the short story project

True Friendship

Nir Baram On:

True Friendship by Jorge F. Hernández

The writer Jorge Hernandez is probably the most fascinating man I recently met. Our first encounter was at the Guadalajara book fair, and at the end of that day, while spirits were high, I asked him: “Wait, when will we meet again?” He is amusing, generous, familiar with every author from Vargas Llosa and García Márquez to the last unknown madman, he read books of all disciplines, he is an incredible impersonator and aware of the subtleties of every passing moment, he might come off as a man of masks, but in the core of his personality is an unshakable faith in human beings. This story somewhat resembles The Great Gatsby, if in one aspect alone: the moment in which our protagonist whips out the photo of Bill Burton, brings to mind the scene in which Gatsby shows Nick, who doesn’t believe a single word of his, the war decoration and a photo of the quad in Oxford University. In both cases the mystery is: who is this man? And the details revealed do not help us untangle it, but on the contrary, they only complicate it further.
The story is written with talent, with flare, with irony, without superfluous explanations, and unfolds the history of the protagonist who spent his entire life sheltered by the faith that his best friend is Bill Burton. No one but him sees Burton (although there is evidence of his existence, in the photo, at the university in the empty chair at the graduation ceremony, in the newspaper interview): he does not show up at any event in the protagonist’s life, and yet the protagonist does not doubt their friendship. There are those who yearn to merge their view of the world with the gaze of another, to have someone else fear their fears, bizarre as they may be, as much as they fear them. The desire for symbiosis, two who become (at least for some moments) one. However, sometimes this doesn’t happen, and then? Well, if the world does not grant you what you need, there is no other option but to create a different world.
Is it possible to lose control in a world that you allegedly created out of your own wild imagination, as happened to the protagonist of Stephen King’s “The Dark Half”? While reading Hernandez’s refined story I kept wondering: does an experience that happened in a dream have less impact on the soul than an experience that took place while awake? Is it possible that only the fabricated Burton can be that very wonderful friend whom the protagonist needs? Is it possible to know anything for certain in this story?