Wednesday 18 September 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Who wants to live forever?


Illustration: Ben Hickey
Illustration: Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

'That hair isn't grey, says the wife. - It's silver, look. They both have matching hair. She's right. She often is. We've been watching all these ads that are aimed at older people. People like ourselves, except we don't have matching silver hair. We don't usually pay attention to the ads. We record what we want to watch and charge through the ads. But we're watching some crime thing and I have the remote pointed at the telly, flying through the ads, when the wife shouts - Stop! I do.

- Go back a bit. And I do.

It's an ad for some investment bank or something, but the bit that interests the wife is the silver-haired couple. They're somewhere exotic, looking out at the sea, and the silver-haired woman puts her hand on silver-haired man's arse and squeezes it.

- Look at his hair, says the wife.

- It isn't as silver as hers, I say. - It's darker. It's mostly black. He's younger.

- The ad is aimed at women, says the wife. - It's mostly women that watch the whodunnits.

- So what's the message? I ask.

- You too can have a handsome man and a life like this, if you invest with us, says the wife.

- He's not handsome, is he?

- Where's our money invested, Charlie?

- In the fridge, I tell her. - Is he handsome? She doesn't answer. But anyway, that's what has us skipping through the programmes and watching the ads instead. All the silver-haired couples, laughing - laughing together, for Jaysis sake! - and strolling along beaches with no plastic bottles lying around or fat kids getting in the way. They all have their own personal beach and, wherever they are, the sun always seems to be going down. That must be weird, living in a constant teatime.

- Your man isn't handsome, is he?

She still won't answer. - They always wear linen trousers, she says instead.

- Maybe they share the same pair, I suggest. - The lads in the ads.

All those silver-haired men in the ads for banks and health insurance - they've only the one pair of white linen trousers between them. - It's not white, says the wife. - It's off-white.

- Dirty.

- Basically, yeah.

There's another thing: they're never alone. - Always the happy couple, says the wife. I do my modern bit.

- And heterosexual, I say.

- That's true as well, she says. - Weird.

You'd swear the way we talk, we were the only straight married couple living on our road. We're a pair of chancers, really.


- Would you ever wear linen trousers, Charlie? she asks.

- Trousers made of hankies? I say. - No way.

She takes the remote; I surrender it willingly. She pauses the latest happy couple just as they clink glasses in a restaurant full of other well-preserved, white heterosexual couples - not a baby or a drunk teenager in sight.

- How many of these ads have we watched tonight?

- About 20, I say.

- Was there even one of them that made you think, "I'd like to be like that?"

- Not really, no.

- Same here, she says.

- That's a relief, I say. - And anyway, Dollymount's only down the road and my weather app says there might be a bit of sun next Thursday.

- Can you remember one product they were advertising? she asks.

- Nope.

- I've a theory, she says.

Any theory of the wife's is going to be worth listening to. She predicted years ago that the scientists would eventually change their minds and announce that smoking is actually good for us. She's not always right but she's always entertaining - and she still might be right about the smoking. I've 20 Major hidden in the attic, just in case. Anyway.

- Immortality, she says now.

- What?

- That's what they're trying to sell us, she says. - They're trying to convince us that if we hand over everything we have, then we'll live forever.

She's probably right.

- That's mad, I say.

- Doesn't matter, she says. - Nobody wants to get old, so they're telling us we can buy an everlasting life. Just as long as we keep handing over the money.

- Do you want to be immortal? I ask her.

- No, she says.

- Do you want to die?

- No, she says. - Of course, I don't. But it's part of the package, isn't it?

- I suppose so.

I have a thought of my own.

- What about the radio ads? I say.

- What about them?

- Well, I say. - They're all about old-folks' homes and homecare packages and going deaf and that. They're depressing, not a hint of immortality. How come?

- They can't put silver hair on the radio, she says.

- Is it as simple as that?

- If they could put hair on the radio, we'd all be immortal. Pass the Pringles there, Charlie. Your silver-haired lover is starving.

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