And I honestly believe that if I was in an intimate partnership of my own, I would not have the benefit of such friendships, both male and female. There wouldn't be the room, perhaps.
R was one such friend. I met him about 25 years ago as a colleague in a large corporate environment where I had a contract and he was the vice-president. We liked books. We liked travel. We liked unsuperficial conversations. We liked writing. We liked theatre and long lunches. We had the gift of honesty with each other. He was a tall, attractive man and had travelled giving lectures in most countries of the world. When his mother died he came to me and told me he had to deliver the eulogy and didn't know what to say about her. He loved her deeply but words wouldn't come, apart from mawkish sentimentality.
I wrote him this, which he read at her funeral:
An Unremarkable Life
From the outside her life was unremarkable,
Simple, routined, unchangeable, solid.
Inside she was like the shelter from the storm,
Holding us close when our brother died
Even when her own heart was shattered
Leaving two sons when before there were three.
She found her comfort in her garden,
Her magic fingers teasing growth out of
Bulbs and cuttings and twigs,
Drowning our home in extravagant colour.
Undemanding, nurturing, a willing ear
To troubles, challenges, tragedies
Soft words offered when requested,
With gentle hugs and unwavering support.
All who come to honour her today
Would astonish her, for she was humble
In her kindness, never seeking spotlights
For her anonymous generosities.
She was my north star,
Constant, fearless, guiding, true
And she will never know the desert
Of emptiness we face without her.