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On Philia and Friendship Bracelets

On Philia and Friendship Bracelets

The bonds that tie us are not the same.

And thank goodness.

The Greeks defined philia as the sort of love between good friends. It’s platonic — not the romantic sort, but a simple, genuine, and enduring bond of mutual support, respect, and admiration that one has for a dear friend.

It’s a study session in the grass in the afternoon, to which you both wore yellow florals, without even planning to. A walk by the water in the summertime, spent talking about books you’ve read, places you’d like to go, old lovers you still think of. Philia is the heart of these little interactions. There is no one else you’d rather take out for a too-expensive night on the town, to forget for a moment about the job offers you aren’t getting or the stupid things lovers so often say. Whatever else goes on outside of the bounds of it, this bond is constant, and it is enough.

It’s made of love, to be sure, and merciless honesty, the kind that those who love you less could not offer. There’s validation, too, and sometimes lies, just the sort that you know to be untrue but you choose to believe anyhow. You didn’t want that job anyway, I tell her, though we both know she did. Bigfoot lives in those woods, I laugh. She echoes. We order another gin and tonic, our voices hollow, but hanging together in the air above oysters and lemon.

There’s a certain language that grows in philia. I can tell my mother and my best friend about the same evening, but the story is different. While I might tell my mother how I liked the wine, the conversation, the way he calls me Miss, the same evening is entirely different while on the phone with my best friend hours later, early in the morning. As I twist the hem of my skirt in my fingers, different details surface: the smirk that left me speechless, the hair he brushed from my shoulder, a sideways glance from the other pillow.

Early in my life were these late night stories, back when we knew a lot less. Those carefully laid plans, one and the same with our dreamy fantasies, have materialized before us, and more than ever we lean on each other to navigate. Throughout all this growth, through our parents’ breakups, and our own, schoolwork, hot professors, dead end jobs and budding careers and god awful coworkers, there was always this constant, the most genuine relationship I have ever known.

Stashed away I still have the matching hemp cord bracelets that we wore throughout middle school. The act of tying the cord around her wrist and having her do the same was a tangible reminder of our bond, outwardly signifying the friendship that made us like sisters. This, in itself, was a different sort of language. Silent, but significant, and constant. I twist the cord in my hands, remembering. I never imagined how, but it has somehow grown deeper, as everything else has. Philia, the corded bracelet says. Friendship.