In late November 2010 I attended a benefit concert for the musician Harvey James who was bravely battling cancer. Halfway through the night my dear friend Dominic Barbuto sought me out in the crowd and took my hand. He stared at me and said, “You have to do this. It’s part of the healing process,” and with that he turned and led me through the packed auditorium, and out into the back garden where many were drinking.

Still holding my hand he approached a man I didn’t initially recognize and introduced us. Dom then let go of my hand and walked away, disappearing back into the crowd, leaving me facing my ex-business partner for the first time in over 15 years. Here I was gazing at a man I had once wanted to kill at the very height of our battle. Or was it a little later when I was standing in the ruins of a life? I’d long wondered what I’d do if this occasion ever eventuated and had said to friends that I would hope all the anger had dissipated. For that would confirm to me that I was free of the chains of bitterness and anger that keep you from moving forward.

My ex-business partner held out his hand and said, “Hello Frank – how are you?” And I replied, “I’m good, how are you?” I looked down at his outstretched hand for some time and it suddenly seemed silly not to shake it. We were no longer those determined young boys who almost conquered the world – and ourselves – we were old men now and what did it matter? Both of us looked like we’d been hit by Life in different ways. I told him, “I almost went to jail over things you did.” To which he smiled and replied, “Oh that’s nothing. It’s cost me $8 million to stay out of jail and they’re still after me!” He seemed proud of it.

Proud of the fact that all that money we’d made through blood, sweat, tears and talent had gone to lawyers. He then introduced me to his female companion. I don’t think she even knew who I was. Why would she? It meant nothing to the here and now. It was all in the past. A glorious, exhilarating, traumatic, bittersweet time that was gone, gone, gone.

After our conversation I went back inside and listened to Harvey James literally playing for his life. Yeah. That was something that did matter. I had a few more drinks and then stumbled out into the night. Although it was a cold night I felt warm inside. The kind of warmth that only comes with letting go.

(c) Frank Howson 2014

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