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Sunday, August 26, 2018

4: Thinking at Odds

            Lacing her shoes for Thursday night’s Mixed Doubles Night, Jasmine lets out a sigh, certain that Davie would miss the night.  The elders could ex-communicate her only from church, not a private club, but what about Davie?  Could they order him away from a club none of them attends?  Or even from just Mixed Doubles Night?  
            She wonders whether the elders were made aware of the connection she and Davie have at Glendale.  If so, it wasn’t from Jasmine, who had never been given the chance to share her story.  But what might Davie have said?  And what might the elders have ordered of him?  
            Glendale Racquet Club was Davie’s escape.  Na├»ve people think pastors have it easy.  They’re working in a Christian environment, serving Christians, and reporting to Christians. What, they ask, could be sweeter than that?  Jasmine knew better.  Just two weeks ago, during a water break between sets, Davie asked, “What would I do without you guys?” then he smiled at Jasmine, adding, “and gals!”  Just as he began the next line, “I’d –,“ the group finished it with him: “go bonkers!”  They’d heard him say it plenty of times before.  Sweating out a fast-paced match of tennis with plenty of overhead slams was Davie’s way of letting out his steam, releasing his stress, and keeping him sane, so he could return to work the next day and be the loving, caring, thoughtful, and patient pastor the church needed him to be.  Could the elders foresee the impact on their church if they stripped him of his outlet so he'd “go bonkers”?
            Jasmine formally met Davie the day Pres. Obama announced he’d just had Osama bin Laden assassinated.  Gabbi had been prodding Jasmine and Mindy to join Mixed Doubles Night, which needed more women, and they finally did that night.  When the regulars discovered Davie had recognized Jasmine from his church, the group gave the newbie to Davie as his partner for the night.  Neither had seen the other play.  Jasmine took a breath.  What if she didn’t know where to position herself, or which shots to take and which to surrender, or when to race to the net and when to protect back court?  New partners, even strong ones, usually have to lose a few games before they can gel enough to win.  And what if she didn’t play up to his standards?  To her relief, her worries were unfounded.  From the start, the two knew exactly where to be, what to poach at the net, how to support each other, and how to set one another up for the winning shot. 
            That first set was close.  Jamine and Davie were up 6-5 against Theresa and BD, Davie’s standard Men’s Doubles partner.  But they were receiving serve, and no one had yet broken serve, so they expected to go into a tie-breaker.  Unless Davie and Jasmine could break serve, right here, right now, at ad-out, set point.  BD served to Davie, who returned it back court to Theresa’s backhand, fast with heavy top-spin, then Davie rushed the net.  Theresa sent it down the line to Jasmine, who pulled BD over with a tight cross-court shot to the front alley.  BD raced forward, opening center court.  But Davie and Jasmine’s center left was also open. BD seized the window, bypassed Davie at the net, and sent his shot to the ad court’s center back line.  Jasmine raced back and to the left and made it in time for her two handed backhand to send a straight low one, passing BD, to the center deuce court back line.  Davie, at the net, ran center, seeming to switch court sides.  Theresa, seeing Davie move right, hit a drop shot short to the ad court.  But Davie had tricked her and side stepped back to the ad side just in time to volley a winner, a short fast one to the alley in the ad court.
            Exhilarated, Jasmine decided to finish off the night with the Mixed Doubles Night tradition: drinks at The Alley.  Glendale’s own sports bar, The Alley, was all prepped for the players with tables combined to form an extra long one, seating 16.  The full group went that night and Jasmine sat between Gabbi and Mindy and across from Gentry, who sat next to BD, who sat next to Davie.  When the group had ordered their drinks and it was time to toast, Steve made it easy: “To a great night of tennis and to the death of America’s Number One Most Wanted Terrorist.”  As they toasted, Jasmine noticed she and Davie were the only two of the sixteen who toasted with a pop, not a beer.  Thankfully, she appeared to be the only one who noticed, as no one seemed to pay any mind to one another’s drink orders. 
After toasting, Gentry asked Davie, “So is murder okay as long as it’s to a terrorist?” Davie smiled and teased, “Better than if it’s to a non-terrorist, right?”  After a moment, Davie shook his head and admitted, “I really don’t have an answer about what to do with a man like Osama bin Laden.  Other than stay away from him!”  “And hope he stays away from you!” BD added, to everyone’s laughter.
Theresa looked serious.  “What about criminals in our own country, really bad ones – murderers and serial rapists – do you think we should put them to death?"  “I oppose capital punishment,” Davie replied.  Jasmine looked up, interested.   “A lot of Christians cite ‘an eye for an eye’ to support their favor of it,” Theresa said.  Davie nodded, “To them, I cite the Sixth Command, ‘Do not kill,’ and the higher law of Jesus to pray for our persecutors.”  Jasmine nodded, “Shouldn’t ‘pro-life’ mean ‘anti-death’?”  Davie smiled at Jasmine.  “I like how you think.”
Trying to hold back her blush, Jasmine mused that she also likes how Davie thinks.  Growing up in an evangelical church in Colorado Springs, Jasmine hadn’t found too many within her own Christian community who do.  Her own family found her to be an odd duck.  Despite her insistence that her politics were informed by Jesus’ compassion for the poor, the sick, and the oppressed, and despite her endless citations of Jesus’ teachings like the beatitudes and the separation of the sheep and goats, her family continued to berate her for what they called “thinking at odds.”  She had never asked them what they meant by that, but she was certain that whatever it meant, it wasn’t true.  And now, she had just found another Christian who, at least in one way, thinks like her.  Together, perhaps the two of them could be “thinking at evens.”  Most stunning, he was on the pastoral staff at her own church.
At home, Jasmine usually kept her politics to herself.  Her husband Tim, a loyal Republican, didn’t know Jasmine votes Democrat more than she votes with him.  She considers her marriage like her town: at odds, with closet progressives.  Those who have never been to Colorado Springs might think it’s a cozy little mostly white homogenous town.  It is mostly white, but it has its share of Hispanics, of which Gabbi is one-half, and African Americans, like BD.  Jasmine would love to see her hometown more diversified, but she wouldn’t call it homogenous.  Not with two military bases and the Air Force Academy, headquarters to numerous Christian groups, a smattering of hippies and environmentalists, and all the techies and average folks that make up the town.  No, Jasmine smiled, this city that’s red turning purple in a state that’s purple turning blue is surely less “homogenous” than it is “thinking at odds.”  Maybe she’s right where she belongs.
And, maybe, she also found herself right where she belongs at Glendale’s Mixed Doubles Night.  Driving home that night, she wonders about her evening’s tennis partner who is also her own church’s youth pastor.  Could he also be a closet progressive?

 © 2018 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.
Continue to Coaching from the Sidelines

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

3: The Introduction

            The Image flashes.  That one that comes fifty times a day, every day, tormenting Jasmine with ecstasy and agony. It’s the image of her first official introduction to Davie at Glendale Racquet Club that Thursday night when, upon Gabbie's encouragement, insisting the group was seeking more female players, Jasmine and Mindy joined Mixed Doubles Night.  

            When the two friends arrived, they saw a gathering of players between Courts 1 and 2 by the net.  Gabbie hadn't yet arrived.  A young African American in his 20s was stretching, two players were pulling out racquets, a blond female in her 40s was teasing one of them while bouncing a tennis ball, and two others were standing, waiting for the rest to get ready.  All chatting and laughing, the players were plainly good friends.  Would Jasmine and Mindy fit in, or would they be invading a tight-knit clique?  Jasmine found herself curiously transfixed by one of the male players, roughly 5 foot 10 with a modest build, the type Jasmine finds especially attractive: muscular in the upper arms and thighs, without the bulging calf muscles or the shine of overdoing it.  To Jasmine, weight lifting is good until it reaches that perfect plateau, before it’s more ego-building than body-building.

He stood clutching his racquet head with both arms around it, like it was a faithful friend.  Standing firm with his racquet clutched gave him a sexy edge, but professional-sexy, and definitely athletic.  Did he know that if she were to pull out her cell phone and capture him on her phone he could pass for some tennis pro posing for a photo op? She felt this impulse within her to pull it out and snap a shot, but her better mind stopped her.  Awkward.  Instead, she tried to capture it indelibly in her mind.

            Mindy moved quickly from back court to the net, while Jasmine found herself in slow motion, wishing Gabbie was on time and could do the introductions.  She wasn't good at these.  Especially when she was transfixed with something forbidden.  The Image continued, like a short video, and the best part comes next when she’s about eight feet from Mr. Almost Tennis Pro, when he looks over to her.
Did he know she had been looking at him, admiring him?  He seemed not to notice Mindy, his gaze fixed upon Jasmine.  For a heartbeat that felt like Eternity, their eyes locked.  In that instant when time was stopped, Jasmine felt that she was watching a high speed train pass in warp speed.  The train whisked with countless cars, each car carrying volumes of books, each volume carrying memorials of some faraway place and time, each memorial shared by Jasmine and this young man with whom her eyes were locked.  Did he see the train too? 

            “I know you,” he said.  He did see the train.  He knows we know each other.  He gazed again into Jasmine’s eyes, searching for the where, when, and how.  “Not high school,” he said.  Of course not.  Go deeper.  Further.  “Not college either,” he continued.  You’re nowhere near warm.  I don’t know how, but we know each other.  “Do you attend Quail Canyon?”  That’s it?  We “know” each other from church?  From passing in the hallways between services?  Just an ordinary acquaintance from church?  She looked again at him, this time at his full face and features, his oval-shaped face with distinctive dimples, straight eyebrows, and deep, dark brown eyes, all sitting under a generous head of dark brown hair, not quite curly but with wavy whisks.  Then she knew: the youth pastor at her church.  Looking straight into her was Pastor David standing buff, athletic, and perfectly beautiful in his shorts.   Never before had she noticed how muscular he is, especially in his thighs.  Of course, never before had she seen him in shorts.

            A confused mixture of emotions circulated through her system, none of them willing to dominate and take center stage and none of them willing to exit: flattery that he recognized her, let down that their acquaintance came from a place as mundane as church, and relief that their acquaintance was mundane, for, after all, she was married. 

            At each flash of the Image, Jasmine marvels and thanks her angels she managed the right reply: “Yes, I do.”  He grinned wide, looked again into her eyes  -- did he know she was married?  Had he seen her at church with her husband or only when she was alone?  He held out his hand for a shake, “Call me Davie.”

 © 2018 by karina.  All rights reserved.  Please use with permission or a citation that links to this blog.