Open Season

These past two weeks have found me in a tennis stupor.

It started when I finally realized a longstanding desire to attend the US Open tennis tournament. What began with casually checking out some qualifying and practice matches the Friday beforehand, escalated into full frenzy the following weekend after catching a day of hard-fought elimination matches during the event itself. It’s now culminating into exhilarating terror as the world witnesses the brutal physical and emotional tolls the players face as repercussions of pursuing greatness.

It’s really only one of the few times it’s acceptable to spend an entire day in Queens without a heavy intake of alcohol.

I’m kidding. Sort of…

For the uninitiated, tennis may seem something akin to watching paint dry. You are literally watching people bounce a ball back and forth. When one of my colleagues revealed that she “didn’t know how to begin following tennis”, my response, natch, was “start with following the ball”. It’s almost the same concept with any sport that has a ball, really.

Except this one can zoom past your head at 120-plus miles per hour. In some cases, it actually hits the body. Hard. Softer than a baseball, but still can break your nose.

Now, you have my attention.

Add that to the fact that they’re being projected by some of the fastest, most graceful, agile and loudest athletes in the world, and it’s a feast for the eyes (but not necessarily for the ears).

I’m also fascinated by the game lingo; use of words like “double-fault” or “ace”, and particularly the role the word “Love” plays when it comes to scoring. Never mind that the players themselves show little of it when they’re smashing racquets, throwing tantrums and threatening umpires. Personally, I find it amusing and ironic that the use of the word means you have zero points.

In other words: you’re losing.

It makes me think of how often I’ve used the word “love” to describe something that didn’t exist. Sure, there’s the usual “I love this color” or “I love that song” — but, really, how often have I used it for a relationship that didn’t truly warrant the word?

The answer: too often.

This thought was sparked by the most unusual news story. A celebrity journalist was recently identified publicly as one of numerous mistresses and the mother of a lovechild for a famous musician. Upon reading it, my first reaction was an audible gasp that startled and intrigued the guy handing me my sandwich at the deli. The reactions that followed ranged from disbelief to devilish giddiness that I later felt marginally guilty about. Only much later did I acknowledge the baby is cute.

Here’s why: The woman in the story was instrumental in ending the first relationship in which I truly loved and valued the man for all the right reasons.

After being in back to back situations where I’d either been cheated on or outright abandoned, I’d found someone who was my best friend before becoming more. It was the first time something beyond lust was present. In fact, my favorite pastime was spending the morning into the afternoon reading the Sunday Times. Boring stuff by today’s standards. It didn’t matter to me that he was white — or well into his thirties while I was fumbling into my mid-twenties — I adored him.

But not everyone felt it was a suitable match, and six months later he was gone… although he could still be found drinking beers in his office in the middle of the afternoon before quitting the magazine where all three of us worked.

It took two years before I’d date anyone else seriously. But, despite spending the last eight years of my life in two long-term relationships, I’d never come close to feeling anything remotely close to what I felt then.

…Until a few months ago.

Sadly — or perhaps fortunately — it ended before I could bring myself to allow that feeling to sink in fully. That feeling of being so utterly unguarded, that you could see the world before you because there’s no wall obstructing your view. Where the possibility of a future with someone whose mind, body and spirit are so in sync with yours that the concept of options is not an option… or even a thought. Where finding that “one” makes you feel stronger, unstoppable and confident that no matter what challenges you face, there will always be someone who has your back (like a “Doubles” partner).

A world where age, race, views or a headstrong personality isn’t used against you.

Until I find that world, I’m content spending my days — or the remainder of the tennis season — watching Serena Williams crush the championship hopes of chicks with too many consonants in their name for me to do pronunciation justice, or Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic send balls screaming past their opponents.

Or take off their shirts.

Or both. In that order.

And when that world presents itself…

When I find that [true] love once again…

I’ll be a winner.

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