Ralph won a prestigious award for one of his paintings. It made him feel good. So later, when he saw his friend, he told him about it.
His friend pretended to be surprised, less at the award than Ralph’s passion that he so rarely spoke about.
“I didn’t know you were still painting,” the friend said.
It made Ralph’s friend feel good to know somebody who’d won a prestigious award.
“You didn’t know cause you never ask.”
“I never ask because you never talk about it.”
Ralph wanted to tell his friend that he knew he never asked because he’d never cared. He knew that his friend had never cared about anything but his own creations, which had never amounted to much either. Ralph knew but he didn’t say it, imagining his abstinence made him a coward or a good friend or something in between.
“When I’ve talked about it, you never seemed interested. You never asked anything, so I had to presume you weren’t interested.”
“To be honest, I never understood it. It was too abstract.”
“Did you ever try to understand it?”
“Sure,” his friend said.
“I looked at it. I saw it. Then it didn’t make sense.”
“But, not understanding, you never asked about it. If you were interested in understanding, you might have tried by asking,” Ralph said. “You never asked about what it was. You never asked about what is was supposed to be.”
Ralph already understood the reason his friend never asked was because he always presumed himself to have the answers. Ralph understood that to his friend, Ralph was only a mere mortal, not even some kin to the gods of the arts or humanities, let alone a god itself. As such, his friend’s thoughts and ideas on anything were always superior, regardless of his knowledge or experience with any subject or object. If something didn’t attract, move or immediately make sense to him, then it was the fault of the work and its creator, never a matter of his own lack of experience or understanding.
“You’ve never asked about the work. My motivation. Nothing. So I let it be,” Ralph said. “I’m not being accusatory, I’m just stating the way it’s been. Just saying why things are the way they are.”
Ralph’s friend was growing weary of jumping through the hoops of excuses. He realized it would have been easier to admit that he’d never cared but he’d backed himself into a corner with his half-assed justifications. So, instead of lying anymore, he decided to say nothing.
After some silence, Ralph added, “Besides, it’s the same with a person’s art as it is with their religion and politics.”
“How’s that?” his friend – never one to conceal or obscure his own work – asked.
“It’s bad manners to bring it up when the other person’s not interested.”
“I was interested,” his friend defended.
“Sure,” Ralph said. “See, as a friend I didn’t wanna lay my work on you if you weren’t interested. And, as a friend, I’m not gonna make you lie about caring anymore either. It’s okay. I accept it. We’re cool.”
And suddenly, just like that, it felt far worse than before for Ralph’s friend to know somebody who’d won a prestigious award.