Tennis Pusher: (Arlington, 1991)

I tighten my grip on the Wilson Aggressor racket, my thighs wet with denim sweat. Varsity tennis tryouts and I’m up 3-1 against Nerwin, wearing my Levi’s and a pair of docksiders. No Reeboks, no Le Coq Sportif shirt, no Adidas pants, my outfit tells everyone that I don’t give a shit. But really it’s my guise, so I don’t have to try my hardest and lose. I don’t want to be like them, with all the gear, going to tennis camps at Hilton Head, going all out. Then I’d have to admit that I made the effort and failed, better to be the guy wearing jeans, owning my number 10 spot on the team. Nerwin is getting frustrated by me; they all hate the way I play. Backhand slice, backhand slice, lob, forehand dinker, point Polk. In my head I’m singing Cool it now, You got to slow it down, by New Edition, my tennis game is like Patrick Ewing, lead-footed and lumbering. Up 4-1 now, and I’m in Nerwin’s head, fuck you Polk, I hear him panting under his breath. It’s all part of my game, psychology, you must prove that you can overpower me, otherwise you will lose, Danny the dinker will beat you. They call me g-string, the gatekeeper, the bouncer; you don’t make the team unless you can whoop me. I take my role seriously, that’s why Nerwin is getting his ass kicked. I win the set 6-2, Nerwin looks at me like I’m a demented Rubik’s cube. My tennis hasn’t improved since the 9th grade, I’m the middle way, the Buddhist in waiting, or maybe I’m just scared.

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