I’d never been a sporty kid, but the year I completely smashed it, I was certain I had a great career ahead of me in tennis.
I’d been the dunce of the crew from the first trials. I was the kid leaning against the boundary netting, a fifth wheel in a group of four kids whose parents drove land-cruisers and wore sun visors. The kind of people who sat on the deck at the local after a long day of games they pretended meant nothing to them. My family were keen to have me be a part of some outdoor activity that didn’t involve sitting down.
I wasn’t even determined to be passable at tennis. I knew the likelihood was that I’d hit ever ball into the net. I had already tap-danced through ballet and lived to tell the tale. As you can imagine, I wasn’t invited back.
I’d been kicked out of karate and had no natural feel for the violin, other than using the bow to tease our cat. Nothing seemed to be a great match, and even trying to fit into tennis, it seemed obvious from the start that I wasn’t likely to surprise anyone by being great.
My brother- in-law was a six foot tall behemoth, a Czechoslovakian whose parents had translated everything they knew through sports and taught him to communicate through physical exertion. My parents asked him to teach me to play tennis as well as he did. They took me to one of his games, an indoor match at an exclusive club in the city.. We sat in the stands, fixed on the tension of the game through the tennis court netting. It was a night game and other than the gentle conking of night bugs against the thrumming fluorescent light, all I remember hearing was the thump of a fuzzy green ball being smashed back and forth in a hypnotic dance. I was hooked, and there was never a time again I remembered wanting to be good at something so badly.