Friends of the Road

by Rumour Miller on May 2, 2005

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Why do friendships come and go? How does a once-bosom buddy wind up erased from your address book? Is a friendship that fades away necessarily a bad thing?
My first inkling that some friendships are meant to be fleeting came in the spring of my senior year in college. My college friendships had been especially intense. We’d bonded instantly and tightly, with meandering all-hours conversations about everything from the meaning of life to “What will we wear tonight?” Once, I came across a line that seemed to express perfectly my 21-year-old angst. It was from the novel Centennial: “God, he wished he could ride forever with these men…But it could not be. Trails end, and companies of men fall apart.”
Of course! Some friendships are meant to be transitory. Like cowboys who had ridden herd together for miles, sharing dusty perils and round-the-campfire coffee, my college friends and I had come to the natural end of our path together. It was time to move on.
Absurdly obvious, the idea was nevertheless enormously comforting. It had once seemed like failure to me, to build a friendship only to have it squelched by sudden distance, either physical or emotional. You move across the country and struggle to replicate daily long walks with phone calls or letters. Or one of you has a baby, and the minutiae of changing diapers transforms the bicycle-built-for-two that was your friendship into a lopsided three-legged stool.
And that’s okay. Because in addition to our friends of the heart – the traditional, everlasting ideal – life is rich with friends of the road who like James Michener’s cowpokes, herd with you for a particular stretch and no farther. These brief friendships are equally intense, equally necessary, equally worth treasuring as any other, and for the duration of that ride, you can’t survive without them.

Author: Paula Spencer – Reader’s Digest June 2004

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