Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: No man is an island…
I haven't gone for a pint in ages. That's a bit of a fib - it's a lie. I've been out for a pint a fair few times. But I haven't gone to my local. I've walked in the opposite direction, to a pub that's nearer the house but definitely isn't my local.
I've sat there on my own - no one to talk to, no one I want to talk to. If the Canadian geese migrate to Dublin every winter, then all of Dublin's gobshites migrate to this place every night. It's like a gobshite zoo - it has every variety. And it leaves me wondering: am I a gobshite too?
I'm miserable most of the time; it seems to be my natural state. But there's a big difference between being happily miserable and being just miserable. And sitting in that place on my own, nursing a sloppy pint that was pulled by a barman who's more interested in his beard than in his profession - well, I'm just miserable. I've even started wearing my reading glasses on my head, so I can read my phone while I'm there. That's how f****** miserable I am.
The glasses on the head - the wife doesn't like the look.
- When did your dandruff start reading, Charlie? she says.
I don't even defend myself and my dandruff - or the absence of it.
I miss my buddy, the Secret Woman. The time has come to name him. His name is Martin and I miss him.
We didn't have a row, exactly - although that's what I told the wife. Martin came with me when I was going to meet Eileen Pidgeon in Greystones a few months back. Eileen was my first real girlfriend. We went with each other for two days and a bit; that's a life-long commitment when you're 16 and you measure your life in hours. I met her again on Facebook. I'll be honest: I went out of my way to meet her on Facebook.
I'm definitely a gobshite.
So anyway, we were in a café in Greystones, myself, Eileen and Martin. I went to the jacks and the other pair availed of the opportunity to get off with each other. They were holding hands - or they had been, if that makes sense - when I got back. And - I'll be honest again - I was happy enough to have the excuse to storm out and leg it home.
But it was humiliating. Martin told me just after Christmas that he identified as a woman, so I'd never have expected him to do the dirty on me. And he'd also assured me, hand on heart, that he wasn't a lesbian. I know, we're living in an age of what I think the daughter calls gender fluidity, and I'm grand with it - or I'm trying to be. But Martin with Eileen - that was just having his cake and eating it.
So, sitting on the DART out of Greystones, I was relieved but hurt. And I haven't seen Martin since. I've been tempted to text him or just wander up to the local. But I'm afraid of what I might find there: Eileen Pidgeon with her arse parked on the stool where my arse should be.
I don't want to meet Eileen.
Listen: I'm a happily married man - although I'm not sure what 'happily married' actually means. We've been together more than 40 years and I can't say I've been deliriously happy all that time. But I'm betting that I've been happier because I've been sharing the years - the house, the kids, the grandkids, the bed, the crisps, the books, the hoodies, the laughs and the grief - with her. She walks into the room and I sit up. She kisses me like she means it. She laughs at my jokes, especially the intentional ones. And she makes me laugh.
I love her. Simple as that. And as complicated.
So I don't want to see Eileen Pidgeon.
But I do want to see Martin. A man without friends isn't really a man. I've no idea what that means - but it feels true.
So I send him a text. The usual text - or what used to be the usual one. 'Pint?' I'm not waiting long; he's back in 20 seconds. 'Yep.'
So far, so good.
I tell the wife.
- I'm going for a pint with Martin.
- I'm glad, she says.
- Yeah, I say. - I texted him.
- Good, she says.
She hugs me.
- You even shaved for the occasion, she says.
- I did.
- And you're wearing your Old Spice, she says.
- I am.
She pats my chest.
- And your Jamie Redknapp shirt.
- And you ironed it and all.
- To meet Martin…
- Well, I say. - Like, it feels a bit special.
- I know, she says, and she kisses me.
I really, really - true as God - do not want to meet Eileen Pidgeon.