Ann and I just sat down after our third and final racquetball game. It had come down right to the last point, and she won it 16-14.

We'd played two games before that and split them. The third game was the tiebreaker.

She won the tiebreaker, so she won the day's racquetball match. She had won the previous four days' matches as well. She's never beat me five days in a row. She's getting good.

I could complain about how my elbow was swollen from the previous day's racquetball competition with some of the better male players at the club, but I won't. It didn't mean I didn't try that trick, but Ann counters that by saying she's the survivor of two heart attacks. Hmmm. Good point.

My arthritic left knee, I say. Her one-size-too-big tennis shoes she picked up at the lost & found, she says. My poor, failing, glaucoma-impaired eyesight, I say. Her lack of experience compared to mine, she says. And so it goes.

We've managed to draw even in racquetball. I've played her for over a year now, ever since I found out she loved to play competitively. The first few games we played, she thought I was playing unnaturally poorly and complained bitterly. I switched the racquet from left to right hand and then showed her a typical right handed serve velocity, and showed her a few kill shots. It wouldn't be fair. I played competitively in my university days. So I switched to left hand and promised her that in a few months I'd get better and give her real competition.

I did. I learned how to serve left handed. I had to learn how to forehand smash left handed. I had to learn how to instinctively position my body to set up for a left handed shot. In a few months we were going at it tooth and nail, and I would win consistently.

I've never played anything competitively with a woman before. My former wife hated my sports competitiveness, and I learned to forego that portion of my life. I was a cheerleader for my daughters when they'd shoot baskets or we'd play basketball, but I never permitted myself to care about a game. They were naturally competitive anyway. It wouldn't have helped.

But with Ann, it was different. She'd get nose to nose with me if she thought I was throwing a game, or giving her shitty weak serves. I asked her, do you REALLY want me to play all out? Of course, she'd say. What's the point of playing if I don't play you at your best? How can I ever get any better?

Now, sixteen months after we started playing racquetball together, she's edging me out. She's getting better than me on a consistent basis.

She still thinks I'm giving her the games. She still feels I'm not playing all out.

If you're reading this, Ann, I'll tell you a secret: I'm not. I'm playing as hard as I can. You're really winning, because you've gotten better.

====

She's really quite uninhibited. It's refreshing to know a woman like this.

So we were resting after our final game, and I was sweating profusely. Ann was looking merely dewy.

She said she felt a bead of sweat rolling down her backbone.

And then she said, quite unselfconsciously, "I haven't sweat during sex since I was in college. What I need to find is a 30 year old man who will make me sweat again."

It must have been the honesty that comes from tiredness after a good battle. I laughed. I looked at her and said, honey, if you can find a good 30 year old man who'd make you sweat, you go for it, girl. God knows I'm not keeping up with you any more.

"I notice you have your thumb in my soup, any chance you can dip all five fingers in there?" - Phillip Sarc, the inventor of Sarcasm, as portrayed by Kevin Spacey on SNL

"Oh, I'm not being sarcastic, nooooo, this is just a little speech impediment. I can't help it." - Lonely Sarcastic Guy, played by Chris Foley on Kids in the Hall

 


 

I really must rein in my sarcasm. It is starting to be my default mode of communication, which is quite tiring for those around me. I have always been acerbic, but these days I am turning into a stone-cold bitch. In order to remedy this, I've identified my three primary modes of sarcasm delivery, so that I might avoid them:

1. Responding to a question that I think is an obvious one with an ridiculous alternate scenario:

My Brother, holding up a messenger bag inside my car: "Is this your bag?"
Me: "No, it isn't. I stole it from a homeless person that is taking the same classes as I am and who has the same taste in books."

2. Pretending to not have heard of something that is so prevalent in American culture that I am either lying about not knowing about it or have been living with my head up my ass for decades:

Myles, trying to make conversation as we walk through campus, the first time he flew to Texas: "Have you ever heard of Radiohead?"
Me, dumbfounded at the question: "No, actually I haven't. I was born in the basement of this building, and emerged only today to meet you at the airport."

Months Pass

Myles: "Have you ever seen American Idol?"
Me: "No, actually, I haven't. These are my first moments of life. It's all so disorienting. I am seeing with my own eyes for the first time. Quick, I must invent a vocabulary for these things. I shall call these subtle gradiations of the light ... 'colors'... yes, that's it... and these touching things 'hands', Oh, Myles, there's so much I don't know. You must teach me!"
Myles: "Jackass."

Myles bears the brunt of it, really. Once, he was telling a very emotional story, and when he had finished my response was: "Nice story. Coulda used a vampire, though." Did I want to hurt him? Of course not. But once I see the opportunity for a joke, I have to take it.

3. Subtle correction, a trick I acquired from my dad.

Observant bystander: "Xxxxx Xxxxx died last night. All the flags are at half-mask."
Me: "They're at half-mast, too."

When I was in high school, my closest friends got together as a group and told me I was mean. My friends had an intervention to tell me I was an asshole. And they were right. It is easy for me to brutalize people with what I think is funny and ignore the fact that I am hurting their feelings.

I will try to be nicer to other people. I will try not to make them feel stupid. I will try.

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