Sunday 24 March 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: The call of nature and the sands of time…


Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

It's dark. I'm awake - or half awake. And I have to get up. The room seems warmer than it usually does in the middle of the night. I'm not complaining. The carpet's wrong, the feel of it under my feet. And the dark - it's way darker than usual. I can make nothing out, no shapes or anything. I take the two steps to the curtains. But they're not there - it's a wall. I can't see the curtains. I can't see the door. I can't see anything.

I'm bursting - I'm absolutely bursting. And it's getting worse because I can't find the bloody door. Am I even awake? I'm dying for a piss so, yes, I am - I'm definitely awake. But I'm after going blind.

The room bursts into light. It's the wife. She's sitting up in a bed that isn't ours.

- What's wrong with you? she asks.

- Someone stole the f***in' door!

- It's right beside you.

She's right.

But so am I. I'm standing exactly where I would be if we were at home, where the bedroom door out to the landing is. But we're not at home and I'm standing in front of stripey wallpaper. My mind is coming back. We're in a hotel in Meath, somewhere. We were at a wedding.

- I'll be back in a bit, I say, and I hop into the bathroom.

It's funny: a few seconds ago I was nearly wetting myself because I couldn't find the bedroom door but, now that I know where I am, the urge has become much more polite and civilised.

- I prefer funerals, I tell the wife when I'm getting back into the foreign bed.

She's turned off the light but she's awake.

- What?

- You know where you are with a good funeral, I say. - Bloody weddings. Whose was it, even?

- Maisie's.

- Who's Maisie?

- Alice's daughter.

- Who's Alice?

- Your sister, Charlie.

- Oh, that Alice, I say. - I thought she looked familiar. But I still prefer funerals. They make more sense.

- I agree with you, she says.

- Do you really? I ask her.

- I do, yeah, she says, and she pats my leg. - I can't wait for yours.

- You're gas.

- Go to sleep.

- Okay, I say, but I don't. I can't sleep. I'm wide awake. I lean across the wife and grab her iPad off the table beside her. And I go to to see if there's a funeral near home worth going to tomorrow.

It's funny how we see - how we perceive things. How the mind plays tricks on us, especially as we get older. A few minutes ago I couldn't find the bedroom door and my bladder started unravelling at the seams. My bladder wasn't looking for the door but, nevertheless, when I found it the bladder relaxed and started whistling as I sauntered across and lifted the toilet seat.

A chap once told me that he started bursting to go to the jacks the second he took his house keys out of his pocket, even if he was miles from home. Keys out = jacks. He tried it with someone else's keys but nothing happened; they had to be his own. I laughed at the time but these days the keys stay in my pocket till my nose is right up against the front door glass, and I make sure I'm holding the right key before I take them out. The timing is everything.


I can remember the feel of the sand under my feet when I was five and I was with my father and I got a fishing rod for my birthday. I can feel the weight of the rod and the way it was swinging, like it was trying to escape from my grip - but I can't remember the name of my sister's daughter. I know she just got married but I've no idea who she married, even though I witnessed the event less than 24 hours ago. It was boring - I remember that much. And I remember that because the wife leaned into me and whispered: "God, this is boring." She'd probably deny it but it came from the heart, and a chap in the pew right behind us went: "Hear hear."

Last week I was filling the kettle and I heard my mother saying, "Mankind's greatest invention - I don't care what they say." I didn't just remember her; I heard her, like she was beside me, like she was the one filling the kettle and I was the one looking up at her doing it. Then I forgot why I'd filled the kettle.

We rush through decades of living and then we slow down, and the living catches up with us. All the sounds and images, the happiness and grief. We only really appreciate them years after we've lived them. That's my theory. Today.

It doesn't explain the bladder, but.

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