The temperatures reached into the mid-seventies yesterday, an unseasonably warm day for January, but a nice break from the really cold weather we’ve had over the past couple weeks. My wife asked me if I wanted to play tennis, a splendid idea, and of course I said yes. We live in an apartment complex with a tennis court at the opposite end from us, so we don’t see it often, and it usually goes forgotten. I remember when I was younger I dreamed about living in a place that had a tennis court and how great it would be to play anytime I wanted. I’ve been living here for six and a half months, approximately a four minute walk from a tennis court, and I haven’t played a single time, and in fact, the tennis rackets and balls haven’t left the trunk of the car since we moved from Florida. Shameful is the word that comes to mind when considering our neglect of this fine sport.
The first time I remember playing tennis was with my mom, at a country club near our house in Little Rock. We played with her skinny wooden rackets from the early McEnroe days, and I remember wearing my Mark McGwire shirt, purposefully hitting tennis balls over the fence surrounding the court, pretending that they were home runs. I would like to think I’ve matured since then, but to be honest, I still get a thrill from hitting a tennis ball as hard as I can, only now I allow myself only one, after we finish playing so as not to spoil the game. My love for tennis really grew on summer vacations in Orange Beach, where I would play tennis on the raised court at the condo just about every day for a week. Then my love of playing the sport got me interested in watching it, and as luck would have it, the French Open was going on while we were at the beach. The first player I watched was a young Spaniard with long hair, who made a reverberating grunting noise each time he hit the ball, like he was exerting maximum effort on every shot. He was so much fun to watch and I decided that Rafael Nadal would be my favorite tennis player, and over the years I have closely followed his career, and watching him play every opportunity I had. In recent years I haven’t watched or played as much tennis as I used to, but when we moved to Memphis at the end of June I saw it as an opportunity to get back into one of my old hobbies, and although it took me six months, I suppose you have to start somewhere.
We walked to the car and got the rackets and balls, two cans, Sam, and then started walking towards the tennis court as dark clouds swirled overhead. We got about halfway and my wife felt a raindrop, and moments later so did I, but we decided to press on towards the goal, agreeing to stop playing if the water droplets turned into anything more torrential. The rain had not picked up by the time we got to the court, if anything it had let up, and as I glimpsed the court, ready to play for the first time, a rush of excitement came over me. I’ve been a bit of stressed lately but I knew that I had found a remedy, it would all fade away as I played my favorite sport. We approached the gate to get into the court and realized that a chain was around it with a lock clamped on, preventing the opening of said gate. It had never occurred to me that we might need a key, or that a lock on a tennis court was ever necessary. What a tragedy it would be if someone who didn’t live in our apartments came over here and played tennis on our crappy court that I’ve never actually seen anybody using. I jiggled the chain, up and down a couple of times, mostly for show, knowing deep down that it wouldn’t magically unlock, then we walked away dejectedly, vowing to try again in another six months.