Upsetting
Sunday, January 04, 2004
 
“Only white faggots play tennis.”

It comes from somewhere behind you, up above your deuce court, from a parking lot separated by two fences from the public courts.

You continue a rally, aware that the voice was moving away from you as it spoke.

The ball goes into the net, and you and your wife – on the other side of the court – regroup and begin again. She is learning the game, and you show her what you little you learned of it in your youth.

“Hey, faggot, you’ll hit it better if you take the dick out of your ass.”

The voice has stopped moving and remains directly behind the fence. It is an adolescent voice. A voice belonging to someone who does not know the pleasures of men and their prostates.

You consider your several options as you continue hitting the ball with your wife. Your first consideration is that the voice is doing his people a disservice with such language. You think there is no male role model to have taught him of taking such chances with such rudeness.

Your wife on the other side of the net says nothing unrelated to the rally at hand. The sun is down, and the balls are hard to see in the gloaming. The planes continue their approach to the nearby airport.

“Hey, faggot,” the voice calls again, about the same time your wife hits one wide. You don’t hear the rest of the voice because your wife is telling you that she has another ball, that you don’t need to get the one that bounced into the fence. You tell her it’s okay, and she understands your body language to mean you will retrieve the ball on your side of the court.

You turn to see get the ball, and after you pick it up you look up at the voice.

It comes from a white person, an adolescent about driving age. His friend is black, and in the gloaming you can see his teeth. He does not say anything. You think to yourself that he knows better, that someone told him it is rude and unwise to bait strangers. You never know what you’re gonna catch.

You catch the voice in the eye and stare up at it for a good couple of seconds. For a moment it is silent. You don’t say a word, and your face is not demonstrative. You just look into the voice’s eyes until it registers what you communicate.

The voice then says, “Uh, sir, do you know what time it is?”

You don’t say anything as you walk back toward the service line. You, he, and his friend know what has transpired. You do not say a word.

You go back to hitting the balls with your wife, and the voice shuffles off into the increasing darkness, the hollering and baiting resumed but quieting. It is gone.

You hit the balls some more with your wife.

As you walk from the court with her, she says she was going to tell the voice the time. She did not hear the other things it said. When told of the baiting, she says she’s glad she didn’t give the time.

No time was given, and that’s why the voice was at the tennis courts yelling “faggot” and trying to solicit some attention. Some time from someone, even if it was negative.

No time was given, indeed, and your wife said it’s too bad the voice is going to have to learn so many lessons the hard way.

You hope that maybe it just did.
 
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