Ladies and Gentlemen, the One and Lonely
Why friendships fail to endure.
At one point they were shouting death threats at us.
Halfway into our set, the whole front row out of an audience of hundreds of people started calling our singer a bitch, gesturing throat-slits and shouting “Get the fuck out of the stage.”
Or as we call it in Spain: a party.
I’ve met a lot of people in the live music scene, and to their merit, only a negligible percentage wanted to kill me. The rest of them were quite lovely.
That’s the reason I don’t understand how I managed to cash out of the business without making a single, proper friendship. I made acquaintances, sure, but I’m still a Starsky without his Hutch, in a sense.
And don’t get me wrong: as an artist-hermit archetype, I’d be thrilled to keep it that way.
But I’ve read far too much literature on the psychological perils of isolation (that’s a Friday night when no one ever invites you for supper over zoom call). Since I quit live music in 2018, the most crowded event I’ve attended is a supermarket on a Saturday. Read: I need a contingency plan.
Friendship is a necessity. We’ve evolved for it. If an ancestor had an encounter with a sabertooth tiger, an entourage of fellow cavemen will give him a survival edge. Troglodyte mavericks might’ve looked badass, but they didn’t get to spread their genes.
I can’t find sabertooths in my neighbourhood, but I can figure out what’s spoiling my friendships after I leave the spaces they were conceived in. Or as old Carnegie would say: let’s put on a smile and call everyone by their name.
Group bathtub— and how to pee without dropping the cigar
Daniel and I decided we were going to share a bathtub.
It was purely as a joint effort: we were trying to lure a girl in, and the whole manoeuvre would’ve failed had we grown all finicky about it.
The girl jumped in, but something more important was happening. I felt that moment as the baptism of our camaraderie. Once you share a bathtub you can’t go back to handshakes.
To cement the bonding, that same night we had a gig. It was in a small, intimate rock pub. The stage was so petite I could taste my band mates’ armpits.
After having a little post-gig chat with the crowd and politely gulping the usual shot invitations, we were offered an unusual gift: a Cuban cigar.
Daniel and I took it to the restroom, and as we piddled and polluted, I remember thinking “Well, sharing baths is routine, restrooms are commonplace, cigars are not unheard of — but put the three together, and we’ve something special going on here.”
I thought these anecdotes, these little trinkets of companionship, made for a good friendship. Now I realize that’d be like saying souvenirs made for a good trip.
There’s really no need to go more exotic than the office or the coffee shop, believe me. I’ve dived in crowded bathtubs, travelled in car trunks, performed in stages big enough to serve as the reserve of endangered panda cubs — and thought myself popular for the long haul.
Now, Daniel and I only text once a year for his birthday. Sharing odd spaces made us feel close, but they didn’t make us stick together. When we ran out of common places, our fellowship dissolved quickly after. Sort of like bath salts in an empty tub.
Prison jams — and how to care for a friend’s mother
As it’s natural, we were vigorously bad at music in the beginning. Not bad enough to be considered a felony — however, we did spend the first couple of years in prison.
A friend had a rehearsal room in one of the recreational facilities for employees there. It had a couch, a vending machine, and a foosball: the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. “If I ever do crime I shall hide in here,” I used to tease. “No one would search for a loose criminal inside the walls of a prison.”
We spent a lot of time in that room. You’d think the mere proximity and the length of time are enough to brew brotherhood, and you’d be wrong.
Most of the time, what we think is friendship, in reality, is just comfort. Inside that prison room, we bred familiarity and comfort in each other. And that’s fine. People who turn to friends for comfort will likely find it. What I don’t think they’ll find is friendship.
I learned this during a conversation with Daniel about our mothers. I told him how mine had a pinched nerve, was passing out of pain, and it was terrifying to see her in that agonizing state. He told me how his mother’s migraine’s medication was so strong it sometimes made her clock out of reality, as if she went away, leaving but a lobotomised carcass behind, and how terrifying it was to think that, one day, she might not be able to return.
Fuck tubs, shots, cigars and comfort. Through our mums, we closed a gap to greater trust and respect that couldn’t have been bridged by any measure of length.
At one point, length of time does for a friendship what a camouflage print does for a golf ball: things take longer, without necessity. What matters is not the length of time, but the depth of the moment. We can keep relationships jolly, brief and shallow; and we can watch them expire. Or we can share a piece of us and get vulnerable, for without that openness we only get to know half of someone — and half of ourselves.
Risky stages — and how to have titanium ovaries
In retrospect, that night of death threats was a missed bonding opportunity.
My plan was to call a tactical retreat, curse the event organisers for their terrible audience research, and laugh it off over some wine.
But I wasn’t the one calling the shots that day.
Beatriz, our singer, showed some Napoleonic leadership by lifting her mic and saying “We’re gonna finish the set. For the people who are enjoying it.”
We did, and they were. In the heat of the moment, we only saw the angry mob, strategically positioned in the front to make our job harder. But most people were having a good time. Eventually, the rioters shut up and let us finish the set.
Beatriz looked shell shocked afterwards. It takes titanium ovaries to get onstage, hold a mic, and challenge a crowd.
I could’ve made that into a “depth” moment, but I chose to keep things jolly, brief and shallow. I told a couple of dismissive jokes and went to get a hotdog.
Well, if friendship is an art, I was not born with a natural talent for it. The good news is that it doesn’t take much to remedy this: just being spontaneously vulnerable when the opportunity arises will do. That’s how friendship transcends the space it was conceived in.
One day I’ll be a natural at it. That’s not to say I’ll stop sharing bubble baths with other people.