We've so few of them, these friends. There are the ones who put on a smile for you if you happen to see them (when and if), they usually begging quotations around the title of "friend," and there are the ones who remain so, past moving to other states and falling into and out of the shackles of love, where being busy and doing errands don't count as excuses for not calling and connecting, when time and distance are less obstacles than they are realities you wade past. Those latter types are the ones I'm after, those I'd stick in my pockets if it was feasible to do so. And then there are still others (this being a new category unto itself, recently discovered, like so many dinosaur bones) who you felt you were locked in with, those you had history with, those who knew your jokes and still laughed at them anyway. Only, well, they've dropped off, no right explanations accepted, like being left without a guidebook. The sense being, of course, that they've no more need for you, not in a-million, and you're left to fend without a right arm, one you'd done so many good things with before: the phantom limb never going away, not entirely. Or, maybe it does, maybe it does, given time. It's far easier to bemoan the fresh wound, though. It might be like those empty nesting parents who have to adjust to a child who has become a man and holds mom and dad in a different sort of regard than he once did, but I've no real proof of that. I simply know it hurts to have to steer around a void. You're left still alone, but only, well, decidedly more so. Especially if it happens twice, and unexpectedly, without warning. Trap doors. Pulled out rugs. Especially then. The only antidote is to be certain you're there for them, of course, whenever they need it, if they need it. You know how it should work or how it might work a little better. You have ideas. Just, for the love, don't call in the replacements. Substitute teachers never seem to slide into that left behind pair of shoes so well. And you know that full well. Too well.