Much less just chill [Backstage interlude in the LTP, League of Tennis Professionals]

[part 1 of 7]

this pic gave me the idea for the narrative tableau

From outside comes the polite roar of centre court, thousands of well-mannered spectators clapping and clucking their appreciation. The majority of the crowd is always encouraging the player that happens to be behind, set- or gamewise, at any particular point in time. The temporary underdog. Taken to its logical conclusion this means that the crowds would want the players to go on forever, which in the case of JI and NM is what almost happened.

But that is not what it is.

They are cheering for a good game and/or super sportsmanship, they want to coax the best possible performances out of the athletes. If it goes to five sets and nerves are wrecked as the players bomb each other into the teens, neither able to break serve, well, all the better. The competitors thrive on the applause. The desire to please is a hard-wiring that can not be conditioned out of the neural circuitry, not even professional athletic performers’.

The plock of the ball continuously sounding.

Which is not the most powerful impact on court, obviously but one of the more sonic ones. The players’ high performance, space-age tennis shoes’ sole impacting the holy green lawn is. The rally ends on a very audible plock, an overhead smash possibly in the leaping style of PS. To see a player of such athleticism soaring into the airspace above the court, extending to put the steepest possible downwards angle on his winning shot is to watch the rise and fall of human nature in a little under two seconds. Then again that ineffably All England roar.

He is not out there, he is in here, in the locker, locked up inside his head. That is where RF is. He patiently extracts a long piece of lint from his hirsute forearm, trapped there like a summertime gnat which, for a helping of blood, went in too deep. He studies it, wondering how it got there since the gear he is wearing is not at all supposed to present with loose ends or uncleanly sewed seams. All the equipment is supposed to be perfect and the consumption rate to maintain this perfection prolific, a pair of shoes a match, etc. The piece of lint per se does not bother him but as a symptom it is disquieting. Like it were pointing a long, glowing finger at what has become possibly the downwards trajectory of his career. The graph is before his mind clearly, the way it jaggedly dips after 2008, how it temporarily occludes past achievements and longer-term time horizons. Then again, if he zooms out far enough he can appreciate his stellar position. A year from now he could be back here hoisting the ugly Golden Cup into a balmy Wimbledon evening and be kissing it.

Nota Bene: You don’t kiss the thing itself but your reflection in it, you congratulate yourself on two weeks of lawn tennis dominance.

He zooms out and out, too far, eventually even his own star is simply a shining little dot in a system of cosmic curvature. Eventually the universe becomes a bauble, no, a tennis ball and he sends it down the long-line of his mental hawkeye. Kertwang!

He readjusts his position in the huge, dark brown leather couch. There are creaking noises from the upholstering that do not seem possible from this particular material. Many things in the world refuse to go together as would be agreeable to the human mind, unfortunately.

The couch is too huge. If one sees a player sitting in it one worries that at any moment the object will sprout fangs and chew him up, that some LTP official will have to hold a press conference in which to apologize to the polite UK crowd, claiming that the player suddenly fell sick. Then the seated masses will gently whistle and booh, conveying both their disappointment as well as utter understanding of circumstances. They wish the ill-fallen player well and will be happy for him to return next year, in full force and putting on quite a show of tennis mastery. Whatever happens, there is always next year.

More roaring and a few shouts. Do the shouters want to whip the atmosphere into a tizzy, can the shouting spectators just no longer control themselves or does a spectator who shouts unconsciously want to make sure s/he has not been assimilated by the amorphous masses? The shout is encouraging the player one set behind to stop fucking around and break his opponent already. Make it a close match.


About tmabona

writer, reader [bolano, DW, bellow, deLillo], runner, badmintoneer
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