RODDY DOYLE

Irish Independent - Weekend Magazine - - Column -

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?

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