. Nowadays we live 10 000 km apart, but I cannot imagine my life without her. Only last week we were on the phone for two hours – one of our shorter calls.

How do other people choose their friends, I wonder? Peerless discernmen­t? Strict vetting procedures? Stalking?

Or do any of us really choose? Because I know my truest friendship­s developed organicall­y, shoulder to shoulder, strangers polished into nuggets of gold with familiarit­y, shared circumstan­ces, and time.

And if it’s true that we lose touch with 50 percent of our friends every seven years, then I guess that just leaves space for new ones.

So sometimes I smile when I think about the friends I haven’t met yet.

They could be anyone, anywhere, but they’re definitely out there.

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