Tonight, I sat on my couch scrolling through IG, and saw the VOGUE cover. I fought to hold back tears. I am allergic to weepy, but tonight (albeit the dam held) I allowed myself to feel the sadness. It was really happening. I failed, and VOGUE made it real.
This might be how many felt the day their bigger-than-life hero Magic or Mike or Kobe hung up their jerseys. The small crack in the reflection of who they could be hurt just a little, but they understood. They knew it would happen one day. The injuries would be too much or lives would take sad turns or the love of the game wouldn’t be enough, and the player would walk away. They would stand in the center of the court, sweating, hands on hips, head hung to reach the mic spilling their love out for all those ready to drink it in. Their gratitude for the moments gained and lost would fill the arena and hearts would swell. The fans would be forever grateful for the shared experience. It helped them seek higher, and dream farther.
My 43-year-old self has little energy for dreams these days. I could very easily spend my life laying in bed and eating quarts of ice cream for breakfast. But deep down, the parts of me still forming ideals about life, love, and the ridiculous pursuit of happiness held one dream so close to the chest it ached. I allowed life to smother it, I suppose. I let rent and ridiculous spending choices and lack of belief that it could happen slip in and kill it quietly. It seems silly, really, to lament a moment in time that never existed (nor perhaps ever will), but nonetheless, I do.
The sun is beaming on center court, and the grass is long since worn by days of play. The beige earth peeks beneath the green as if it hadn’t been cared for at all. But those of us who had been glued to the bodies decorated in gleaming white below, know it had. We know this is the moment the grounds had been given special care. I smile. I am here. Finally. I am here, grinning ear to ear, ready and willing to pour every ounce of self into this moment because it is what I dreamt of for a decade (or more). She enters, chocolate skin covered in white…quiet confidence laced with a maturity only age (and perhaps mothering) could lend. I watch as she moves for hours with an athletic grace I have only seen a few possess. Win or lose (but preferably win), I will drink in every second.
The dream plays out in New York, too, and involves pizza, bagels, and shopping but the outcome is the same. I am there, watching one of the greats leave it all on the court for what is to be one of her last.
My heart is heavy at the thought of packing it away and leaving it on the shelf with the rest of the dreams deterred. I promised myself–I pushed it out into the Universe. I would sit in England or in New York or even here in Atlanta and watch her play. It wouldn’t be from behind a computer monitor under the office fluorescents or from the small screen of a phone. It wouldn’t be from the living room. It would be live…a living, breathing experience. Serena had been my reminder over the years to be better, push harder, live in the skin God envisioned, and never, ever, be apologetic about being the best. Never. I ignored that reminder (more often than not) and fell into patterns of life I wasn’t called to, but nevertheless, I carried it, for better or worse. And for just a moment, I wanted to breathe it in with the fresh air. Yet…
Time moved–it IS moving. Time didn’t stand still and wait for me to get it together. It never once asked how it was going. It never once sat me down and said to get my shit in line. Instead, time just kept being time. I sit, staring at the VOGUE cover wondering how many more things I would allow to get in the way of….well….anything. Time never stood still. Life never stood still. I did.
I suck at tennis, by the way. I tried to play. I even attempted the grunts and the fast serves (they never ended up standing ON the court–ever). I tried the tennis skirts and the back and forth sway at the baseline. It all went terribly wrong. But I tried. That was the extent, though. Hobbling back to the car, I knew I couldn’t touch her path (not that I was really trying). I had my own and (after icing my knee) I had to get about the business of walking down it. The knee healed and the tennis rackets sat in the garage gathering dust. Time never waited for me to walk the path. It never sent any reminders–except for one, decades later. “Farewell”.
I have resigned myself to watching her, on television, move to the center of the court, hands on hips, and spilling her love out for all those who wish to drink it in. I will be sad, and, perhaps in the sorrow, drop a tear or two, but it will be more for myself and less for her. She owned her time. She set her sights and kept moving toward the mark–beautifully imperfect. A move forward is still a move in the right direction. She gave Time its marching orders and it obeyed.
As I sit and watch her go, I will hold dear the lazy days of tennis watching and the very real connection to something outside of myself. Recognizing the moment the sisters appeared, social class nor money could keep possibility out. I will hold dear the dream, the inspiration given and the realization that anything…everything…is possible…Even while sitting on the couch, with a pint of ice cream watching the G.O.A.T grunt her way into victorious retirement.