I overheard that while standing in a queue this week, and it struck me as odd. We’ve come to accept that “just friends” means “not romantically linked”, but when I reflected on the words, I felt a bit sad.
I think friendship is the sustaining force in any relationship, romantic or otherwise, and to be called “friend” is praise of the highest order.
As someone who is lucky to have many remarkable, conscious, supportive relationships, I could never put a qualifier like “just” before the word “friend”. My friends – and they include family – are precious beyond words. And I have never been more grateful for them than in recent times.
Like amigo, it can mean “friend”, but for me compañero has many resonances. Separating it into its component parts, we get “one with whom you break bread”, so there is a faintly religious overtone when I hear it – loaves and fishes, brotherhood of man.
I associate it with my camino compañero, who first taught it to me, and whose life is defined by serving others, by sitting in the poorest of places, breaking bread and listening.
These days, I think of our word “comrade” when I hear “compañero“. In particular, I remember the young indignados – those who were calling for change back when I was in Spain, long before the Occupy movement had begun. They were peaceful, courteous and respectful, but they were warning of problems ahead, and of the loss of possibility and hope, months before politicians were prepared to confront the issues head-on.
In Santiago, I marvelled as they graffitied a slogan on a bank. They didn’t paint onto the walls, but rather, they attached large sheets of paper on which they had written their protests, not wanting to damage the building.
I think of them often, wondering about their future, and how precarious it must feel now.
I hope they have friendship to sustain them.
Words on a wall
This was written in El Raval, in Barcelona. It’s a translation from Brecht.
WAYS TO KILL
There are many ways to kill
They can stick a knife in your guts
Take away your bread
Not cure your illness
Put you into bad living conditions
Torture you to death through work
Take you to war etc.
Only a few of these things are forbidden in our city
I don’t know who wrote it, but they missed out a line: Empujarte al suicidio…
Drive you to suicide…
I hear such sadness from Spain just now – friends, pilgrims, newspaper reports, television. I hear it from Greece and Ireland too.
I also hear resilience and courage. Stoicism and humour.
I hope they are able to take some strength from friendship, camaraderie and family. I hope that they will continue to have bread to break. I hope that we who currently have much will be able to remember our luck, and help where we can.
I hope that I can be more than JUST a friend…
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