Saturday 19 January 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Down memory lane with Jessica Lange


Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

Jessica Lange, says the wife.

- What?

- That's who it was, she says.

- What? I say again.

I've a feeling I'm going to spend the rest of my life stumbling around with a big 'WHAT?' hanging over my head.

- She was in 'The Postman Always Rings Twice', says the wife.

She's looking at me.

- You did ask, she says.

I say nothing. But my face must be letting me down, because the wife keeps going.

- You asked who's your woman in 'The Postman Always Rings Twice'. When you were wiping the table.

I must have been talking to myself. But that's not new. For a good few years now I've been saying things out loud without intending to, or even knowing it - until they're said. Harmless stuff, mostly - "never", "ah, Jesus", "the jacks" - words of protest or just commentary as I mosey through the day. It's embarrassing if there's someone there listening, but that's all.

But this is different - this is definitely new. I seem to have started talking to myself out loud - but I can't remember talking out loud, or the thought that sparked it.

It's terrifying.

I'm betting we all talk to ourselves. I remember when I was a kid, my father would say, every night in the winter, "Here, Charlie - go out and get the coal." "I will in me hole," I'd say to myself - and I'd go out and fill the coal bucket. I'd obeyed my father and I'd disobeyed him at the same time. My dignity remained intact, so did his, and there was great heat coming off the fire. Everyone was happy.

It's a psychological necessity, talking to yourself. Show me a man who doesn't talk to himself and I'll show you - well, I don't know exactly what I'd be showing you, but he'll probably be foaming at the mouth and holding a blood-stained mallet.

We make it through life's drudgery by silently protesting. We deal with anger, shyness, desire, boredom - all the good and the awful - by inventing away inside in our heads.

But then - I don't know why, although it happens as we get older - we start saying the silent things out loud. "The older, the wiser," said some eejit who, clearly, had never walked out of the house with his fly wide open.

The first time I was aware of it, I'd just said, "Ah, now." I was with the wife and a great looking woman had just walked past us.

I got away with that one, because we were at a wedding and the wife thought I was admiring the woman's dress.

- It is a bit fab, isn't it? she said.

- Ah, yeah, I agreed. - A lovely, eh, colour.

I swore I'd be careful; I'd never let go of a private thought again.

But I did - again and again, until it became expected.

- Well, Charlie, said the wife once, when yet another woman passed us.

- Is she an 'Ah, now' or an 'Ah, Jaysis'?

- Ah, now, I said, although the woman in question was an absolute 'Ah, Jaysis'.


I didn't want to talk out loud to myself - but at least I was aware of it. I don't have the formal research to back this up, but I'm guessing ageing boys do it a lot more often than ageing girls - or, they just get caught.


I was wiping the kitchen table and I must have thought of that scene from The Postman Always Rings Twice, your woman and Jack Nicholson getting acquainted on the table, and I couldn't think of her name. So, I asked myself who she was.

Fair enough - but I've no recollection of it. I don't remember the thought or the words.

There's nothing wrong with thinking about Jessica Lange, by the way. I've devoted a fair chunk of my life giving serious thought to Jessica, and I've never considered it time wasted.

It started when I was a young lad and I saw her in King Kong. I thought she was so gorgeous, I actually forgot the film was about a monkey. And Jessica is obviously still near the top of my thoughts - because the wife has just reminded me that the woman in The Postman Always Rings Twice is, of course, Jessica. Because, apparently, I've just made a private thought public, without even knowing it was a private thought in the first place.

Here's the thing, though. I would never forget that Jessica Lange is called Jessica Lange. Never. It's a name and a face I've recollected so often, I'll probably end up thinking that I'm Jessica Lange.

What's the wife up to?

Is she trying to drive me mad?

She has an expression on her face that I'd almost call evil, and she mutters something - "Gobs***e" - as she strolls away.

- What did you say?

- Me? she says. - Nothing. I'm not the one that talks to herself.

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