Sometimes I refuse to believe it, but I really do think that our relationships with other people define us as human beings, giving depth to our personality and significance to our lives. Friends make the cold, harsh reality of being alive on this occasionally (for some, always for others) miserable planet somewhat bearable. Friends distract us from our faults and fears, friends keep our minds occupied with happy thoughts while driving the bad ones away. Being a somewhat obsessive person, I find that friends are extremely helpful in temporarily shutting off the disturbing, persistent thoughts that otherwise so relentlessly batter at my ego and sense of self-worth.
Yet when I find myself separated from a friend, my only coping mechanism is to shut them out completely...to stop thinking about them at all. It makes me feel terrible, but otherwise I am stuck brooding over the loss, a loss that is intensified by the very mechanism designed to deal with it. Damnit. Thanks to technology, this situation has gotten a lot better. When my best-male-friend recently moved, all I could say was "Good thing there's instant messenger." I knew he was going to be leaving months in advance, so I had plenty of time to make peace with his decision. Unfortunately this almost deadened my emotions to the point where I was convinced I didn't care that he was leaving. "After all, I have a girlfriend!" Luckily, we happened about some magic fungi just days before he left, and together and separately we experienced a sort of emotional catharsis that left us both drained and a little unsure of ourselves. I never realized how close we were until he was on the way out the door. I had never been so close to someone of the same sex; I almost "felt gay." We held hands and balled like parting lovers, for crying out loud...
During that same experience (fungi) I came to realize how important my new work companion was. I've only been working at this new job for a couple months; he started exactly a week after I did. He's a fucking genius and I always wondered what he was doing here. He's got to be in his late fifties or early sixties (I never asked); I'm 21. Yet despite our "age barrier" we had many, many conversations about many meaningful things. He was a kindred spirit, really...and far more mentally "advanced" than I. He had adopted a philosophy of "all untestable, unprovable beliefs are essentially worthless." I often consider myself to be a decent skeptic, but he often caught me off guard with his observations of myself.
He had a lot of contempt for "psychics" and other hucksters who thrive off of the gullible, hopeful nature of their clients. He knew way too much about Windows and networking, and World War II airplanes, and writing, and photography, and... He knew so fucking much and now he's gone too. For my birthday (he'd known me a month) the nice bastard gives me this great book of military aircraft and a bottle of hot sauce (hot sauce is one of those little things in my life that helps contribute to its worthiness). I was going to repay the favor, as his birthday was three days from today.
He's not dead, mind you. Just gone. They laid him off today, because the company I work for is losing way too much money to justify their staff size. From the day he was hired I wondered why they needed him, as all of us are pretty bored most of the time, desperate for something to occupy the time with.
He was a well-educated Mensa member (he didn't brag; it was on his resume though, so we never stopped hounding him about it) who seemed to be capable of talking about anything. He was often amazed at what I know, which made me feel good about myself--which is always good when you're convinced you have no purpose for being alive. He often complemented my intelligence and slightly (without being annoying) badgered me on a regular basis to go back to school. During my fungi-trip, I realized how much like a father figure he really was, and I wondered if he ever had children. It was like he was sent down from the heavens above (though he, like I, completely disbelieves in Heaven) as a completely unbiased source of reason (read: not my real mother or father) in order to guide me back down the right track. And the son-of-a-bitch was funny too! He could pull puns right out of the air.
But now he's been laid off, and I must speak of him in the past tense. The shitty thing is, I knew it was going to happen about two hours in advance. I don't know why the fuckers told me. And then, two hours later, a human resources woman comes knocking on the door (accompanied by an escort) and asks to "speak with him for a minute." He said "see ya," as if he was fully aware (of course he was) of what was going on. And now, for all intents and purposes, he's dead. What the hell am I supposed to do, look him up and go to the movies with him? Losing work friends can be so hard, because any other environment just seems weird after that. Fuck.