have you ever thought about how far you'd go for a friend? i suppose that's a broad question. i'm sure in some capacity you have. what i'm really trying to get at is more specific - do you know how far you'd go for a friend who turned out to be someone else? how long would your loyalty last in that case?
the thought is brought on by a few things for me. jodi foster and mel gibson. jerry sandusky. breaking bad. (it's complicated).
mel has had a few bad years. he's been caught threatening his baby mama on the phone, who he left his wife of decades for. he's been caught driving under the influence, hurling misogynistic and racial and anti-semitic slurs every which way. and yet...and yet jodi foster stays. right by his side. she doesn't forgive him his transgressions and she doesn't make excuses for him. but, she stays. i think some of what she sees is a friend who is sick, who is struggling, who is making bad choices. and so she stays. to help pick him up and dust him off and hope this time he'll try harder. she doesn't abandon him, yet she doesn't excuse him. loyal, perhaps some would say to a fault. but i believe she is doing what the greatest of friends do: standing by his side as everyone else gives up on him. standing by his side when it's much more popular to abandon him. standing by his side as everyone keeps asking why. and this, what jodi foster is doing, really makes me think. it's made me realize that being a friend doesn't mean accepting the transgressions of our friends, but it certainly doesn't mean abandoning at the first sign of trouble. it's inspiring, in a way.
jerry sandusky's friends - in my opinion, they did one (and not the other). they stood by him, of that we know, silently. turning their heads. pretending nothing was happening. taking away his keys to the locker room was jerry's only punishment bestowed upon him from him friends. sure, i can't imagine being faced with the knowledge that your friend has done horrible things, unspeakable things. it's human nature to pretend it's not happening, to create excuses, to express disbelief. the harshest of truths are usually unbelievable the first time around. but nature, my friends, is what we are put in this world to rise above (name that movie!) you see i wish someone, at some point, a true friend (as i am seeking to define it here), would have sat jerry down and said:
"you committed a crime. i know it. you know it. and we both know you have to do something about it. turn yourself in, or i will. and i'll walk you to the police station, and i'll stay by your side. as the world calls you sick, and a monster, i won't abandon you. yes, you are sick. yes, you did monstrous things. but years, decades of friendship, have shown you to be more than that, too. so by your side i will stay."
but they didn't do that. they stuck by his side but they weren't true friends - they didn't push him to do the right thing. and that made all the difference.
the summer after my senior year i often took care of my bosses' house when she was out of town. i was in a play with my friends - every summer, for four summers, the same group of friends were in a play together. and after practice we'd go to my bosses' house. no adult supervision, girls and guys, and yes, my boyfriend was there. our parents strictly forbade us from doing this. but the summer after senior year we were so close to freedom we could smell it. we would sit on the porch, talking as the sound of cicadas filled the night as they tend to do during a virginia summer. harmless, innocent. we were always home by midnight. but one time, who knows, something didn't add up for our parents. as katey drove us home we both got calls - my mom, her dad. and as they asked us all sorts of questions our stories started to trip and fall on one another a little bit and before you knew it, they knew we were lying. but we excused ourselves, saying we misspoke. i'll never forget their faces as they sat us down, trying to pry out the truth. how frustrated they were - they knew we were lying about something, but they couldn't prove it unless one of us cracked. so we sat there, doe-eyed, sticking to our story, pretending we were little angels. it's true, we did something wrong. we lied, and we went somewhere we shouldn't with people we shouldn't and though it was all in innocent fun, it was wrong. but side by side we sat. never saying a word. never giving up the truth.
i hope, if the day ever comes, that if katey takes a misstep, i'll be brave enough to push her to fix it, to make it right (or vice-versa). that if the crime is more than a little white lie it won't go unnoticed, i won't turn my head. and that, above all, i'll have the courage to stand by her. that as the world may give up on her, by her side i'll be. a true friend - until the end.