Saturday 1 November 2008

Never mind my ‘spasma’, what about the girl with tea on her face?

My mate Angel is bemoaning the arrival of a table cloth on his living room coffee table.
“Don’t know what she was thinking of. Now there’s even less room to put down my mug of tea.”
”She probably thinks it looks pretty!” I suggest, to which he hrrrummphes grumpily.
Then my arm flies out in front of me, causing my fingers to slap the full mug of tea he has just bought me.
No longer is the table draped with a cloth: it is now covered by my tea, which has spread dynamically, drenching the entire cloth, the television remote control and Angel’s rolling baccy.
As he tries to rescue his remote and mops and soaks up the ugly mess, I apologise, explaining that it is down to what I call my ‘spasma’.
“Your what?”
Oh dear, how do I describe my spasma? The root of the trouble clearly lies in a spasm, and I have added the final ‘a’ to make it sound kinda cutesey, all innocent and harmless, because the trouble with my spasma is that to the unsympathetic eye, it often looks very deliberate.
Shrinks the world over would look at the anecdote above and conclude that I destroyed the table cloth in a subconscious effort to please my friend.
Unfortunately, my spasma doesn’t work like that.
Most of the time, it appears at the most undesirable and awkward of moments.
Back in May, the day before our collective families and friends all arrived in Galway for our big wedding party, the Snapper excitedly laid upon our kitchen table a beautiful blue table cloth, instantly transforming a slightly shabby piece of furniture into an eye-catcher.
I, however, was less than impressed, and mutter and grumble about having to keep it clean until everyone arrives, and where am I going to eat, and blah blah -
Yep, tea rushing and flooding forth, spilling from the cup that I had appeared to deliberately flip into the air and serve as Raffa Nadal looking for a killer ace against Federer.
Thankfully my beloved woman is familiar with my spasma, and knows that however much it might look like I just behaved like a spoilt belligerent arsehole, I was in fact innocent of all charges.
Nevertheless, it was hard to hear the sadness and exasperation in her sigh.
The worst part of my spasma is the way it looks so utterly deliberate. With appropriate acknowledgement to all sufferers of real the syndrome, my spasma can best be described as a Tourette of the arm. Even though the broad sweep of movement looks impossible to perform without volition, it happens completely spontaneously and almost always at the least appropriate moments.
Many years ago I was out on a first date with a gentle soul. We arrived at the restaurant, both excited at the prospect of a pleasant evening ahead. After handing us the menus, the waiter lit the candle on the table, and retired gracefully.
I looked over at her. She looked back at me and smiled.
Under its own steam my arm rose from its resting position on my lap, raised itself high above the table, moving towards the lit candle. As this elaborately spasmodic movement came to its impressive conclusion, my fingers dipped toward the candle, where they somehow proceeded to flick the pool of hot molten wax right across the table, scoring a bullseye as it splattered right onto the left shoulder of her pretty blue blouse.
My mouth alternately gaped open and clammed shut like a guppy on speed, as she quite wonderfully made little of my inexplicable attack.
Indeed, the dear soul sat for a while with her hand clasped over her freshly-decorated shoulder.
“Why are you sitting like that?” I enquired. “Did the wax burn you?”
“Oh no!” she replied, “I’m just covering it up because I don't want to spoil our evening with you worrying about how the stain looks.”
How do I find such beautiful people with which to populate my life? I am not worthy, but neither am I guilty of these noxious twitches.
Funnily enough, despite this natural talent for muscular disaster, the faux pas that earns pole position on my personal league table was not down to this treacherous independence of my arm muscles, but rather, an unfortunate response to my own gag reflex.
For this sorry tale we must travel back to the late 1970’s,when the Guru and I were leather jacket-clad bikers, bubbling with youthful exuberance, energy and enthusiasm, lacking only the knowledge of our own limits and any notion of self-control.
We had been invited to sunday afternoon tea at our friend Lucy’s house. She had a good friend of hers visiting that she wanted us to meet, and it all sounded rather lovely.
And lovely it was: genteel and traditional, until we arrived.
Inevitably late, rather intoxicated, and finding ourselves suddenly sitting around the tea table with these proper young ladies, Lucy’s parents, bone china teapot, scones and jam, we found ourselves unable to suppress a fit of the giggles. The more we tried to stop laughing the more funny and ridiculous it all seemed. When he saw that Lucy was becoming understandably impatient and upset, the Guru, to his credit, managed to control his laughter, and I too did my best to calm down.
Finally, having attained a modicum of what I thought was reasonable behaviour, I felt ready to take a sip of tea.
As I raised the delicate cup to my lips, taking a good swig, I looked across the table to see the Guru looking back at me with beetroots that were once his eyes.
Feeling something bad coming, I managed to replace my cup onto its saucer, before the muscles in my throat took it upon themselves to reject the tea in favour of what they thought was going to be more laughter.
Instead, and most impressively, there shot out of my mouth a long perfectly-formed projectile stream of partially-ingested tea, which flew clean across the table, hitting Lucy’s friend full square, wet and nasty in the face.
With myself and the Guru now helpless, hysterical and beyond social repair, we ejected ourselves from proceedings offering neither apology nor excuse.
My spasma may be beyond my control, but even now, 30 years later, I still think of that poor girl, her wet tea-stained face, and wonder just what she thought of me.

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