Saturday 24 August 2019

Roddy Doyle's Charlie Savage: Meditation 101 - finding the right mantra


Illustration by Ben Hickey
Illustration by Ben Hickey
Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

So, I'm sitting cross-legged on the floor. And I've been like this for quite a while. Hours, I'd say ­­­- even days. I think I've gone through darkness, daylight, and back into darkness. I think I've grown a beard.

I'm on the landing, by the way, away from all clocks and radios and other distractions. I've lost all contact with my legs. I can see them but I'm not convinced they're mine. I own the tracksuit bottoms - I'm half-ashamed to admit that - but the legs don't feel familiar. The legs don't feel at all, if that makes sense. They're not even numb. I think they might be plastic. I have the legs of an Arnott's dummy.

Meditation, my arse - which is also plastic, by the way. My real arse has been donated to the Natural History Museum.

Anyway. The wife's been at me to relax but I know what's going to happen. She's going to find me like this and she'll call the fire brigade. I'll be carried out of the house, sitting cross-legged on a stretcher. I can hear the neighbours. Oh, look, there's Mahatma Savage.

- Clear your mind of everything, she told me before she left the house. - It shouldn't be too hard. There's not much in there in the first place.

She was gone before I had the chance to get back with my witty and cutting riposte. Now that I think of it, I never did think up a riposte, either witty or even just stupid.

Sitting crossed-legged was my own idea; I have to blame myself. I don't think I enjoyed sitting cross-legged when I was in low babies, so why I thought I'd take to it 60 years later, I don't know. It was fine for about five minutes, uncomfortable for another five, then absolute f**kin' agony for - I'm guessing here - three days. Now it's nothing. There's no feeling at all. I'm plastic or cement, or dead.

Maybe that's the point. You meditate till you lift yourself out of your earthly existence. But - like - I didn't even start. I chose my spot on the landing, beside the place where the carpet has frayed into a pattern that looks a bit like a face. I keep telling the wife we should claim it's the Virgin Mary and we'd have crowds coming up the stairs, a queue outside that stretches to Fairview; we could retire on the sandwich sales. She just says we need a new carpet and that the Virgin Mary would definitely agree with her.

Anyway. She's worried about me - the wife, that is, not the Virgin Mary. I'm not getting out enough, I'm not doing enough, I'm forgetting too much. She keeps finding me alone, usually staring at something - the remote control, the can opener, the wall.

- What's wrong? she says.

- Gravity, I tell her.

I've been talking to other men about it. Well, one other man - the Secret Woman. The wife is right: I'm not getting out enough. I only ever talk to one other man and he'd prefer to be a woman. Anyway, I ask him.

- Do people keep asking you what's wrong?

- Yep, he says.

It's a relief.

- Oh, thank God, I say.

Luckily, he doesn't take offence; he seems happy enough in his trousers.

- It's gravity, he says. - We reach a stage in life where our faces start to slide down off our skulls. The average man in his late middle years - his natural expression is miserable. Only the very few can manage to look wise or handsome.

- Is it either or? I ask. - Handsome or wise?

- Sometimes neither, he says.

He sniffs and looks away.

- Smiling is a fight against gravity, he says, kind of over his shoulder. He's amazing, really. He's skulling a pint and scratching his arse and I still half-think I'm sitting beside Bette Davis. But, anyway, the wife is right again. I have my explanation - gravity - but by the time I get home, I can remember the word but nothing else.

- What's wrong? she says.

- Gravity, I tell her.

- What d'you mean? she asks. I don't know - I know it's brilliant, but I can't bloody remember. It's on the tip of my tongue.

- What's wrong with your tongue? she says.

She gently pushes the tongue back into my mouth and brings me across to a chair.

- Meditation, she says. - Will you give it a go?

And here I am. Stranded - abandoned - on the landing. Turning to stone, or decomposing. The meditation's a disaster. But at least I have my mantra.

- Ah Jaysis, ah Jaysis, ah Jaysis, ah Jaysis.

I hear the front door. The wife's back. She shouts up to me.

- Forgot my umbrella - seeyeh! I hear the door close. She'd only been gone a few minutes!

- Ah Jaysis, ah Jaysis, ah Jaysis.

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