I play tennis. It is the white man’s basketball. I have owned the same racket for 20 years. You don’t need much training to be adequate and it gets the heart racing. Tennis balls are everywhere. I play tennis right next to a dog park, so the dogs and I always have something to play with.
Playing sports hungover is a roller coaster ride for your body. Today I am playing good cop/bad cop and it wants to confess to a murder it didn’t commit.
I try to play three or four times a week and I am hungover half the days out of the year, so playing tennis in this state is inevitable.
Beyond inevitable, it is normal.
The phone is ringing, which means it must be 10 am and four hours since my last drink- several giant swigs from a leftover box of white wine. I faintly recall thinking it would wash the whiskey out of my mouth.
My tennis partner has been up for a couple hours, digested a nutritious breakfast and is ready to play.
I hope there is wine or beer left.
I discover some vodka, struggle with some ice cubes and make a not-too-orange-looking screwdriver. Breakfast is served.
The sun is directly over the tennis court. Sweat is pouring out of me at an extraordinary rate. My feet are swimming in the Atlantic.
Since I am battling against an opposing player and a hangover I consider this match two against one. I won’t feel bad about losing.
On the underside of my slick skin my nerves are trembling. My nerves are doing a tap dance underneath my skin and the only way to get them off the stage is to feed them some liquor. People on stage are notorious addicts.
I plan to beat this hangover fair and square. Same with my opponent in this tennis match.
If I do both I will treat myself to some beer. I’m going to be a fucking hero today.
We finish warm-up. I feel like I have run a marathon.
To start the match I am returning serve. My hands and feet feel a lifetime away from my brain, I have no idea how I am going to communicate with them. I think of Marla and I eating dinner.
My opponent prepares to serve.
Like a bazooka shot, the tennis ball fires off his racket and hops right into my gut. Evidently I did not communicate to my mouth and voice box to call a timeout.
I think about Marla and I having sex.
There is a wave pool in my belly, complete with screaming kids.
Win or loss I deserve a drink after this.
I walk to the other side of the court and take off my shirt to combat the heat. With the moistness and welt, my pale gut looks like centre ice from a freshly flooded hockey arena.
My rink body gives me the chills, I shiver all over. I can’t think anymore.
“Serving is all about physics.” A middle aged man yells across the net to his elderly and barely mobile dad playing opposite him in the court next to us.
I want to yell something witty and condescending at him. I don’t know what either of those words mean right now.
I put my shirt back on to combat the shivers and bounce up and down waiting for the next serve. Bouncing like this makes me feel athletic and professional. Being clammy and having my brain knock around my skull does not.
“For a great serve, you need muscle memory, so you throw the ball up in the same position each time.”
Is this middle aged man trying to torture his father?
My opponent must have been listening to these tips, because his serve whizzes right by me.
Eighteen minutes later I am down in this match 5-0. I am desperate not to be shut out. In the park behind me a dog has been barking for the last three points. The owner keeps yelling for the dog to shut up and sit. If the old man beside me had any vocal chords left he’d be yelling at his son to shut up and sit.
If I get shut out I will quit drinking. If not I am getting a pint at lunch.
A waft of dog shit comes my way as I deliver a beautiful and lucky volley just over the net for my first point. 5-1.
The run to the net combined with freshly ripped dog shit does not sit well with me. My legs feel like rubber and my brain feels like a basketball player is spinning it on his finger. I crookedly walk back to the baseline and start violently puking.
I do not try to hold anything in. I hope everyone in and around this court can sense my disdain. First the screwdriver comes out, then all of yesterday’s imbibing.
I heave and wheeze to a finish. The dog and son from hell are finally silent. “It’s all about physics” I yell, then pull a ball out of my pocket and serve.
6-3 is the final.
Off to lunch for a beer. Tomorrow that guy is mine.