I am watching a Wimbledon tennis match on television, grateful that for once the rain has stayed away, when she walks in, her usual energetic self, an English jumping bean caught in a hurricane, and, as usual, still buzzing from quotidian office events. She is one of the few people I’ve ever come across who appears physically reinvigorated through work.
“Good day?” I ask.
She gives me a cheerful “Uhu” before embarking on her habitual meticulous description of it, who said what to whom, jokes told, problems remedied – including, sadly, dull technical detail. I have become an expert at filtering out the unnecessary bits, switching off then on again at appropriate moments, responding accordingly.
Engrossed with the tennis, I make polite listening noises while keeping my eyes on the television. Roger Federer is in imperious form, the epitome of elegance, dishing out a master class to his wretched opponent. Sometimes he gives the impression of superhuman invulnerability, a messiah with a tennis racquet in his hand. One can’t help but feel that if Jesus himself had opted for a career on the ATP tour instead of saving the ungrateful bastards, he would play exactly like Federer.
“… but you know I didn’t think anything of it…”, she is saying.
“Well, I thought I’d run a check, just in case…”
Federer now makes an impossible cross-court shot look like the most natural thing in the world. He appears to be operating in a different space-time continuum from us mere mortals, finding time to ensure his shots are not only perfectly timed and placed, but that they are executed with casual elegance.
“… It was actually the first time I used the kit…”, she is saying.
It’s the change-over break, and the camera hovers, then settles on a shot of Virginia Wade in the crowd prodding a top molar with her little finger then eating whatever she managed to dig out.
“Ughh”, I groan.
She stops talking mid-sentence, then says coldly, “You don’t seem interested in what I’m telling you”.
“I am! Please continue”, I say, without looking away from the TV, then back at her when no further sound is emitted. Clearly sulking now. But it will have to wait, Federer is in the middle of a fantastic rally, this time seemingly incapable of finding a clean winner or forcing an error from his opponent, who looks like a man rescued from a drowning accident, his hair plastered to his face with sweat. Federer’s headband, on the other hand, looks obsolete, an affectation.
Still silence. I glance back at her. An accusatory stare now.
“What’s wrong?”, I ask.
“Nothing, I hope. I just thought you’d be a little more thrilled at the prospect of becoming a father for the first time”, she says in a husky monotone.
I look back at the TV slack-jawed, now barely able to take in what I’m looking at: the rally has finally come to an end, and the big champion, the man seemingly able to predict where his opponent’s shots are going to land before they are even played, looks stunned too as a clean winner fizzes past his nose.