Most of my greatest moments have been on a tennis court.
I remember the first time I played. My family had just moved to Lawrenceville, New Jersey. My dad was still fairly fresh to America, so he was constantly picking up different things from his colleagues. Tennis was the latest in a series of adventures. According to my father, it would be the perfect sport for me to learn, since I would be able to play even when I got old.
"Is perfect sport, Pirooz," my father told me. "You can play when you are old."
I was interested enough to pick up a racket on the court. I wailed a couple balls over the fence, and started to get discouraged. I deeply disliked any sport I wasn't good at immediately. In fact, I prided myself on being able to master anything within a few days, so I was a little more than my typical disconcerted seven year old self, when I threw the racket on the ground, and announced that this was a stupid sport.
"I don't care about tennis!" I shouted across the court to my father.
"Pirooz," my father cooed in a gentle way. "Give it time. Try again."
"I don't want to," I blubbered back, with a snout already starting its drip down my chin - a common occurrence for my tantrums mixed with tears.
"Try," my dad said again. "Just do it."
I picked up the racket and tried. This time I managed to have a nice three-hit exchange with my father. I felt exhilarated, and like a junkie, I wanted to get that feeling over and over again. I didn't even care about winning points. I just wanted it to go on as long as it could.
"Good, Piooz!" my father shouted. "You are natural!"
After that first day, I was more inclined to try hitting the ball once in a while. My dad didn't seem to mind working with me either. Pretty soon, I was playing at a very high level for a youngster. Older kids and parents would stop their tennis games to watch me play, and I grew accustomed to the attention.
"Watch this!" I would say in my mind, as I ripped a forehand down the line. "Eat it!"
When I got to high school, I had a choice to make. I kept developing shin splints from playing on the soccer and tennis teams simultaneously. I had to pick one. It was tough. I was probably a better soccer player in the long run, but my love for tennis drove me to the hard courts behind Alexis I. Dupont High School. It was there that I found some of the best friends of my life - a group of guys who loved the game as much as I, and were willing to play it before thinking of anything else.
"Hit the ball, bitch!" Kaivon would scream.
"Eat me," John would say.
"I am the ruler of the world," I would smile, and try a behind the back volley at the net.
Things were ideal. I even made it to the semifinals of the state championship for third singles. It was the right choice in the end. Even with the bad coaches, missed calls, or even my inability to ever go pro, I was still happy to have been and continue to be a tennis player.
"I can come this summer," I tell my dad on the phone. "We can play tennis everyday."
"That will be good," he agrees. "Tennis is good."
"Yeah, I miss you guys. We can have a lot of fun."
"This house is yours," he smiles through the receiver. "Come and get healthy."
"I'll be there in the summer. I'll bring So Hee. I don't know where we'll go after, but--"
"Why not go to Hawaii?"
"Life is short. Just go. Raise a family."
"That's not a bad idea."
"Yeah, just go."
I think I could go to Hawaii. I could go anywhere really. The only thing is finding someone to play tennis with me. My dad was my greatest partner. It'll be hard to find another. But, who knows? Maybe, my son or daughter would take a liking to the game as well. So Gee might even be able to hit a ball or two.
"Oh, I will kill you," So Gee says over my shoulder as she reads. "I am the queen of tennis."
"You haven't even played yet."
"I can tell though. I am good."
"I think tomorrow I will write about my most devastating tennis moments."
"I guess. I don't know. Sometimes I feel like writing about depressing moments makes them not so depressing anymore. Like it grows into a different story, if you can see past what you thought happened to what actually did."
"I thought you said it was devastating."
"Well, it's like you said the other day about the glass."
"No, that it depends on what's in the glass. Like, I'm not going to see anything half full that I want to drink. It's always going to be half empty."
"So devastating tennis matches will always be half full or empty?"
"I don't know. I think that's why I want to write about it. It lets me know what I am made of."
"I think you were made by robots."
"Then I could be electricity."
"Shock me," So Gee laughs. "On my lips."
"Okay. Fine, don't!" So Gee laughs again.
I lie down in bed next to her. I play a tennis match in my mind. I hit the ball or the net into a flock of seagulls on the Venice Beach boardwalk. They launch in three directions at once. My tennis partner swoops down on a dragon. They take the ball, and go play at a neighboring court in New Mexico. There are no children watching them play. They don't do it for the applause. It's about hitting the ball. Whap. The ball. Whap. The ball. Whap.