In 1999 I went to the doctor about the impotence. Don’t worry, he said. I have good news for you. He prescribed a new drug called Viagra to get me over the psychological hump. It worked; spectacularly. In 2001 I went to the doctor mumbling about depression. Don’t worry, he said. I have good news for you. He prescribed a new drug called Prozac to lift me out of it. Within three months I was back on the poop deck of this ship of fools with the wind in my hair and salt spray on my face. In 2013 I went to the doctor because I couldn’t pee. A blood test showed I had cancer. Don’t worry, he said. I have good news for you. These days we have so many effective new drugs against cancer, it might not kill you. Three years later it still hasn’t. All my adult life I’ve been surfing the breaking crest of a wave of pharmaceutical innovation.
Now I think I’m going senile. Here’s how. At the gym I go to in France they are fussy about personal hygiene. Judging by the disdainful looks I was getting from the attendant last week, he didn’t approve of my ‘Enjoy Coke’ T-shirt. He had a point. It was worn to a rag. I had noticed T-shirts with the gym logo on sale at a very reasonable price in a glass cabinet by the entrance, and decided to cheer the attendant up by buying a couple. So I went to my locker, took off my ‘Enjoy Coke’ T-shirt, bunged it in the bin, then rummaged in my backpack and found the little plastic sleeve I use for a wallet. In it were two notes: a €100 note and a 50. I took the 50 to the attendant and said I would like to buy a couple of your company T-shirts, s’il vous plaît. ‘We ain’t got any men’s ones left,’ he said, shortly, in French. So I chucked the €50 euro note back in the locker, retrieved my old T-shirt from the poubelle, put it back on, and resumed my workout.
When I’d finished, I dragged my rucksack out of the locker and showered. I’d driven halfway back to the house before I remembered the pony I’d chucked in the locker. My mental image of the way it had fluttered into the darkness was vivid. With my right hand on the steering wheel, I rummaged with my left in my rucksack. It wasn’t there. Nor was it in my little plastic wallet. It must have been dragged out of the locker with my rucksack and fallen on the floor.
I don’t know about you, but these days I’m even skinter than usual. The €150 that I had in my wallet was to have lasted a fortnight. I was incandescent with myself. One thoughtless moment and I’d literally thrown away one third of my spending power. I turned the car around and headed back to the gym. Fifty bloody euros! Enough for half a tank of diesel and a bottle of Redex!
Back at the gym I left the engine running and sprinted up the stairs. The locker I’d used was still unoccupied. Frantically, I felt inside and inside the adjacent lockers and got down on all fours and scoured the floor. I minutely searched the shower. Then I went to the gym attendant’s office and told him I’d lost €50 in the same tone of voice as I might have done if I’d been telling him I’d lost my entire family in a coalition air strike. He looked dismayed and said that he would make a note of it.
Back in the car again, I tried to tell myself that it was only money and what was money compared with health. It wouldn’t wash. Given a choice I’d have taken the €50. My despair was bottomless until I went to the supermarket and there was the note in my wallet, neatly folded and tucked in beside the €100 note. I’d carefully returned it to my wallet like a good little anal-retentive after all. My picture of the note fluttering in the darkness had been a complete hallucination, due, without a doubt, to the organic deterioration of my brain. ‘I found it in my wallet,’ I told the gym attendant the next time I went. I was wearing my ‘Enjoy Coke’ T-shirt again. He regarded the lettering and sucked in one of his cheeks.
I’ve not yet been to the doctor about my dementia. However, I’m certain that when I do, he’ll say, don’t worry, I have good news for you. Liberty of thought, conscience and expression is no longer required. We’ve even passed laws against it. A man with dementia is a man in tune with the times. Enjoy!
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