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Sunday, October 20, 2019

5: Coaching from the Sidelines

February 16, 2012

            Driving home from Mixed Doubles Night, Jasmine wonders whether she should be upset with Davie, or the elders, or both.  Davie did not make it tonight, nor did he text that he’d be gone.  Was that his choice or the elders’?  Will he miss every week or just this one?  Will he let Jasmine know?  In the past, if he couldn’t make it to Mixed Doubles Night, he’d text her at least by their group’s Yoga Room stretching time, and usually sooner.  It was a simple heads-up: Sorry, you’ll have to hunt for another partner tonight.  The Mixed Doubles group had Courts 1 through 3, and sometimes 4, reserved every Thursday from 7-9 pm.  Since the Yoga Room cleared out at 6:30, the group made it standard practice to meet there at 6:45 for chit-chat and stretching.  Late players sometimes texted some other player at that time.  But Davie didn’t text anyone tonight, not Jasmine, not BD, not anyone.  That’s not like him.
            Will Jasmine see him again?  Cast out of Quail Canyon, she won’t see  him at church.  Maybe she’ll no longer see him at Glendale Racquet Club either.  Is tonight a one-time breather, or did Davie receive a permanent order from the elders to quit the Mixed Doubles group, just as she had received an order to leave the church?  What is to come of her and her mixed doubles partner?  Or should she say former mixed doubles partner?
            They haven’t even had a “break-up.”  And if they’ve never had an official “break up” of their mixed doubles partnership, along with whatever else one might call the rest of their relationship, Jasmine is sure to blame the elders for that.  Davie would never end it like this.  He’d have a real conversation with her, looking her deep in the eyes with sorrowful regret.
            Jasmine can remember only one other time when she hadn’t received a heads-up text from Davie, and it wasn’t on a no-show day.  It was on a day he arrived late – and for good reason.  Stopped at a red light, Jasmine sets free her tortured mind to nostalgically recall that evening almost seven months earlier in late July, 2011 . . .
By the time Davie arrives to Mixed Doubles Night on that last Thursday of July, all three courts are deep into close sets.  The points are carrying long rallies, the games are holding multiple deuces, and the sets are close.  Jasmine’s court, Court 3, is at 4-4, and from what Jasmine can hear from Courts 1 and 2, the other sets appear to be about as tightly matched.  Not only are all three courts playing tight, competitive sets, the numbers had been perfect for Mixed Doubles Night at exactly 12 – until Davie arrives.  He makes the awkward 13th.  Besides that, he hadn’t texted any of the players during Yoga Room stretching.  Based on the group’s rules, he might have to sit out the night.  Late players are welcomed to play if either they tell someone they’ll be late, or if they’re needed.  For Davie on this July night, neither is the case.
            It doesn’t seem to bother him.  When he arrives, he appears exhausted.  Something must be be up.  He approaches Jasmine’s court, and she looks at him puzzled.  “You all play.  I’ll just watch.  It’s been a long day.”  Jasmine had found a partner, Stephen, and they were playing against Todd and Gabbi.  The best seating is by Court 1, but Davie sits down at the bench with the broken leg by Court 3.
            Gabbie takes her serve game to pull her and Todd ahead 5-4, and the group breaks for water and a side switch.  “What made your day so long?” Stephen asks Davie, who stands up to join the players.  Taking a breath, he replies, “I’ve been counseling a teen who has been finding his escape in drugs, but is starting to ask for help.  Confidentiality.  Can’t say much more.  But this kid’s whole story is complicated.  He can’t escape the drugs until he faces all that crap that got him into drugs in the first place.”  Davie lets out a heavy sigh.  He appears to have taken on some of the kid’s trauma.  That’s just like Davie, Jasmine thinks.  His heart is too big.
            Davie’s face begins to relax.  Perhaps he just needed Stephen to ask the question so he could answer it and breathe out a couple of sighs.  He sits back down on the bench, catching his balance after the bench tilts upon Davie’s weight coming down too close to the bench’s broken leg.  Davie’s chuckle is joined by the Court 3 players, and he moves to the side of the bench with the two functional legs.  “You’re risking your life on that bench, you know?” Todd teases.  “Yeah, I know,” Davie replies with a smile.  “I must love you guys a lot, huh?”  Jasmine catches his eyes and smiles at him.  Davie smiles back, raising his eyebrows at her.  Jasmine’s heart flutters.
            Now seated on the sturdy side of the bench, Davie lets his body relax into a laid-back position to enjoy the rest of the set.  It’s now Jasmine’s turn to serve.  “You got this, Jazzie!” Davie calls to her as Stephen tosses a second ball to her for the serve.  She catches it, nods to Stephen, looks over to Davie, smiles at him, and he casts back a wide grin, a nod, and a thumbs up.  Jasmine’s game improves throughout her service game as he roots her on, cheering as her best fan.  At 15-30, she’s at back court and has just hit one toward Gabbi, who is at the net.  “Up!” Davie calls to her, and Jasmine rushes the net in time for Gabbi’s short volley to the alley, which Jasmine drop shot spins for an even shorter centered shot, which Gabbie can’t reach in time, to tie up the point 30-30.  “Hey, no calling out from the peanut gallery, OK?!” teases Todd with a wink to Davie.  “OK, I’ll be good,” Davie smiles with a wink back to Todd.
            Davie stays true to his promise, but only to the letter, not to the spirit.  He still sends gestures, muffled code words, and, most of all, his electric energy to Jasmine.  At the second deuce, she nails the backhand volley he had just coached her on the previous week when the two played singles.  Davie throws himself out of his seat into a standing cheer and cries out, “Yes!  Jazzie, that’s it!” Jasmine smiles, accepts Stephen’s high 5, and then returns the ritual high 5/low 5 from Davie, who is standing a mere foot and a half away from alley.  If Todd thinks that should also be prohibited, he doesn’t speak up.  Now it’s ad-in.  Time for Jasmine to clinch up this set.  “You got this, Jazzie, you got this,” Davie whispers.  With Davie’s energy poured into her, Jasmine sends a powerful spin serve to Todd’s backhand, putting him on the defense and giving Stephen the chance to volley-slam Todd’s return – that favored one-two punch to win the set.  Now the sets are tied up: 5-5.
            Jasmine notices Davie watching her the entire time.  What catches her attention are those filler moments between points when the players are collecting balls, sending them to the server, getting into position, and doing nothing that should draw attention to any of them.  At one of those times when she’s positioning herself at the net, she sees Davie from the corner of her eye.  He’s looking at her fondly.  Does he know she can see him too?  Seemingly not, as he doesn’t look away.  He continues to watch her.  Jasmine returns her eyes to the front and readies herself at the net.  Stephen and Todd carry out a rally, and neither is letting the net player in.  Once, when repositioning herself, Jasmine manages to catch a glimpse of Davie out of the corner of her eye.  His eyes are on her.  She’s not the one playing the point, but she’s the one he’s watching.  His look appears to be of admiration, almost as if he’s charmed by her.  Is she imagining that?  Is he watching her because they’re about to enter a USTA Tournament as mixed doubles partners, or is there something more to his interest?
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