Sunday 22 September 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: 'I've been a bit nervous lately because of my low blood pressure'


Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

Do you have any of the health stuff? I ask the Secret Woman. We're in the local, same as always, two fresh pints in front of us. - Health stuff? he says.

- Yeah.

- Like issues? he says. - Health issues? Is that what you mean?

He knows exactly what I mean and I want to tell him to stop acting the b****x. But I don't know if I'm allowed to say that to a man who identifies as a woman. So…

- Yeah, I say. - Issues. Do you have any?

I've been a bit nervous lately because of my low blood pressure. I'm getting down off my stool and I'm taking it slowly - so slowly my feet haven't touched the floor yet. I take a gulp from my pint on the way down. I'm being a bit careful because I don't want to faint. And I hate that.

- I've a few issues, says the Secret Woman. - Yeah.

- I've low blood pressure, myself, I tell him. - Did I tell you?

- You did, yeah.

- Did I?

- You've told me every night for the past week, he says.

My toes have made contact with the floor tiles. I'm on solid ground.

- You were never a bitch before you decided you were a woman, I tell him. And I stride carefully to the Gents.

I've never been wild, and my idea of impetuous behaviour is leaving my jacket behind when I'm walking out of the house. But I hate having to be careful. I hate being told that I have to be careful. 'Look after yourself', 'just be a bit careful', 'take it easy now' - they're not the words of advice an ageing man should have to hear. I used to say them to my kids when they were toddlers. Now I'm saying them to myself, and probably out loud, as I step back from the urinal.

- Cop on, Charlie, I say now. - You're grand. And I throw open the jacks' door.

- You survived, says the Secret Woman.

- I did, I say. - But it was touch and go.

I hop up onto my stool, so nonchalantly I nearly miss it. My pint is there, waiting. I bring it towards me. I'm Fred Astaire; the pint is Ginger Rogers.

- This stuff's good for the blood pressure, I say. - Full of iron or something. Pregnant women used to drink it.

- Grand, says the Secret Woman. - But were they pregnant before they started drinking it?

We're back on course, two elderly lads having the craic. I'm determined I'm not going to let the blood pressure get me down. I won't mention it again and I won't think about it. From here on in, my heart can f**k off.

- Eileen keeps me up to date, the Secret Woman says.

- What?

A reminder: Eileen Pidgeon, the very first love of my life, is in some sort of torrid geriatric fling with my pal here beside me, the man who identifies as a woman. You'd need to have done honours maths to be able to figure that one out. But, anyway.

- What do you mean she keeps you up to date? I ask him, although I'm not sure I want to hear the answer.

Actually, I do want to hear the answer. I'm dying to hear it. My low blood pressure is as high as it's been in years.

- Well, he says. - She's an amazing woman, Eileen.

I don't know if he's waiting for a response. I might nod - I don't know. He goes on.

- She just has to look at my face, he says. - Or into my eyes. Or she'll be looking at me when I'm shaving, say, or making us an omelette or a salad, you know?

I definitely nod this time. I hear my neck creak. He's looking at me now, the way - I suppose - Eileen would.

- And she knows, he says.

- Knows?

- If my sugar levels are low, say. Or if my diverticulitis is at me, or that bit of osteoporosis in my shoulder. She keeps an eye on them all. Looks them up on her iPad and that. She's got a lovely way about her.

- Does she?

- I'll tell you, Charlie, he says. - Eileen could mention cataracts and make it sound like they're your most attractive feature.

- What's diverticulitis? I ask him.

- Look it up, he says. - It's one of the biggies. I could get Eileen to send you a link.

- No, I say. - You're grand.

I'm home. I get into the bed - I don't faint. The wife's still awake. She's doing her crossword.

- The blood pressure's not too bad tonight, I tell her.

- Good.

I go for it - I dive right in. - Have you ever heard of diverticulitis? I ask her.

- My God, she says. She looks at me, over her reading glasses. - It's one of the clues in the crossword here, she says. - That's gas.

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