It’s that time in the game when the server begins to get nervous, when the returner starts gaining confidence, that moment after the ball hits the net and the head judge calls out, “Love-30.” Palms are sweaty because both players know they can’t afford to make any mistakes. They know that momentum swings on a swift pendulum, and that it could quickly get away from one or the other of them, so they also know about pressing advantage and defending position. It’s that tipping point that can change everything.
I remember the first time I fell in love. It was all magic rainbows and gaudy fireworks inside my mind and my heart. I felt a rush every single time I thought of her or saw her even in passing. She had no idea at the time, but she would smile at me and my heart would melt clear away. I would sit there and work out in my head just how I would approach her, with a complex line made to sound simple, one that she would chuckle at, and find me charming, and fall into my arms. But things don’t work that way in real life.
When I finally made my move it was clumsy, like a bad magician dropping his hat and everything falling out, but she still found it charming, she still found me endearing in my awful footing. She still wanted to dance with me. And it began as things often do, with looks, and sighs, and talks about nothing and everything at the very same time. It was exactly like I had pictured it, a whirlwind of emotions swirling around like so many dust particles, settling on us at the same time. I knew, I absolutely knew, that we were feeling those feelings, so I planned on how I would tell her.
I set it up like I set up most things, with a lot of planning and my heart on my sleeve. I was ecstatic to know that those words would soon step into the physical world, and everything would change. That change was like the difference between being a child and being an adult. It snuck up on you, but when you finally realized it was there it seemed like it had always been there. We would hug, and kiss, and spin around drunk on this ultimate feeling, set up by those three unimpeachable words.
And I said them, after so much preamble. They were out there in the world, like that ball sailing through the air off the strings of my tautly strung racquet, hitting the net. Love-30. I looked deeply into her eyes, at the power simmering in her gaze, mixed with a pain that I couldn’t quite fathom. I thought things had been perfect, that it was the next logical step in our relationship, that the momentum we had gathered had no way of slowing down or stopping. Until the ball hit the net, and her gaze lowered, and I knew the game was already lost, that the Love-30 had slid quickly to Love-40, then the game was done as swiftly as it had begun.
It was that tipping point that changed everything, but I realized later that it was the best thing that could have happened. Because Love is a beautiful thing, but it has to be shared.