Monday 19 August 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'About last night... I went for a pint and threw my yoga mat into a skip'


Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

I'm giving mindfulness a go. I think. I can't remember what I've agreed to, exactly. I was on my way to a beginners' yoga class - I was actually at the side door of the parish hall where Rita from around the corner holds the classes - before it really dawned on me what I might be letting myself in for, and I turned back. I went for a pint and threw my yoga mat into a skip.

We used to call her Rubber Rita, me and the wife, when Rita started doing the yoga ­- oh, years ago. But the wife called her that, accidentally - it just came out, like - at a school sports day. Mother's Boxing wasn't one of the official events that day but it was the only thing that people talked about afterwards - for years.

The wife won, by the way.


The wife's worried about me. Again. Because I'm finding it hard to focus on anything.

It began two days ago - I think - when we were sitting in the car together.

- Charlie?

- What?

- Are you going to start the car?

- Eh.

For a second - less than a second - I don't know what to do. There's the moment of panic. Then I think of something.

- I think I forgot the car key.

- We're in the car, she points out.

- That's true, I say. - It must be here, somewhere.

It's in my hand.

- Jesus, Charlie, she says. - You'd forget your head.

But she's worried. Earlier, she found me in the kitchen looking for the fridge. I normally know where the fridge is but I'd left my glasses upstairs beside the bed and I was gazing at the door of the dishwasher when she walked in.

­- What're you looking for? she asked.

- The stuff.

- What stuff?

- It goes into coffee.

- Sugar?

- Milk, I said.

I'd forgotten the word. And she's worried. She's afraid she's witnessing the start of the slow disintegration of her husband's mind - and he hasn't the courage to admit to her that he's hungover.

I have the worst hangover I've had since - ever. I'm ashamed to admit this - and I'm boasting too - I went down to the shops for a couple of apples and I ended up being persuaded to go for a pint, and ended up even later in Howth, trying to commandeer one of the trawlers. We'd decided to go to Rockall for a picnic - at three in the morning. I've a feeling I came home in a Garda car and I'm afraid to look in the garage in case I was the one driving it.

Anyway, the wife thinks I've dementia and she's being really nice. So, I'm playing along and it's easy - because my mind is a very painful blank.

She persuades me to go to the yoga. It's good for something or other - I can't remember. She even buys me a Man Utd yoga mat and a pair of leggings. But I manage to duck that one, just in time. The leggings are under my jeans, by the way. The sweat! I need the pint; it's a matter of life and death.

- I was afraid I'd fart, I explain to her, later. - Or worse.

I can see: she wants to be sympathetic. Men never talk about their health and here I am, talking about mine.

- In front of Rita, I add. - We'd never live it down, love.

She nods. I've won. But she comes back at me with the mindfulness.

- Will I have to wear leggings? I ask.

She knows I'm acting the maggot now but she patiently explains mindfulness to me.

- All you have to do, she says, - is focus on the present moment.

- Grand, I say.

- Just quiet your mind, she says. - Relax your body. Be in the moment.

- Yeah, right, I say. - Have you tried that, yourself, in a house full of grandkids?

Actually, it's only the one grandkid but it might as well be Genghis Khan and his chums charging up and down the stairs. But the wife takes the little lad with her to the park. I'm alone in the front room. I'm sitting cross-legged on the couch. I thought it might impress her. Getting up again won't be easy but I'll worry about that later. I'm already being mindful. There's nothing to it.

I shut my eyes. She didn't say I had to do that but I think I saw it in a film. I think I remember Brad Pitt meditating and I'm nearly sure he closed his eyes. Anyway, I'm concentrating so hard on being in the moment that I don't notice the wife coming back into the room.

- Charlie!

I'm in the fuckin' moment now, alright. I don't know where I am, who I am, what I am.

- What?! I scream.

- There's a Garda car in the garage!

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