When I walked into Galway city as a young adult in the 1980’s I always passed this man in Lower Salthill who would be leaning over a low gate with his belly hanging out. And I would ask myself “Who is this man leaning over a low gate with his belly hanging out?”
One day, many years later, I was looking out my upstairs window, and I leant over and my belly popped out. And at that very moment I thought of the man. The man leaning over the low gate with his belly hanging out. And I realized I was now that man. This is what I’d become. Just a man. Looking out. Watching the world go by. With my belly hanging out.
I decided I needed to change. I didn’t want to be just another anonymous fat man looking out an upstairs window. I didn’t want to turn into Robert Mitchum, who had once said- “People think I have an interesting walk – hell, I’m just trying to hold my gut in.” I didn’t want to become girth-bogglingly obese with all that accumulated visceral fat leading to a possible premature expiry date. I had to get rid of my papoose of podge. I had to look after my health. Get into shape. A friend suggested I could do with a bit of colonic irrigation. Not overtly enthused with the idea initially, another friend then suggested it could be a ‘good way of meeting women’. (I have pretty strange friends).
Still, that’s exactly how I came to meet Janine.
I first asked Janine out at her place of work in Healthy Matter, a colonic hydrotherapy clinic on Fr. Griffin Road.
She had just stuck her surgically-gloved finger up my rectum and told me my prostate was fine. She was now proceeding to gently flood my colon with some warm water via a delicately placed tube up my anus to help banish all residual toxins and faecal materials – the impacted waste as they call it on their brochure – when the ‘good way of meeting women’ idea re-surfaced in my mind. If ever there was a correct time to ask a woman out, I felt, this was it. If she said no it wouldn’t be a source of disappointment. I had already been utterly humiliated and degraded in her company. And she did seem so nice. Sweetly supportive as I felt that over-powering feeling of fullness in my stomach and started evacuating a particularly gushing bowel movement.
I turned my head towards her.
“A new restaurant is opening on Abbeygate Street. This might not seem the correct time to discuss food, or possible romance, but I have two complimentary tickets for the launch of The Hunger Strike, a post-modern slightly offensive name, you may agree, on Thursday night, would you like to accompany me?”
She paused. I evacuated some more.
“I don’t usually date clients.”
With the aplomb of an artist, Janine then removed the tube and wiped me clean. I sought clarity.
“So that’s a no, then.”
I persisted. During the spring I had four more colonic cleansing sessions. Each time I went to Healthy Matter I asked Janine for a date. Finally, she acquiesced. She agreed to meet me. The Event: Local sculptor Malachy Mullarkey’s quietly humorous peat figurines of some well-known national characters. The Time: 6.30 p.m. Friday the 12th. The Location: The Galway Arts Centre, Dominick Street. It was my first date for three years. What could I bring her as a gift?
I remembered reading quite a positive review of a book in the New York Times best-seller list a few years back by Syracuse- based Dr. Nathan Bandello called The Turd Man-Memoirs of a Colonic Hydro-therapist.
The book chronicled Nathan’s passion for his particular occupation after both his parents had died of colon cancer before he was twenty and how he vowed to make colonic irrigation his life’s work to help prevent the onset of this potentially fatal disease in as many people as possible. He did this because he did not want to have other families experience what he and his younger sister Amy – now a successful media lawyer in San Diego – had gone through. Tragically after the book’s outstanding success Nathan had unfortunately succumbed to colon cancer himself. Like that jogging guy who wrote that jogging book years ago and then dropped dead jogging. I was determined to buy an earlier edition of the book so Janine would not find out about Nathan’s untimely demise in the updated blurb.
That is if I decided to actually go ahead and buy her the book. Would Janine really be interested in this book? Surely, given her line of work she’d like a bit of escapism and adventure rather than a forensic analysis of the workings of the large intestine. Possibly it was the last thing she wanted to read. Anyway, maybe she had the book already. Given it as a Christmas present or birthday present one year. Then again, colonic hydro-therapy had brought us together, in a roundabout way, so maybe she would find my gesture deeply romantic. I concluded to have a look at the book first and make a decision about purchasing on the spur of the moment.
Two days before our rendezvous I went to Eason’s on Shop Street. No sign of the book on the shelves. I approached the counter.
“Do you have a book called The Turd Man- Memoirs of a Colonic Hydro-therapist, by a Dr. Nathan Bandello? It was a big hit in the States a few years back.”
The name tag said Maisie. The orange hair, green eyes and nose stud screamed crazy. From behind the cash register she stared at me. Then blinked.
“The one with Orson Welles, is it? We don’t do DVD’s here. Go across the road to Zhivago Music. ”
I decided I was going to buy Janine flowers instead.
But I had a more pressing problem. Over the years, I had realized that if premature ejaculation was an Olympic sport I’d be a gold medallist. The four- second man. How come I’m always good at stuff that never gets recognized?
Now, there were other reasons my ex-wife Cliona had left me in late 2011 for that Californian new-age ski-pants wearing reflexologist Brock Tundra, and Cliona had made that quite clear.
“It’s not that. It’s all the other stuff. As well.”
“What other stuff?”
“The not talking. The sighing. The pacing. The drinking. The griping. About the country. About your work. About the weather. The not turning up when you are supposed to. The turning up when you are not supposed to. The not listening to me when I talk. The snoring. The storming out and not having an argument when we are all set to have an argument. The need to be praised when you wash the dishes once in six months. The need to be praised when you cook a meal once in six years and the never ever ever wanting to go out.”
Cliona was right. I had never liked going out. But that’s just the way I am. All my life I was surrounded by people who went out in the evening and did things while I stayed in. My parents, Noel and Florrie, people who liked to go out in the evening and do things while I stayed in. Later, in the few flats I lived in, my flat-mates were always interested in going out in the evening and doing things while I stayed in. Then I met Cliona. She liked going out in the evening and doing things while I stayed in. But what is so wrong with staying in?
My biggest thrill in life was to be invited to a dinner party, accept the invitation reluctantly, only at the last minute for the hostess to cancel. There was no greater joy in my life than a surprise night in!
But that was Cliona and the past is Sri Lanka as that writer said. Or a foreign country. Or something like that. And now it was time to focus on Janine. What happened if myself and Janine ended up in bed after our first date? I decided, just in case the situation arose, so to speak, to undertake some online research to curb my, ahem, timing issue. There were two techniques constantly referred to, to help alleviate my problem with overhasty seed delivery. The stop/start technique. And the stop/squeeze technique. They both basically entailed prolonged bouts of masturbation with delay of orgasm for as long as possible. Since becoming a victim of downsizing and company re-structuring and losing my job as chief marketing manager at Sofa So Good on the Tuam road, spare time was something I had an abundance of and I embraced these exercises with a rare enthusiasm. After an intensive 18 hour work-out, I had shown small signs of improvement by managing 35 seconds from erection to ejaculation with the stop/start exercise and 41 seconds from erection to ejaculation with the stop/squeeze exercise. Not bad. But could do better.
I wanted to have all the angles covered. How could I ensure the conversation side of the evening went well? Just before heading out to meet her I undertook some last minute planning by consulting some websites on tips for dating. One website claimed that if you go on a date and you agree with everything your date says – she will not be impressed. If you disagree with everything she says – she will not be impressed either. However if you disagree with her on the first half of the date and then gradually start to agree with her over the second half – then she will start to like you – and this is the coup de grace – the later you delay the change from disagreeing to agreeing, the more successful you will be.
While mulling over possible topics to initially disagree about before gradually changing my mind……a holistic approach to healthcare, a need for improved street lighting in Lower Salthill, the origin of the word polyp – old French or Latin?, peat as a raw material for creative endeavour …I received a text. It was from Janine. Something unexpected had come up and she had to cancel at the last minute.
Oh joy of joys! Another surprise night in.