today was a tennis day, which means i set an alarm for 6:40 am last night before i fell asleep. i woke up and got dressed and ate an apple and walked across the street to the courts and was delighted to see they had replaced the piece of rope suspended across the two sides of the net with an actual tennis net overnight (phase 4, baby! we can go to the zoo and also the city splurged for a real tennis net for us plebes). as i waited for kate and tyler to roll up, a woman biked over to me. “don’t worry, i won’t get close to you,” she told me, a person who had done nothing to indicate concern about a masked blonde woman on a bike who seemed very interested in the state of the tennis nets at our neighborhood court. Tennis Karen was, like me, incredulous that they had finally replaced the rope with an actual net. “do you come here often?” she asked me. “i live here,” i replied, which is pretty much true—you can see my building from the courts. standing six feet apart, we marveled at the net, and also looked disdainfully at the other side of the court, where a paltry yellow strip of plastic remained suspended with twine between the two end posts, forming a makeshift net. “nets only cost $100!” she scoffed. “unbelievable.” she kept repeating this fact over and over to me.
fortunately i did not have to pretend to commiserate with her for much longer because tyler and kate showed up on their bikes. Tennis Karen repeated herself (“the nets only cost $100!” she said, and tyler replied “they already HAVE the nets, they just haven’t put them up yet”) and then let us be.
tyler is literally a tennis coach and you can tell because he spent an hour very patiently and helpfully instructing me and kate on our forehand volleys and saying things like “nice swing kate” and “good shot maya” and “fuck yeah dude” very enthusiastically. we would sometimes hit balls that soared over tyler’s head and hit the chain-link fence far behind him and it didn’t matter, we just kept going. tyler and his canvas tote bag of tennis balls stood on one side of the net, and kate and i were on the other side. tyler would serve kate a ball, and if she hit it back in a way that tyler could return the ball, he hit it to me, and i hit it back to him. then he would serve me a ball and we would do the same thing. we did this until we ran out of balls, and then kate and i ran around and collected all the tennis balls like two dutiful golden retrievers clad in outdoor voices athleisurewear and we did the whole thing again. then we ran a drill where kate would start at the back line and tyler would hit to her and she’d have to return it, and then she’d run up to the service line and do the same thing, and then tyler would hit her a ball at the net and she’d smash it. then i did the same routine.
i have horrific hand-eye coordination, and pretty bad coordination in general. i learned how to ride a bike when i was 9, and i still don’t know how to rollerblade. i’ve never skied but i can imagine that that would not end well for me. we had an archery unit in phys ed one year and i successfully got a bullseye…on someone else’s target board. i played soccer for years, which was more of a matter of nobody ever telling me i wasn’t allowed to play than evidence of my thriving soccer career. i was a little too scared of the ball to ever actually want it in my possession.
tennis always seemed a little less stressful, though. my mom and stepdad and i used to drive over to the courts by the track near the elementary school in hershey and play there. sometimes chris, who was in my year in school and lived down the street from the court, would also be there, hitting a ball by himself off of a wall, and he would join us for doubles. when we saw each other in school we wouldn’t really acknowledge each other and then we’d maybe see each other again on the weekend for tennis. i would look forward to chris showing up at the courts and be mildly disappointed when he wasn’t there. i would later get uninvited from rachel w’s hanukkah party because she had a crush on chris and did not want me to somehow interfere and ruin her chances of kissing him at her own party. i wrote a xanga post explaining this situation to my blog audience (a group of, at most, nine people who were also all invited to the party) and rachel hastily re-invited me. chris’s xanga song was “such great heights” by the postal service, a song that i steadfastly thought belonged in a computer ad on tv. i did not go on to play tennis in high school, but i think chris did.
in 2020 we show up at the courts in masks and we play tennis first thing in the morning before it becomes unbearably hot, and we think about running through the sprinklers in south oxford park when we’re done (“i’m pretty sure if you go in there without a kid you end up on a list,” kate said as i eyed the falling water this morning). in my ideal world it would be 75 degrees at most during peak daylight hours and we could play tennis at 2 pm (in my ideal world we also don’t have to work during the day if we don’t feel like it and can supplement the work day with tennis), and emma and jaz could come sit on the grass and watch us and eat a charcuterie board. but for now i like the solitude of the mornings when it’s too early for anyone else to be at the courts yet and our only audience is Tennis Karens and someone walking their dog in a loop around the park. my tennis skort is coming this week, probably just in time for another morning lesson.