by TONY FYLER
edited by CHRISTOPHER WOO
I turn 40 in just a few months time. People tell me this means I’m now officially a Grumpy Old Man. I always used to mock the idea that you could only be Grumpy, or indeed Old, once you passed through the mystic portal of fortyness. I’ve been Grumpy since I was 11, when I used to tell my fellow pupils to go buy a brain, or tell adults who insisted on being cretins to go and boil their head. In a vat of Sulphuric acid, if I remember correctly.
But that’s the point. I’m no longer sure I remember correctly. This isn’t a creeping senility, or a momentary lapse of memory. This has been happening on a daily basis since my 35th birthday. Halfway through sentences. Halfway through journeys from one room to another. It’s like someone’s hit me with a baseball bat and I’m in a bit of a daze. I’ve always been known by friends and my wife as Memoryboy, for my freakish ability to remember the most arcane details about things, people, situations. Now I can barely hold a coherent thought from one end to the other.
Goddamnsonofabitch. I know there were other examples of the kind of mental decay that’s been visited on me in the last few years, but I can’t remember now what any of it is!
Oh… that’s right. My wife, stifling giggles, has just reminded me that loud noises… hell, even moderately quiet noises… now make me jumpy. Boy that was fun on Halloween. It was even more fun on Guy Fawkes Day – a kind of 17th Century “Hang A Terrorist” holiday, celebrated to this day by setting off random fireworks. Every banger, whizzer and colour-splashing crack of thunder saw me wince, or cringe, or shift involuntarily out of the way. It’s like my body is trying to tell me something, if I could only remember what it is…
It’s like something has clicked over in my metabolism. I’ve worn slippers without irony. My hands and feet are starting to get inexplicably cold for longer periods of time. Young people have been annoying me since I was one of them, but now, it’s as though the last remaining drops of patience in my soul have been poured out, I want to tell them, as I did as a child, how insane and pointless they are.
Naturally, given the world we live in, I’ve been shouting at the TV for some time now, but I’ve graduated… I used to only shout at the easy targets – the politicians telling us they know what they are doing, the adverts that dared to tell me – short, fat, balding, greasy, hairy-arsed and clueless me – that I’m “worth it too.”
But now it’s everything. Every advert, every programme, every ridiculous flickering parade of mediocrity that passes for entertainment in the arena of the damned. I shout. I point, like that makes some miraculous difference and makes my rage more valid somehow.
The button has clicked over in my brain from “Thirtysomething, clinging to patience and humour and some desperate hope that advertisers are aiming even vaguely at me” to “Bath-chair.” Like I’m suddenly this old and scowling bastard, in my slippers and my Grumpy Old Man face. If I had a stick, I’d hit people with it. In fact, the only reason I’ve refrained from buying a stick is not to get arrested. And somehow, all of a sudden, the fact that people deserve a damn good stick-whacking has become the height – the very pinnacle – of logic and good sense to me. I’ve become my Gran! And suddenly I’m right, they’re wrong!
I feel the gaze of all the proper Grumpy Old Men upon me now, and they are smiling grimly, as though they have been watching my progress and now are happy to call me one of their own. As though they’re telling me “You see? You were always Grumpy-in-waiting, but now you have the urgency, the forgetfulness, the inexplicable back pain – don’t mention it, you’re welcome… Now you are truly one of us, My Son.”
Don’t mess with me. I’m getting too old for this shit.