Feat of Clay

Tennis is a solitary sport when you’re playing it. Watching it however, is a different story – whether you’re in the stadium or on your couch, there’s a feeling of camaraderie, of union when you see a packed stadium. Seeing players running around on Philippe Chatrier, a court made five times larger by the absence of people, throws a body slightly off-kilter. It’s weird. It’s lonely. There is no wall of sound. The communal gasps and cries of excitement and groans of exasperation are gone, replaced by the silent nods and occasional clapping of physios and coaches – the only ones allowed to watch – and masked ballboys and ballgirls, linesmen and the referee. It’s weird, and it’s sad, and it’s all my fault.

I jinxed Paris, because I broke my own rules.

I try never to tell anyone about my plans. At most I will be vague about it, because I believe aspirations can be ill-wished by a malevolent wind. You don’t have to tell me how batty that sounds, Le Hubs says it often enough. Still, I’m weirdly superstitious about some things, so I play my cards close to my chest, and only let on what I’m about when it’s all a fait accompli.

But early this year, I told Paulie I was going to France.

The words “I’ll be in Paris in May!” flew out of my wayward mouth. I couldn’t help myself, I was too excited. The airfare had been booked and paid for, Le Hubs had been suitably convinced it was a good idea to tag along with a tennis-mad, Rafael Nadal fangirl of a wife, and this was to be the year I would finally get to stalk see the Raging Bull on the terre battue of Roland Garros. Getting to meet with Paulie, who lives a stone’s throw away from Paris (Switzerland, but what’s one train ride) after a decade would’ve been the cherry on top.

So I blabbed about it. And the universe heard me.

The universe heard, the gates of hell opened, and in clopped the first donkey of the apocalypse, braying for all it was worth. Hello, Covid-19! I am an idiot.

And that was how I ended up in a Bobcaygeon river bunkie, watching the 2020 French Open on TSN.

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