Tennis Nemesis
Northern Virginia
Around 2007

I fall in love with tennis
As a young girl living in Nigeria
I love ball sounds
Bouncing off rackets and ground
Flying through space
I love the microcosm
Of suspense and drama
Playing out on courts
Across Earth

For a few years
I play indoor adult women’s
Competitive tennis
It’s a break for me to
Slip into a cute tennis skirt
Out of my career and graduate school
Into moving ball play

One afternoon
I show up for a match
Relaxed and happy
Yet immediately read
The woman’s energy
And know that something is

Like most of the women I play
She’s in her mid-40’s
Accessorized to the max
As is the norm on these courts

We say hello and shake hands
She looks at me as if she knows me well
To me
She appears to be a stranger
Just another tennis lady

We start playing
Even in the warm up
Something feels off
She’s hitting harder
I feel her frustration
I feel a rage
Radiating out of her
Across the net
To me

We begin our match
She plays each point as if it’s the
End of the world
She plays each point
As if it matters
We play in silence
Yet I keep tasting rage
Anytime she looses a point

“I’ve been thinking about you
all year
since we last played
and you beat me.”
She says to break the silence
I don’t respond
I scan my mind to try to remember
Our last match
I have no recollection

“I have our score up on my fridge
to help me remember
I’ve been practicing hard
To beat you on this round
I should have beat you
In that match.”


Now with her added words
Rage energy increases
I feel her tense up
As if angry with herself even more
For having shared

I play for fun
This is my escape from work and school.”
My response seems to anger her
Even more

We fall back into silence
And play out points
Her aggression continues to increase
And my first raw response
Is that I’ll fucking beat her
I know when I focus
I simply win
What if I mirror her rage
And we battle this out?

That lasts a few points
This rage is not mine
For the few minutes of tasting it
Having fed off hers
It’s the most rage I’ve felt
As far back as I recall
I’m not a rage girl

What are my options?
I taste her fury increasing
When she wins a point
She feeds her own ego
When she looses a point
Her fury feeds her

Do I simply let her win?
Do I give her the pleasure
Of knowing that she beat me?
Do I cream her?
Or do I play causally
And let it gently play out?

I give her a few points
And feel her fury increase
She knows I let her get those points

This is insane!
I didn’t know that this woman exists
And in her mind
I’m her nemesis
OMG, I’m someone’s
Tennis nemesis

We play for a few more minutes
Each point still is life and death to her
I come out of my head and into my body
This game feels horrible in my body
I don’t deserve to feel this way
On a tennis court

I stop playing
Walk towards the net
I’m shaking a bit with the energy
“I forfeit.
I can’t play with your energy
I don’t understand your anger at me
I play competitive tennis for fun
End of match.”

I begin walking back to the bench
To pack up
“You can’t do that!”
She practically yells at me
“I’m free to do whatever I wish.”
I say back gently

Once I’m off the court
I wonder about her
Was that woman aware
Of her obsession and rage?
Who was that woman?

And did she learn anything
From my response of choosing
To not play her
And instead
To walk away?

******************************WE ARE ALL STARS***************************

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