Harold Davies had finally made it. Well, he’d been famous for a lot of things in his life, coming in and out of fashion over about 40 years. But now he was back with a bona fide smash. It was familiar ground but had eluded him for long enough now to be truly grateful for its unexpected return.
Early in your life this sort of success feeds your ego and you expend that on women who don’t really care and parties that all merge into each other until they resemble a Fellini nightmare. Pretty soon the money goes and so do the people who pretended to care.
Then you vow that next time success comes you’ll be so much wiser. But you never are.
Harold had learnt much. In fact, people came to him to ask for his wisdom in the hope that it would solve the problems in their lives. Harold tried to explain that he wasn’t born wise – in fact, he’d been an idiot – and that his wisdom was based on having made every mistake in the book during his life. But unlike most, Harold had learnt from those mistakes and this is how wisdom is acquired.
He had regrets. He’d been married three times because he was a hopeless romantic and so eager to find true happiness he kept on committing to the wrong women. Some of them were the most beautiful women in the world until you got to know them.
He came to feel that there needed to be a rehab for romantics. Women weren’t Madonnas and men weren’t Messiahs. We were just people stumbling around in the dark carrying all the baggage of our childhood and shattering other people’s lives in the process of sorting it out. Unless you were one of the lucky ones. Harold, clearly, wasn’t. He had a friend who’d been married for 40 years to the same woman and that man and his wife were as in love today as they were when they first met. Every time Harold saw them it brought a tear to his eye and he used to always tell them, “Never let each other go. You don’t realize how hard it is to find what you’ve had.”
Harold suddenly had fame and money again and beautiful women were once more noticing him and laughing at his witty conversation. And although he could’ve gone home with any of them, it didn’t matter anymore. His best was behind him and he was smart enough to know it. He no longer had the time to go through the motions. Every second now counted. This year alone seven of his friends had passed away so he was constantly being reminded of how precious time was.
He had nothing to spend his money on anymore. Maybe a few new clothes, some CDs, books he’d never find time to read, dinners with friends, and paying the rent. That was it. He could no longer be tempted by wild women, or booze, or drugs, or parties. They were all illusion and it was too painful to wake alone.
There were now plans to do a documentary on his life, even talk of being honoured by the Government, Lifetime Achievement Awards, etc., etc. But it didn’t matter anymore. Sometimes Harold was sad that some of these things would’ve meant so much to him when he was struggling and still believed, but now he had no one to impress anymore. And realized how hollow it all was.
Projects and offers were coming in daily and yet all Harold wanted to do was go home to his little apartment that he loved and put his feet up and watch mindless TV. He’d come to believe that the most precious commodities in life were peace and joy. And joy came from finding beauty in the most simple things in life. A walk in the park. The smile of a child. A bargain on the shopping list. Running into an old friend. It was certainly not found in regret, or fear, or beating yourself up over things that could no longer be changed.
He had forgiven those who had conspired to damage his career. And in the process he has forgiven himself for playing the game in the first place.
He was happy to go now. He’d lived through the greatest period of music ever – the Sixties – had met many of his idols, and no longer saw the lasting value in anything new. He’d been ruined by giants whose like we wouldn’t much see again. The pain in being too smart is that you realize all this and know you’re damned to a wasteland that doesn’t cater for you anymore.
Yes, Harold’s true friends were so pleased that he had made a comeback and was now the flavor of the month again. And Harold was pleased to see those who were pleased for him.
But there was a price for looking too long into the abyss and reporting to the public what it was like. A price for feeling things too deeply. A price for loving a son who’d been fed lies and now shunned him. A price for loving with all your heart. A price for being kind to those who betrayed you. A price.
And, as the Scriptures say….”If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Harold appreciated his new found success. But not too much. He had been taught some time ago that the road to God is through humility.
Sometimes when he thought about the wasted years and all the great things he could’ve done he felt angry but mostly sad for that young man who’d been shut out of the industry at his prime. Oh, the things he could’ve done. But now it was gone. Gone, gone, gone. And this was all we had. And in everyone’s life there is the same story.
While Harold was busy making his dinner he received a phone call from a prestigious magazine that wanted to do a feature story on him. But he declined. The editor was so stunned he phoned back to ask why Harold would refuse such a sought after honour?
All Harold could say, in his cracked voice that reflected his broken spirit, was that it was “Too late. Too late.”
The editor was still talking when Harold hung up the phone.
(c) Frank Howson 2016