By what yardstick do you measure friendship?
When one is a friend, and when is one not? That is the question…
I once asked who I thought was a good friend of mine at the time, for the loan of three hundred and eighty two euro.
“What’s the two for?” he asked
“What two?” I replied
“You asked for three hundred and eighty two euro, I just want to know what the two euro is for that’s all. No harm in asking, is there?
“Oh that” I said while pretending to look over his shoulder nonchalantly at something in the distance “is the price of the booking fee”.
“The booking fee for what?” he inquired.

Christ! This was becoming more embarrassing by the moment. It was bad enough asking him for a loan in the first place. The man was worse than a tribunal judge and I’m sure if he were around during the Middle Ages, he’d have been one of the Spanish Inquisition’s rising stars. “Well, if you must know the three hundred and eighty two is to go towards a holiday”.
His countenance and his attitude changed completely. “A holiday…” he murmured. “Abigail and I haven’t been on one in years… and besides you’ve just come back from one.”
“Well”, I replied, “that’s not entirely the case: it was after all a funeral”.

“A funeral that lasted two weeks in Florida…” he said, “and what’s more, you hardly knew the man, he was just a friend of your girlfriend’s father. It’s not like you were bosom buddies and all-”. He was about to utter something else but stopped short at that.
There was no point in taking this conversation any further. Because he was the type of person who would ask you how and where you would spend his precious money, that’s if a body were lucky enough to get his hands on it in the first place. I knew I shouldn’t have asked the tight arsed bastard for anything. Now I knew the rumors to be true that not only had he still hung on to his communion money, but that he was also capable of peeling oranges in his pocket as well.

The saying that pride comes before a fall wasn’t exactly the case with me. I fell on my pride, and then some. Besides, I couldn’t really tell him what I needed the money for. It was personal and private and I was desperate. Before I knew it the words just flew out of my mouth, let loose like the arrow from its bow. And as soon as I’d uttered them I instantly regretted it.
“Do you think you could see yourself to lending me two hundred euro instead?” I said, trying to hold on what dignity I had left, which was about four miles away and still running.

“Do you think I have money to burn?”  He looked at me as though I were some depleted half wit once removed, before continuing, “If it were for something on a more serious note I just might consider lending you what you need…but certainly not for what you have in mind. And anyway, if I had that kind of money to throw away, do you not think that Abigail and I would spend it on a break for ourselves?”

At this point I knew the game was up, lost, gone. And the words that had cost me so much to say were now reverberating around the universe. I swear I could hear an echo…
“Look I’m sorry about this and all…but I hope you can see it from my point of view, I’m just not in a position to facilitate your request at this point in time and anyway, Abigail would go mental if I did”.

I snapped out of my paralyzed rejection and launched my response:
“ Facilitation has never been one of your stronger qualities and quite frankly, I don’t give two flying throws by a dodgy Albanian javelin thrower if you and Abigail ever go on holiday, and I doubt that ever happening; seeing as the price of the booking fee of two euro means so much to you, and if you do ever consider taking one, it’ll be into a nursing home for the trip of a lifetime where the grass is green, the tea is tepid and the Zimmer frames are serviced once a month.”
Trying to muster up of what was left of my dignity and his two friends pride and self-respect, I continued.

“I’m so sorry for taking up your precious time, for having the temerity to ask you for such an inordinate amount of money. Three hundred and eighty euro to be precise, reduced to two hundred, and if you think I’ll drop below that amount you’re very much mistaken. I do have my principles. The best thing you can do with your money is to put it were the sun doesn’t shine” and on that note I turned on my heels and walked away.

I was fuming; you’d have thought I’d asked him for his life savings. I wasn’t asking for a bloody handout. God help poor Abigail if she ever gets to go on a holiday because wherever it is she won’t have any money to spend. I couldn’t believe it, we were very good friends but I suppose when you bring money into the equation it can sometimes distort  a friendship, and in this case it did more than that- it ended one! In my opinion there is nothing worse than borrowing or lending money to friends unless the action is carried out with a heart and a half, given without conditions or enquiry into the nature of that loan.

That particular incident seems as if it happened only yesterday although it was only eighteen months ago and when I think of it (and I do from time to time), it really galls me. Carl Jung calls this the shadow side, otherwise known as the ego at work. Yeah…but I bet he didn’t have a friend like that, or maybe he did and they were honorary members of the Shadow Club. There you see! I’m still carrying the scars of shame with me. You see the thing about good friends is that when you really need them, they should be there for you. Well they should! Shouldn’t they?

Anyway I’ve been thinking about some of my old friends lately, and to be honest with you they’re no longer my old friends anymore. Sad when you think about, but what can you do. Let me tell you about Billy Jones, he was what you would call nowadays your VBF (very best friend). Billy and I went to school together, from infants through to college, and I can’t understand why or figure out why he no longer speaks to me, all I can tell you is, I was really hurt when I didn’t receive an invitation to his wedding.

I happened to bump into Billy by accident some months back, and before he could get away from me I asked him why he no longer will have anything more to do with me, and all he would say was that I had insulted his wife. When I asked him how or what it was that I was supposed to have said to his beloved wife, he replied in a most aggressive tone was. “You know what you said about Wendy…you know damn well what you said” and then he just pushed right past me without the chance of any reply.

I never insulted the beautiful Wendy, his wife; but I do remember well how both Billy and I, and Billy in particular would often comment on (the beautiful Wendy) as she was known to one and all. Of how on entering this world (the beautiful Wendy) must have hit every branch of the ugly tree on the way down and that on landing at the bottom there was another posse gathered therein with clubs to give the poor girl more slaps to make sure she stayed that way. Perhaps Billy is reminded by these conversations. Which I might add happened on a regular basis about the girl she was, before she became his wife. This I suspect is the real reason why he no longer speaks to me, the fact that he and I shared in these intimate discussions is probably more than he can bear.  Mind you in fairness (the beautiful Wendy) although a hideous creature is also encumbered with more handicaps than one should have in one lifetime, notably her gift of passing wind and her enjoyment of invariably blaming somebody else for the deed. Good luck to them both, they will need all the help they can get in the future.

That brings to another good friend of mine although not a (VBF) but a very good one none- the- less. Joseph Benjamin Jacob Slingoff to give him his full and proper title commonly known to his friends as just plain Joe. We met through a mutual acquaintance of ours and seemed to hit it off almost immediately.
Well guess what? Joe no longer speaks to me either. We were up until a few months ago the best of buddies, often going on holidays and football matches together. Joe Slingoff through rapid promotion is now an executive with one those big banks: and getting a loan from Joe was no trouble at all. Incidentally Joe had encouraged yours truly to go into business; only now my business like the Titanic has hit an iceberg and has sunk to the bottom of the ocean, perhaps an intrepid explorer will come along some day and make a better go of it than I, and I hope it’s sooner rather than later because I’m in the deep brown stuff up to my neck.
Needless to say I’ve tried contacting Joe for advice as well as help but all I get from Joe Slingoff now is incessant text messages, with alarming regularity, to my mobile phone bearing the legend. (Your overdraft needs urgent attention!)

What kind of message is that to send to a friend in distress? What kind of help is that you might ask? Sweet fanny Adams is all it is, no good to man or beast… It’s not entirely my fault my business has gone tits up, in fact if wasn’t for Joe on insisting on me taking the loan in the first place, I wouldn’t be facing penury and shame. Some friend Joe Benjamin Jacob Slingoff has turned out to be.

My father used to say that friends in need were a bloody nuisance. Well I guess you could say that I’m a bloody nuisance who’s in need, and out of friends. I do not seek pity or sympathy but I do expect some form of loyalty from friends especially supposedly good ones. Another saying from my father was you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends; well he’s wrong about that one! Come to think of it, my father was a man full of strange sayings. In fact my father was a strange man, but maybe he wished to impart pearls of wisdom to a son he felt, would find the path through life: a hard and arduous one. Who knows?
Over the course of the last eighteen months I have lost, who I had mistakenly called good friends.  One to the curse of an ugly woman and two; to the love of money, so what does that tell you? What lessons can be learned from this harsh and unwarranted experience?

One: never let money issues come between friends, it destroys friendship as it did with two of my dear friends as they thought more of the value of money than the value of genuine friendship.
Two: never have anything to do with an ugly woman, and I don’t just mean ugly on the outside but ugly on the inside as well. She’s more trouble than you can ever imagine, believe me I know.
Anyway I have Molly now, we’ve been together for eight months, she understands me, puts up with my moods, has no issues with money, and loves me unconditionally as I her, never an angry word from Molly you see she’s this man’s best friend.

Michael Mullins

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