Roddy, Prince of Darkness
In the SECONDS it’s taken me to cross the room from the window, a Savage Hail Storm has metamorphosed into Endless Descending Curtains of Soft Snow! I truly suspect the dire hand of Ming the Merciless is behind this.
Be that as it may, I mentioned way back that my partner’s brother was staying with us and a trip to see the reissue of Hammer Films’ DRACULA was planned. I’d like to explain how that turned out.
Roddy, who has learning difficulties, loves old horror movies, and his particular obsession is with Christopher Lee’s Dracula, so upon learning that the film happened to be screening during his visit, we made haste to tell him of this happy coincidence.
The circumstances that led him to take a massive overdose of laxatives in order to avoid seeing his favourite movie will require some background explanation.
The particular thing Roddy has is called Williams Syndrome, and we’ve often called him the Poster Boy for that particular non-inherited genetic condition. So many of the things about him that one assumes are personal quirks, turn out to be basic symptoms (in spite of this, it took forty years for him to be officially diagnosed with the condition, not that it made much difference really). Among the symptoms — phobias. Roddy has always been uncomfortable with stairs and especially escalators, but what we didn’t realise was how markedly this had increased since his last visit.
We’d heard some of the stories: Roddy had wandered in front of an oncoming bus and been yelled at by the driver, and he’d had a fall, but we hadn’t grasped how this had affected his behaviour.
On the day of the DRACULA trip, Roddy suddenly came down with galloping diarrhoea, which was particularly problematic since he has trouble getting around. Put simply, he’s seriously overweight (when you can’t read and you’re phobic about going out, you entertain yourself by sitting on the couch and feeding your face). He couldn’t make it to the bathroom (just at the end of the hall) in time and he was getting “the squits” every FIVE MINUTES.
We called emergency helplines and got him a hospital appointment, since this was pretty extreme and unmanageable. At this point we were secretly praying they’d take him off our hands, stick him in a bed with a big nappy on, and keep him until Christmas Day.
Anyhow they didn’t, but Roddy quite enjoyed his trip to the hospital. (Imagine how much he’d have enjoyed the movie!) The doc thought he probably had a virus — we didn’t discover the half-drained bottle of Lactulose until the day of his departure (four days later). Needless to say, a trip to the cinema was out of the question, even in diapers.
It was all kind of depressing. I sympathise with Roddy’s phobias (my partner/his sister has suffered acute agoraphobia), especially as Williams Syndrome carries as another symptom a loss of depth perception. Since Roddy is too bulbous to see his own feet, looking down from his eye sockets all one would see is a slow-moving circumference with the ground some incalculable distance below: no wonder stairs are difficult.
And there’s a horrible pathos in Roddy’s Dracula obsession: he wants to be the tall dark and handsome stranger who has a mysterious power over buxom blondes. My desire to be Gene Kelly or Errol Flynn or James Coburn is pretty pathetic too (I’d be lucky to attain the condition of, say, Paul Giamatti), but it doesn’t haunt me to the same degree, and it isn’t as cruelly WRONG. Only a very sick author would invent a character who wants to be a 6’4′ hypnotic vampire when he is a 5′ 0′ obese man with learning difficulties. Apart from anything else, Dracula is a character who rather famously makes his entrance by gliding down a flight of stairs!
Chuck Jones said that he dreamt of being Bugs Bunny but always awoke as Daffy Duck. Roddy, concordantly, dreams of being Dracula but awakens as the Frankenstein Monster: but with one pleasing difference. Williams Syndrome is sometimes called “cocktail-party syndrome”, and its “suffererers” are blessed with very good social skills — Roddy can really Work The Room. Is his Syndrome perhaps named after ROBIN Williams?
Anyhow, that was our Christmas.
Upside: we are full of hope that he’s going to lose weight and conquer his phobias, at least somewhat, this year.
More on the Hammer DRACULA soon.
More on Roddy and Williams Syndrome HERE.