I believe in friendship, in camaraderie. I believe in loyalty. I believe we can only face a single direction in a given moment, and that it’s up to us to look out for each other. It’s up to us to protect one another from the threats that attack from directions we can’t see. Once upon a time, my #1 sidekick, my first choice in who I would share my foxhole with, fell prey to drugs. The rumors had been flying for months, every time one hit my ears was like the deafening crack of enemy fire. Under shelter of our friendship, I hid from the attacks, sticking my neck out from the barricade every now and again to hurl my rebuttals. I fought long and hard, constantly on the defensive, but it seemed like we were surrounded on all sides.
Eventually the shelter began to give way, and under constant bombarding the stronghold of our union began to crack. I turned to my counterpart, frantic and desperate, hoping he had back-up ammunition to return fire with because I had long since run out. But when I finally faced him, I didn’t see what I was expecting. He wasn’t on the other side of our base, at the ready. He wasn’t waging the same war I was. He had curled up on the floor, numb to the constant attack on the shelter I had given my heart and my reputation to protect. What happened next shames me to this very day.
For all my conviction on the subject of loyalty, for all the strength I believed myself to possess concerning the matter, I abandoned him too. Once I realized I was the only one of us fighting, I turned and left, waving my white flag of surrender. I like to think that I was shell shocked, that I had fought to the point of exhaustion and that my decisions were no longer my own. The fact is, I was weak.
Once the truth came out, which it inevitably does, I dropped those convictions. I like to think it was in an effort to distance myself from unsavory behavior and potential downfall, but the reality is I turned traitor because I felt betrayed. My weakness was my vulnerability, and I let my broken heart overshadow the fact that my friend’s life was in danger; he was in need.
For a time, I joined the other side, firing off insults and throwing grenades built of malice and spite. But after awhile, I realized he wasn’t defending himself, he never fought back. The mortally wounded, as it happens, often don’t.
Not long after that, I came to my senses and found myself again. I went back and looked for him. I dragged him out of that ditch and nursed him back to health. With the civil war over and our little social web quiet on all fronts, we let bygones be bygones. In every war, there are casualties, and there are friendships that never recovered from the battles that shook us all. But for the most part, we, most of us, forgave each other our trespasses. It took much longer for me to forgive myself. I can’t say with certainly that I ever really did.
Our friendship resumed. It picked up where we left off, and never again have I doubted in his loyalty, and thankfully, nor he in mine. We’re better friends now; we’re better people for living through the fallout of that year, but I haven’t forgotten when I let my weakness leave a fallen soldier behind. I’m sure I never will.