I hold onto it the way I’ve been shown even though it’s hard, hot and sticky in the palm of my hand. I’m afraid it will slip from my grip again. I vaguely wonder how long we’ve been at this. I wipe the perspiration from my brow and look longingly at the bottle of water on the table. Oh, how I wish… “Pay attention,” he says. You’re never going to get results unless you concentrate.” “I have been paying attention,” I mutter under my breath. I don’t think I’m going to get results even if I do concentrate. This is—this is torture. Whose idea was this anyway? His, of course. Part of his effort to help me find a hobby. To get some exercise. To find something I’d enjoy doing in my spare time. I’m just not sure this is it.
Out of the corner of my eye I notice the two balls. They’re just lying there, begging to be played with. They’re distracting me, they’re so close.
“Focus!” he practically shouts. “I am!” I insist. But it isn’t easy. Not with sweat dripping into my eyes. My grip slick around this black shaft. I know I’ll have to pick up those balls sooner than later. I’ll talk to them, I decide. Softly, so he can’t hear. Then maybe I’ll get the reaction he’s looking for. Maybe those balls need some encouragement, just like I do. Maybe they need to visualize themselves in action.
The sun is hot and bright. There are people walking past. I know they’re looking at us, probably laughing to themselves. We are so bad at this. I certainly don’t know what I’m doing and it shows. He, at least, has had some experience with this kind of thing.
A little white dog yaps at us. I hear snippets of conversation from the passers-by. Ignore it, I tell myself. They aren’t analyzing your performance. They probably don’t even care what you’re doing. Or not doing.
My gaze slides once again to the two balls. “Okay, are you ready?” he asks. My attention snaps back to him, to what I’m supposed to be doing. He’s got a ball in his hand. How many balls does this guy have, anyway?
I wipe my hands on my damp shorts. Take a firm grip the way he’s shown me. I block out the distractions. The people, the dog, the balls. I am ready I think. This time I am ready. I want to show him I can do this. I want him to be proud of me.
I watch the ball rise through the air. He smacks it hard in my direction. It flies toward me, bounces, and smacks me right in the nose. I go down hard holding my nose. The pain is intense. Blood is streaming. He is running toward me, panic in his eyes.
Tennis, I decide, is just not my game.