#118 Runnymede Park, Winnetka

My new tennis friend’s knee twists alarmingly as he attempts to return a serve I have sliced way more aggressively than the situation calls for. He is tall and sad-faced, from Moscow. Although he got up two-nothing early on, this is because I had calibrated my game to “this guy can barely get the ball back” during warm-ups. I should not have been surprised to see him suddenly become much more proficient once we started keeping score, as that is an age-old hustle. Still, I could just tell that I should go easy on this guy, who had a Ukrainian flag on his Facebook profile where he also looked about 15 years younger. In person, he looks like he wants to be living a different life.

There is really no need to slice him even though I am serving ad-out. I have roared back to 4-2 and the sporting thing to do here would have been to let him win another game. But the Evil Within said “DO IT” and I obliged with a slice like a flying saucer indifferent to gravity.

The knee-buckling itself was a slow-motion-in-real-life moment of seeing this guy’s lower leg go one way and his upper leg go another. Hanging in the balance was the question of how agonizing it was about to be when he crashed down on his knee.

But he didn’t… WHEWWW!!! … close one though. It made me swear off slicing, again. I’ve been swearing off slicing for years and whoopsy-daisy, there goes another one — but this time felt different. This time felt like, do you really want to put your new Russian friend in an ambulance? Is that what you have taken oh-so-many buses out to Winnetka to do?

If not, then what are you doing?

A: Listening to my better instincts, this time, maybe, I hope so, when my better instincts say, enough with the slicing.

The other main thing I remember from this outing is an apparently unhoused woman wandering around the park unclothed. Is she…. naked? It’s hard to tell because she is in the middle ground, neither close nor far but certainly existing. She wanders from one point near a big rock to another point on the open grass, with dog-walkers and people resting at benches not signaling any alarm. I feel distracted during points speculating about her situation. Maybe she is a local. This is what she does and what can you do. What seems true to me is that her shirt and pants keep falling off, whether deliberately or not is not the point. The point being, that poor woman is naked in the park.

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