Still In the Game

by

12/18/2002

170 spring st ny 10012

Neighborhood: SoHo

It’s been ten years, but I still keep it on the resume. I would venture to say it’s gotten me every job I’ve had since college, not to mention a book deal and more than a few birds to die for–one of whom is currently on her third Cosmo and showing no signs of slowing down.

“You were really good,” she recalls. “I remember watching you hit this shot between your legs.”

Just to play it safe, I’ll call her K., since she recently got hitched and now has a husband out West.

K. was the hottest thing on campus in 1989 and is even more stunning to look at today. It’s only the second time I’ve seen her since. She gives me shit about my gray hair and I fire back over the old cheerleading outfit. She admits she almost brought it out of retirement last Halloween, but settled on being a witch instead. I tell her I won a little tournament in my hometown last summer, but the old Agassi doo is forever dead and buried.

“Yeah, the Yannick Noah thing? I still love that shot.”

“Actually, I think you tried it twice in the one match I remember. Maybe you made it once and missed the other time. I’m not sure.”

“Could be.”

“How come you never went pro?”

“Burned out. Head case. I never would’ve made it big anyway.”

K. is not acting like a woman with a ring on her finger. While she speaks of him often, it’s more in response to my questions than anything else.

“He’s really helped me grow up a lot,” is the best she can say.

“How’s that?”

“Oh, you know, I mean I guess I’m not as self involved as I used to be. Not as neurotic about myself. Not so obsessed with setting goals, you know.”

I wouldn’t say I was necessarily in love with K., but maybe now. She was beautiful, ambitious, and obsessively organized. She would wake up at 5:00 a.m. seven days a week and be at the gym before dawn–no exceptions. Her self-discipline bordered on religion and turned me on. There was sort of a spirit of competition between us that I’ve never felt since. Who could get the most done in a single day? Who could create the most impossible schedule and stick to it? Who could live on the least amount of sleep?

“All I do is travel. I live in hotels and on airplanes. I’m never home. I hate Los Angeles. Did I mention I hate LA? I despise it. We almost never see each other.”

“You’re in LA a lot?”

“At least eight days a month.”

“What about New York? You come here much?”

“I like coming here. I don’t know. I’m here for like a week every two months. That’s just about right.”

We both order Pad Thai, but K. wants hers without shrimp. The hotel where she always stays is only a few blocks south on W. Broadway and so she’s eaten here before, though never with me. K. doesn’t know that this place is pure strategy. So is my bike, but she’s already made it clear she will not be getting anywhere near a motorcycle in Manhattan. K. wants to know why I keep asking about her husband. I say it’s nothing personal, but that I’m merely curious. I tell her that I cannot imagine being married and so wonder what it’s like. It’s her opinion that marriage is no big deal and hasn’t changed anything between them.

Thai food is indeed part of the formula, but it usually comes third. First I’ll take her for a spin on the bike followed by either coffee or a drink. If that goes well, I’ll suggest we hit a few balls at the indoor club near the Empire State Building where I teach part time. I’ve found this to be the perfect opportunity to both show off and work up a sweat together at the same time. Finally, if all is going well, I’ll propose dinner downtown for a third date.

The third date is key.

I would argue it is on par with the critical seventh game of a set. K. shows me a scar on the inside of her right calf. She says she got it from an old boyfriend’s motorcycle in high school.

“Everybody’s got one of those,” I joke.

“Not getting on it,” she insists.

“Maybe next time you’re in town?”

K. looks exhausted just thinking about it.

“Or we’ll have to at least play some tennis.”

She hasn’t touched her food when she orders another drink and then ties up her long hair using a set of chopsticks.

“Next time you can show me how to hit that shot.”

I simply nod, secure in the knowledge that things change–everything, perhaps, except the game.

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