Things change, and people change, and sometimes things that happen make people change.
For a while now, observing the way my own life is going, I've been thinking of writing about some of these changes.
The one I'm talking about today is nearly a taboo, I think.
And since I didn't manage to write a straightforward blog post about it, I've worked it into my novel "Under The Same Sun".
Here's my protagonist, Jon Stone, talking about friendship, and how it changes when your life changes.
He says it better than I ever could.
“I’ve always wanted to ask this,” Kevin continued, “Do do you even have any friends outside showbiz, Jon? Do you meet people other than those you work with, or family?”
“You asked me almost the same thing last year,” Jon replied, his voice quiet and deep, “Funny you should return to this. No, I don’t have any friends outside showbiz or the family.” He stopped and stared out into the darkness of the yard. “Naomi’s cousin Ferro and I were talking about this the other day, in his studio. He said his life was gradually getting lonelier. Family and some fellow artists, that’s basically it. I know what he’s talking about.”
“What do you mean?” Sarah watched him curiously, her head tilted and her mouth pursed, which made her look even more bird-like than usual.
“Something weird happens when you are successful.” Pushing away from the table, Jon lit a cigarette. Helen clucked at him, but he ignored it, giving her a guilty smirk in return. “The world shifts. The moment you announce that you’ve made it, signed your first deal, the world shifts. There is no other way to put it.” He got up and began to pace, his head lowered, as if he was trying to gather his thoughts. “I’ve thought about this often. I’ve even tried to write songs about it, but I couldn’t find the right words, it always sounded like whining.” He took another drag on his cigarette. “Which it is.”
“What do you mean, the world shifts? Are you off on one of your songwriter tangents, Jon? I just never get that stuff.” There were some sausages on the grill, and Kevin went to get them. Their aroma reminded Naomi of Positano, of parties on the terrace, and the sweetness of the nights there, compared to the oppressiveness of Brooklyn. She needed, she decided, lots of flowers for the garden of their new house, lots of Mediterranean flowers in terra-cotta pots.
“As long as you’re a nobody, struggling, hoping, your old friends will stick by you. But, once you achieve some level of success… I don’t know.” Impatiently, Jon tossed his butt into the ashtray Helen had brought out for him. “It’s almost as if your old friends think you don’t need or want them anymore once you have success and get a slice of that fame so many are after. There’s all this talk of people leaving everything behind them once they get famous and all that, but believe me, it works the other way around too. It’s like…” His hands shaped his thoughts into the air. “It’s like walking on a path, and when you take that certain turn in the road some people won’t go on with you. I don’t know why. I don’t think I’ve changed that much.” He shrugged. “I’m not a kid anymore, but I’m not a totally different person either.” More animated, he sat down again, sliced into one of the sausages and took a bite. “Do you remember Declan from high school? The guy I used to hang out with all the time, the one who would cheer me on like no one else? He’d come downtown whenever I had a gig.”
“Well, a couple of months after I had signed my first record deal he told me he didn’t want to hang with me anymore because all I did was talk about the studio and the recordings and stuff. He said it in a very friendly and regretful way, but he did say it, and it broke my heart. I couldn’t understand why my breakthrough would change anything. Why would being a successful artist turn me into someone else in my friends’ eyes. I don’t know. Declan was the worst, though. We had been so close, real buddies. We had a great time. And then he dropped me, just like that.” His hand hovered over the plate with the meat, and he picked out a kebab skewer. “It felt like being punished. It felt like being punished for being successful.” The pieces of pork dropped on to his plate as he pushed them off the skewer, right into the ketchup. “I’ve been careful with people outside the biz ever since. I’m not going to waste my time on useless friendships. They don’t understand anyway. They don’t understand the way we live. They think it’s all song and dance and glitzy parties. The work part, the loneliness, the many silent hours spent working on the songs, they don’t see that. The drive to be creative, to shape something new, they can’t understand that. They only see the stage, the opening nights, the tuxedoes and evening gowns.”
Jon stopped talking to pop a tomato into his mouth and wash it down with a swallow of beer.
“How did Ferro put it? Something about friendship and love turning…” Naomi asked into the silence. Everyone was looking at Jon, Helen with a trace of sadness in her face, Kevin in puzzlement, and Sarah with disbelief.
“Ferro?” The beer bottle empty, Jon placed it on the floor beside his chair. “He said that friendship and love turned into admiration, and admiration into distance. How the expectation that you would move away into stardom made people pull back, when you yourself don’t mean to distance yourself. And how he stood by and watched it happen to him after his first exhibition in Rome. Instead of cementing old friendships, it killed them.”
Naomi recalled her own chat with Ferro, when he told her there was no woman in his life, and how hard it was to fit both his art and love for a girl into one life. She lowered her gaze to her wedding ring and the big diamond Jon had given her that day in London when he had asker her to marry him.
“So, I don’t have friends outside the music business.” A small, bitter laugh escaped Jon. “Hell, I don’t have a lot of friends at all, for that matter. Well, I do, but not buddy friends. Not friends who laze on the couch with me on a Saturday afternoon, order in pizza, and watch football.”
“Ferro said he had no place for a woman in his life,” Naomi’s words made him shift so he could see her better.
“No wonder, he’s hiding in that studio and that church of his all day long.” Jon laughed. “I wonder if he can even look at a woman without seeing a potential model in her.”
She smiled at him. “You’re not like that. You have enough space for a wife.”
“Yes.” He took her hand in his. “But I don’t think I’d be married if it wasn’t for you. I don’t think I could tolerate anyone else in my life day in day out. I need the woman who would buy a Steinway for me, before buying a coffeemaker for herself.”
“But Jon.” Naomi leaned toward him, ignoring the rest of the family. “You would buy a coffee maker for me before getting a piano for yourself.”
“Yes. Yes. I would. I’d buy you the best espresso machine in the world.”
He bent forward to plant his lips on hers lightly, until Helen said, “We get it. You may stop, Jon, please. Why don’t you go and get us some wine from the fridge instead. There’s a good boy.”
“See?” Jon sighed, rising, “At least here I’m still my old, normal self. My Mom’s errandboy, that’s me.”