Essie and I were having a typical chika session over canton in college when she started talking about this guy Carlo from our org.
“Do you think Carlo has friends?” Essie asked.
“Um, us?” I said. “Aren’t we his friends?”
“Sure,” she said. “But if you’re in grave danger, would you turn to him for help? Or if he’s in serious trouble, would you risk your life for him?”
My answer, at least at that time, was no. Maybe not.
So thus began our lunch-long conversation about friends and friendships. What makes a friend? When do we consider a friend, a friend?
I don’t recall the details anymore but Essie and I eventually settled with what we named the “Dead Body Theory of Friendship.” The premise is simple: if you killed a person by accident (hopefully by accident) and you needed help with disposing the dead body, who would you run to for help? The people that come to mind are your closest, most trusted friends.
The concept is a little extreme (and probably unoriginal), but Essie and I agreed that humans don’t need a lot of friends anyway. Classmates, colleagues, drinking buddies — they’re only acquaintances, not friends. True tests of friendship, at least in hypothetical scenarios, are most effective in the most heinous of circumstances.
So this “dead body theory” is essentially a made-up mental exercise that encourages us to examine our friendships based on the virtues of trust and confidence. Can we trust Friend A to not rat us out to the police? Are we confident that if we knock on Friend B’s door, he will immediately grab that shovel and help us dig that grave?
There are loopholes to this theory for sure, especially if we parse it down to specifics. Like, what if Friend C is a trusted friend but she’s also a useless tactician with the strategy skills of a potato? Would we still trust her with a homicide cover-up? And what if Friend D already has a family of his own — should we still approach him knowing that we could potentially break a family if we get caught?
Now that I’m older, I wonder how people in long-term relationships would handle this question. Should our significant other be the automatic go-to? Could this theory also be a good measure of how strong a relationship is?
But if we’re really a good friend to our friends, why would we even drag them into this murderous mess in the first place? I suppose if one has to fly solo, they can always go the PNP route and frame the poor victim with a cardboard that says “ADIK AKO.” Ay shet. This theory sure did not age well, ‘no?
To be honest though, I currently don’t have any friends to run to all. All my closest friends live far, and that’s why this theory has resurrected in my memory after so many years. I think I’ve become Carlo; I’ve become the person other people worry about for not having any friends. Malungkot ang buhay dito, mga anak.
But maybe this theory is ultimately pointless anyway. For some reason it just made a lot of sense to me when I was 18.
“How many people do you have in mind?” Essie asked.
“Lima lang,” I told her. “You?”
“Same,” she said. I never asked her if I was one of hers.
She was definitely one of mine.
The feature image is a sketch I drew on a Sunday afternoon while drinking beer and listening to Pure Heroine. The girl on the image was roughly patterned after this.