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“Because it was (s)he; because it was me”


A virus paralyzes the entire world, glaciers melt, flames invade the Southern Hemisphere, tropical thunderstorms circle the Atlantic, the ground is shaken, the sky is crying, the climate is changing, and the system is changing. You fall, you get up, and you grow up. To understand how much you have grown, you need to return to the safe space of your childhood, or look into the eyes of a friend who remembers when you were a beginner. Because that’s what friends are for. They show you the unaltered truth, even when everything is changing. They are your mirror, your compass. They give you the answer long before you ask the question.


It begins with questions, not answers. It gains depth as you struggle, stumble, and fall. When you’re so drunk that the world is spinning, you know they will hold your hair back; that they will help you write the messages that will change your life; that they will sit by your side as you wait for your exam results; that they will look for answers as you struggle to understand the mystery of life and relationships; that you will share the comfort of understanding between two people even when your choices start to drift apart and your lives grow in different directions. This is what friendship is at its plainest and most molecular level. It’s as simple as being understood and as ordinary as being known.

Friendship finds itself a unique language through which it can come to an understanding. It builds a language that can be deciphered only by two people. Therefore, when you feel speech has failed you, when you don’t have the honey to catch flies, or when you stutter despite having a lot to say, your friend becomes your speech, and you start singing again. Through her insistence, Tomris Uyar leads Turgut Uyar back to poetry after a seven-year hiatus. Anne Sullivan offers the power of expression to Helen Keller, who lost her sense of hearing and sight due to an illness when she was nineteen months old. Language rebuilds the world. That’s how friendship saves the world.


When you were just a speck of dust in the universe, traveling across the seas all alone, a friend becomes your fortunate crowd. It becomes your mountain, your rock, your anchor, so that you are not defeated by the wind. Even when there’s a storm, you don’t sink easily. Thelma was a lonely woman, but then she becomes Thelma and Louise. Grace leaves the monotonous rhythm of her life and becomes Grace and Frankie. If Malala Yousufzai and Greta Thunberg were to become friends, the world would definitely be a better place. Friends are your cheat sheet in a difficult and unfair exam. They become your luggage, your car, your courage when you decide to start anew. They set you in motion. They become your alarm when you are stuck in your comfort zone. They help you fall, rise, spread your wings and touch the sun.


Friends present you with the equipment to reach that altitude. They find philosophy in the mundane. They make everything -even arithmetic, planets, science, and the supernatural- easy. Toni Morrison meets James Baldwin who was seven years older than her. During her eulogy at his funeral, she said, “You knew, didn’t you, how I needed your language and the mind that formed it? How I relied on your fierce courage to tame wildernesses for me?” Friends know. They challenge because they know. They show what is lacking. They open wounds and they pour the medicine. They pick up where they left off, even after long breaks. The rhythm is not disrupted, what has been long absent is not forgotten. The cure cannot be soiled by distance or time.


Even the idea of friendship can be a source of great healing. Our twenty-first century hearts are still warmed by the scene in Süper Baba, the phenomenal Turkish TV series from the 1990s, during which Fiko asks Nihat, “Why am I like this?” We know very well the miracle of searching for answers in friends. That’s why when we see a couple of friends in TV series or movies, we want them to be friends in real life as well. We believe that this would make friendship more real, more possible for us mortals.


Friends make existence possible. They lift the curtain and call you onto the stage. Judy Collins sees the magic in Leonard Cohen - who, in his 30s, presented her with “Suzanne”, “Dress Rehearsal Rag”, and “The Stranger Song” which I believe to be magical- and walks onto the stage with him. Friendship is magical when everybody sees it as a common occurrence. It applauds its uniqueness. It celebrates what everyone else finds strange. It initiates motion. Whether you’re a poet or a machinist, a truck driver or a camera operator, you want to stand under someone’s spotlight. Friends make you visible. They prove that your efforts mean

something.



When you fish in the same river, boil or melt at the same temperature, friendship comes faster and easier. It happens when you wear Gogol’s overcoat or dare the same mischief. When you’re exhausted from work at the same age or take a break at the same stop. When you gaze at the distance and squint your eyes in the same way. Although being similar makes friendship much easier, the true worthy connection, the thing that brings meaning to life occurs between people who walk different paths in life. It happens when they find themselves on a bridge, crossing a foreign sea without even noticing it, calculating it, or being aware of their choices. It happens when Alexander McQueen, the sixth and youngest child of a family of workers in East London, and Isabella Blow, the oldest child in a family of aristocrats, understand each other. It happens when Snoop Dogg and Martha Stewart become friends and find a path they share. It happens when someone knows how to tell the time for another despite having run out the clock in other things. It happens when you can guess the paths someone’s crossed despite never seeing him walk.**


Eventually, friends are embedded in your DNA through memories and set up camp in your decision-making mechanisms with their expressions, so much so that when you find yourself at a crossroads, an advice you heard a hundred years ago becomes your guide and compass. Friendship is always present at that degree, at that depth, and on that meaningful layer. Free from all explanations, excuses, and reasons, it surrenders to coincidence outside of consciousness and in the middle of the sea. And also to choices. It calls out yelling or in a low voice. See me. Know me. Understand me. Convince me that I’m here and that it matters I’m here.


Despite their difference in preferences, homelands, and stories, when two people understand each other, when they lift the curtain and read the story, they always feel that echo, that lingering refreshment in the heart. You become more for the rest of your life. I’m always thankful for such a crowd. Now, my friend from Bogot  who currently lives in Canada likes the name of my book of stories; an Indian friend based in London sends me a new poem; a friend who has become a mother shows me the stitches on her son’s chin; a friend who doesn’t plan on being a mother sends me a video of celebration for the Biden-Kamala victory in New York; a friend who is running a great business at a young age tells me about meetings with bankers. Some are creating a new business, some climb ranks in the corporate life, some change careers, and even those whom I don’t see that much anymore; wander around my memory. Yet, one thing is constant. Everything is fickle and fluid, but one thing is constant. One thing is real, and there is one authentic thing in friendship that is perpetual. Days end, yesterday becomes the past, the identity you weave for yourself becomes obsolete, you run out of lines, the cycle keeps turning, but one thing lasts and that’s the thing you understand with all your heart. Friendship is more or less the thing that is forever.


In friendship, acceptance precedes reason; that’s what I have learned.

Just like Montaigne said, “Because he was he and I was I.”


 

*Montaigne

**An homage to Edip Cansever’s line “Have I ever seen you walk on a long road?” from the poem “Yaş Değiştirme Törenine Yetişen Öyle Bir Şiir.”


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