Today is launch day for Odd Numbers, a psychological drama about ties that bind. Not to blood relatives, but the chosen family – our friends.
Nine times out of ten, when the book is written, edited and ready to go out into the world, I realise what it’s really about. Only when I feel the fear of external eyes on my story does the issue I’m subconsciously trying to address float to the surface. I always wonder why I didn’t see it sooner.
This time, it’s friendship.
Alliances, connections, groups with a common interest are all helpful, but I’m talking about close friendships, especially those that last.
“In your entire life, you can probably count your true friends on one hand. Maybe even on one finger. Those are the friends you need to cherish, and I wouldn’t trade one of them for a hundred of the other kind. I’d rather be completely alone than with a bunch of people who aren’t real. People who are just passing time.”
– Sarah Ockler, ‘Fixing Delilah’
A friend is someone who cares about you, wants you to succeed at whatever it is you want to succeed at, who is willing to chivvy and criticise if you’re not being the best you and ready to hold your hand on those days when you just can’t be the best you.
A friend in need is a friend indeed, but I believe the opposite is also true. When someone soars, it’s just as important to stand beside them, applauding and cheering. The words ‘I am so proud of you’ are the equivalent of a hug. That’s one of many lessons I learned from my mother.
At the same time, a friendship needs to grow. You can’t always be the buck-toothed clown you were in school with your mates. People change and those who care allow room for you to do that, same as you do for them. Old habits may sometimes mask a lack of observation or interest in how the other person develops.
So why write a novel about friendships based on a negative experience? Because friendship, like dysfunctional family relationships, can become toxic to one or both parties if it’s based on a false foundation.
Example: At a London Tube station after fun drinks with someone I considered a good mate, I open my purse to buy a ticket. There’s nothing but coins. All the notes are missing. I remember leaving my purse on my chair when I went to the bathroom. Next day I ask if she took my cash. Her reply? ‘I’m sorry, I just couldn’t resist.’
Example: A connection built over years fell into bad habits. I was the one to do the running, come up with ideas, make the arrangements and should my ‘friend’ find someone more interesting to talk to (usually male), I was left to my own devices. Next time she was bored and needed entertainment, I’d made other arrangements.
Example: Someone I’ve known a long time was talking about a difficult mutual acquaintance. Time, he said, doesn’t always heal. It’s like a splinter in your foot. You either tackle it and get the thing out into the open, or it goes deeper and festers.
In my life, I have a group of friends I’ve gathered from random associations over the years. Most of them have met each other because I am unashamedly sociable and love throwing parties. If I like someone, surely the others will do too, right? These people lift each other up, console the one who’s down, take holidays as a group and make memories together. I love them dearly and I know how lucky I am.
Back to the book. The incident at the heart of Odd Numbers was based on a moment of division and a true event. Around New Year’s Eve 1992, just before Czechoslovakia split into two countries, a group of us jumped naked into a hole in a frozen lake near Prague.
The difference? All of us came back.
You can find Odd Numbers here: https://geni.us/AMZ_OddNo
And here’s one of the cutest renditions ever of You Got a Friend in Me. Thank you Claire and Dad.