Lisa, the tennis star
I met Lisa when I interviewed her for an Underground Newspaper I edited in New York. She had come to town to play tennis in the U.S. Open. Our rag was interested in her because she had a reputation for supporting radical political causes – not the norm for professionals involved in Country Club sports.
We met at 23. She advertised her political affiliations by wearing a Che Guevera beret. “How does a rich, beautiful tennis player like you get involved in radical politics?” I asked.
“My family was involved in left-wing activism,” she said. I think she may have been sick of dumb questions, because she continued, “In fact, we were so far left we thought Ho Chi Minh was a moderate. While other children were celebrating The Fourth of July, Easter, and Christmas, my family celebrated May Day, Lenin’s birthday, and the assassination of Garfield.”
“So you were ‘to the manor born’, when it came to radical politics?” I asked.
“It ran in my family,” said Lisa. “I remember informing on my mother, for saying a toy I wanted to play with was ‘my brother’s’.”
Needless to say, I fell madly in love with Lisa. I loved this kind of stuff. Unfortunately, she was out of my league. She was ranked #12 in the world in singles, #4 in doubles. We became friends, but nothing more. During the next year, she’d blow into town for a tournament, have a drink with me, and we’d joke about politics.
One day, after the next year’s Open, she showed up at my apartment in the Village looking a little worse for wear. She’d lost in the quarters, and she was depressed. “You’re a good friend, Knox,” she said. “I need a hug.”
I gave her a hug. “You’re a good friend, too, Lisa,” I said. “In fact, I’d say you’re my 23rd best friend in the whole world.” I knew how competitive Lisa was, and I had a scheme.
Lisa wasn’t impressed. “Give me a break, Knox! You don’t like 22 other people better than you like me and you know it!”
“Well, you’re ranked 23 right now,” I said. “But it’s like tennis. At that level, it’s easy to move up in the rankings.
Of course it’s hard to get to Number One, but moving from 23 to 22 or 21 shouldn’t be so difficult.”
“I could be Number One if I wanted to be,” she said.
“I don’t know about that. But you might be able to crack the top twenty.”
“I bet I’d crack the top twenty if I gave you one kiss,” she said.
“Only one way to find out.”
In few minutes, Lisa was sticking her tongue into my ear, while I was counting down like I worked for Mission Control, “OK! OK! Mercy! 21-20-19-18-17-16…..”
“Slow down, Knox,” she said. “We don’t want to get to #1 until I’m ready, too.”
Lisa and I became lovers. However, we rarely saw each other, because she only came to New York three or four times a year. She’d blow in for the Open, or for some other tournament, and stay at my apartment. I’d watch the matches from her box seats, sitting with her coach and parents. One time, my friends told me that I’d been on TV. Bud Collins had intoned, “That’s Lisa’s coach sitting with her great and good friend Knox Dupree.” I looked good, according to the couch potato witnesses.
The second Open after Lisa and I had become involved, she showed up at my apartment unannounced (as usual) a few days before the tournament. She gave me a hug, but I sensed something wasn’t right. “What’s the matter, Lisa?”
“Nothing,” she said.
“You can tell me – we’re good friends.”
“We are good friends, Knox. In fact, you’re my second best friend in the whole world. So I should tell you: I’m getting married.”
She kissed me on the cheek and walked away. I watched her walk up 7th Avenue. The September air was hot, sticky and smelled like garbage. I suppose I could have been proud to be number two. But I wasn’t. I haven’t been back to Flushing Meadows since.
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