Of best friends and play overs

by Wolf Pascoe on May 17, 2011

Two best friends


What men or gods are these?
What maidens loth?
What mad pursuit?
What struggle to escape?
What pipes and timbrels?
What wild ecstasy?

Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn


“I won’t be going to Jay’s house this week,” Nick told Nora the other day.

“Oh?” she said.

“Yes, we’re really not that good friends anymore.”

The boys have been close for two years. Usually, they have a Wednesday after-school play over, alternating between Jay’s house and ours. But two days ago, Nick found out that Jay also has a standing Monday after-school play over with Indar—something he hadn’t been aware of.

“Not that good? Really?” said Nora.

“Yes. Things are just not the same.”


Nora and I have learned that “I don’t like him anymore” can be a translation of “My emotions are so intense about him that I’m out of operating range. I need a suit of armor.”

We’ve also learned not to share our translations with Nick. Maybe in the morning he’ll see the suit of armor on his bed and think it’s too much trouble to put on. Or maybe it will get up in the night and walk away. So we listen and wait for developments.

Yesterday, he came home from school full of energy.

“I wish the play over could be today,” he said.

“Oh,” said Nora.



Two more best friendsI know the intensity of these emotions, these triangles. When I was thirteen, I was friends with two boys, Robbie and Spencer. Spencer was cool, which I liked. But he could be cutting, which I didn’t, especially when he was that way with me.

One day I simply decided to focus on Robbie. I stayed friends with Spencer, but I was better friends with Robbie. It was the smartest decision I ever made. Many years passed before my choices about girls and women approached that level of smart.

Robbie and I went all through high school together. We always double-dated, Robbie chauffeuring in his mother’s old Ford wagon. One lovely girl rode with us in that car for two years, first with me in back, then with Robbie in front. There was a fireplace in her den, and a couch that went on forever.

On the track team Robbie passed the baton to me in the relay. On a trip to D.C. one autumn, we ran up the stairs to the top of the Washington monument.

We went to summer camp together. When he got a guitar, I got a banjo. We practiced together daily. The moment I got my picking down and we both heard our two instruments become one, he grew thoughtful.

“I’ll make you a deal,” he said.


“Nobody else joins this group.”

“All right,” I said.

We went to different colleges, but re-united in medical school. After that we drifted on different roads for many years, until he got sick. We connected again, one last time, while he fought his long, losing battle with runaway cells.



Tonight the moon visited large and round, and as it looked at me, I reflected on Nick and Jay. I thought of Robbie, gone ten years now, barely middle-aged.

The Trojan War

It’s said that Achilles was so stricken at the death of his friend Patroclus that he refused to allow the cremation rites, until Patroclus appeared in a dream and begged Achilles to let him go.

When his friend Hephaestion died, Alexander had to be dragged away from the body, and lay weeping in his tent for days.

I’ve cried over women and moved on. The Patroclus wound—the hurt from the loss of close male friendship—never seems to go away for good. The source of that bond isn’t erotic. It comes from some god or other, through the heart’s secret aqueduct.

The play over is on for this afternoon.

. . .



Party Politics



A Father’s burden – From TheJackB on male friendship

. . .


Any thoughts about the friends and friendship? I invite, bestir, charge, and exhort you to add your comment below. I always respond here.


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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

David Petrie May 17, 2011 at 11:18 am

Perfect. Just perfect. Thank you for sending this in time for lunch (East Coast). It made me want to drive 30 miles home and hug my boy.


Wolf Pascoe May 17, 2011 at 3:58 pm

Your comment makes me want to hug my boy.


BigLittleWolf May 17, 2011 at 11:29 am

What a gorgeous, poignant piece. And a beautiful tribute to friendship.


Wolf Pascoe May 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Thank you, other wolf.


alameda May 17, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Is the bond so strong because we share our souls with that one friend, something we can never do again for the rest of our lives?


Wolf Pascoe May 17, 2011 at 4:00 pm

Youth has something to do with it, I think.


Kristen @ Motherese May 17, 2011 at 2:16 pm

Hi Wolf,

Your remarkable piece gives me insight, I think, to some of my husband’s waxing and waning long-term friendships and makes me ache in advance for the relationships that my small sons will forge and forget in the years ahead. (And thank you for sharing the citations for the classics. They brought to mind a stirring scene from Pat Barker’s World War I trilogy, when a former soldier takes to the woods naked and raving to lament his fallen comrades. Wish I could remember the soldier’s name, or even which of the three books the scene was in.)

I’m sorry that it’s taken me so long to get over here for a visit, but I promise I will be back.


Wolf Pascoe May 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Hi Kristen,

Oh, those lost poets. They said the poppies in the fields of France were red from all the soldiers who died there …

I’m glad you’re back at the helm, and honored you’ve dropped by.


Charles Bernstein May 17, 2011 at 10:06 pm

As always, touching and thought provoking.


Wolf Pascoe May 17, 2011 at 10:19 pm

Thanks for stopping by, Charles.


Barbara May 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm

What a beautiful post and tribute to friendship. I’m blessed to still be connected to several childhood friends. My oldest son was lucky enough to have a friendship like this, but the ones my middle son forged haven’t stood the test of time, sadly, and same for my daughter’s. Fingers crossed they are able to reconnect one day. (My husband had 8 brothers – his lifelong friends!)


Wolf Pascoe May 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm

Early on we taught Nick the song, “Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”


Barbara Beckley May 21, 2011 at 4:29 pm

Beautiful, Wolf. Just…beautiful.


Wolf Pascoe May 22, 2011 at 2:53 pm

Thanks for the kind words, Barbara.


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