Age is a funny thing. I am 43, but I don’t feel it. I have some grey hair in my beard, but I’ve got a full head of hair, I have no children, and I live an artist’s life. Then something happens, and I feel 73. My girlfriend and I were at a wedding reception on Saturday night. All going well. Looking as sharp as can be hoped for in a black suit, white shirt, and black tie. (I can do weddings, funerals, and reservoir dogs in this combo.)
We drank some, and they had tacos. The reception was being held in the house of the groom’s parents. It had a garden with a tent and stuff. Inside the house on the ground floor was a bathroom, with a pink drawing of a woman on it. Ladies loo. Upstairs were two. Another for women, one for dudes.
Now, I had been drinking, but in moderation. If I drove a car I would’ve been over the limit, but I could walk and basically do stuff in a non-slurring, non-stumbling state. I’d been to the toilet. And as I left the room, saw an old lady (the groom’s grandmother) coming out of one of the other upstairs rooms. She was tiny. Grey hair, grey skin, grey pyjamas. She looked at me, I smiled, she didn’t smile back.
I continued looking at her as I walked down the stairs. She shuffled at a snail’s pace towards the bathroom. In my head, I joked with myself that maybe she was a ghost. Poor old dear, shuffling along dead slow. I came to the bend in the stairs where each step goes from being a rectangle to a wedge and, still looking up, felt that one of my feet wasn’t where it should be: it wasn’t touching a step.
Time, that cliche, slowed down. I’m going to fall, I thought. My other foot lost its grip. I am falling, I thought. I saw people stood near the bottom of the stairs. I am falling down some stairs. I was very conscious of that thought. This is happening. I went head first. Shoulders, hips, knees hitting each step. Somehow I did a half twist before coming to the bottom of the stairs. I lay on my back. I looked up at men in suits and women in dresses looking down at me. Everything below my hips was still there, laying on the steps. I could get up, just cos I couldn’t use my legs to stand. I was a bit dazed. A couple of fellas grabbed my arms and pulled me up. They and the women asked if I was okay. “Si, todo bien. Gracias.” A woman looked concerned and asked again. “Si, si.”
I went back to the table where my girlfriend was sat. I told her about it. And then I felt old. And like a child at the same time. Old, because when you hear of old people breaking hips or arms, they always talk about it like they are annoyed at their failing bodies or the stupidity of the incident that lead to the injury. Young, because I had tore a hole in my suit trousers. Not since school days have I had a hole in my trousers (aside from, y’know, grungy jean holes). That memory of getting a hole in the trousers of your school uniform and dreading showing your mum after school.
I pulled up my trouser leg, women (naturally) swooned at the sight of such delightful pale English flesh, and saw a two-inch gash. I say “gash,” but I’d just skinned my knee and shin. The middle finger on my non-writing hand hurt. But no actual damage, apart from to my ego.
All I’m left with is some ruined trousers, a feeling of stupidity, and the fear that an old lady that looks like a ghost is chuckling to herself about that dumb English fucker who fell down the stairs.