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A Regular Day for Regular People

I told my friend I was about to sleep with his sister. I told him to sit tight.

Outside the world was in motion and I watched it from a fourth story window. From there I could see almost everything. From there I could see the earth and the structures built upon it. I could see people and animals and how everyone conducted themselves in broad daylight.

From there I could hasten my demise should I finally choose to do so.

My friend and his sister wouldn’t want that, though, to say nothing of my numerous supporters.

I keep this in mind because all of us are on the verge of something, a new way of life maybe.

I had been there for most of the last year, at the window, watching the world in motion, considering this new way of life, considering the nuances of defenestration.

I developed a keen appreciation for weather.

Sometimes it rained.

When it rained it rained from top to bottom and side to side. If you squinted and tilted your head the opposite was true.

The wind played a part in this, certainly, if there was a wind.

Otherwise there were days that were cloudy and uncloudy.

I sat on the precipice.


I had recently spoken with my friend. I called early in the morning and woke him. I told him I was about to sleep with his sister. I told him to sit tight.

He said, what, who?

I said, I have no time for games and hung up on him. Afterward I went straight back to the window and looked out of it.

This is funny because tennis plays a critical element in this whole affair and tennis is a game made up of games.

I could see many buildings and even more windows into those buildings.

In other words I was at one window, mine own, looking into others I know not of.

Should I consider this too closely I’d lose my way and drag everyone down with me.

Such is the nature of windows.

I do think it important to note that I was trying to observe my neighbors in their natural habitats. I wanted to see how they live, what they do. I thought it would be at least educational and maybe even more than that.

I thought maybe I could learn something about myself.

My friend worked a job, commingled with others, participated in society. I don’t know how he, or anyone for that matter, can do such things.

I’d known him since childhood. He was a fine boy. Spoke in complete sentences, had perfect table manners and the rest.

I never thought either of us would live long enough that we’d work jobs and participate in society.

I remember a conversation we had once while playing tennis. I was ten times better than him but he liked playing anyway. Secretly he resented me for being ten times better than him, but I tried not to hold this against him.

I think I told him during a changeover that I couldn’t see either of us reaching middle age. He said you’re probably right, said we’d be lucky to see a third set.

There was no reason for this fatalism, if this was fatalism.

It was more than anything else, a lack of imagination.

I think this is why I try to look into windows. I can’t imagine what might be going on in there.

I don’t remember much of his sister as I think they kept her hidden from the likes of me.

The people outside my window on the street were unscrupulous. There was no sense of right and wrong and this was indicated in how they moved about the world in motion, as if they were balanced, as if they had a clear destination in mind.

Otherwise the people outside were inscrutable. I’m not sure I know the difference between unscrupulous and inscrutable.

Some of these had dogs. They led the dogs around on leashes, if you can picture that.

My friend’s sister was in the bedroom, waiting for me.

I’m not sure if she had a dog. I haven’t seen her with a dog, but she is the type to have one.

I have trouble keeping time, which is why I don’t know when all of this happened. From the window you can’t tell time as there are no clocks within eyeshot and I’m not clever enough to make my own calendar. I don’t know how long I’ve been here, at my window, but at some point, I began playing tennis under the everywhere sky.

Surely I’ve done other things since coming to my window, but I can’t remember what. I must’ve eaten and slept and performed tasks and maintained personal hygiene, attended to function and need, in other words the tedious litany of daily disturbance.

But other than my window what I specifically remember is being out there on the tennis court.

There were other people playing at the same time, but they were none of mine. They were inscrutable or unscrupulous.

I was out on the court with my friend’s sister, the one whose brother I had hung up on earlier, the one I was about to sleep with, whose backhand slice was devastating, whose first serve was unimaginable.

Anyone watching was thusly dazzled.

I am a sight to see out there on the court, a man of my size, moving like that, covering the entire playing surface, sideline to sideline, net to baseline.

I’ve always been tremendous, standing up at six-eight and weighing down at 280.

Should I finally throw myself out the window imagine the sight of it, let alone the sound.

The stakes were agreed upon beforehand. Should she win I was to leave her alone forever, never to darken her doorstep, write, call, or otherwise contact her while everyone was still alive and upright.

Should I win she’d have to sleep with me.

I think I had a strange look on my face when I first proposed this because she had a strange look on her face after I said it.

Still, she agreed.

She probably had no choice as I was threatening the life of her brother at the time.

I told her I had him confined at an undisclosed location. At first she didn’t believe me. She thought I was bluffing.

I have your brother, I said.

She said, what do you mean you have him?

I have your brother, I said, that’s exactly what I mean.

Where do you have him?

I have him confined at an undisclosed location.

I don’t believe you, she said. You’re bluffing, she said.

This is when I showed her a Polaroid of her brother tied up and gagged at the undisclosed location. I propped up a copy of that day’s newspaper on his chest to prove this was actually happening and I meant business.

I saw someone do this in a movie once.

In the movie they didn’t leave a telephone for the hostage to answer. This is how what I’ve done is better than the movie.

I’m not exactly sure how it’s better but I know that it is.

I told my friend not to get any big ideas about calling the cops. I told him if he called the cops I’d have to do unspeakable things to his sister.

This is how they talk in the movies so I figured I should do likewise.

He knew I meant business. Still, he said I should reconsider. I told him I thought this all the way through, that I knew what I was doing.

The sister said again, I can’t believe this.

I said, what can’t you believe?

She said, this, what it is you’re doing.

I said, it’s a regular day for real people. Nothing more.

The sister said, I don’t know what that means.

I said, no one does.

I told her it was something to do, a reason to live. I told her everyone needed a new way of life and this could be the beginning of it. I talked about purpose, something to look forward to, goals and dreams. I talked about what I’ve seen from my window, how I couldn’t imagine any of it. I talked about defenestration, said it might not be the right answer, but it was indeed an answer. She said but I don’t understand the question. I told her you and me both.

I knew the sister was a great tennis player, which was part of the thrill, to play someone on that level, to challenge myself like this with something at stake.

I’d seen her play years before. I think this is when my plan started to come together, watching her toy with those overmatched teenaged opponents. The skirts she wore back then, that ponytail bouncing behind her, as playful as a little dog.

But this plan never took shape until recently. Back then it was an idea, a best guess, something akin to fantasy, one that I’d never realize, in all likelihood.

I guess things changed after I realized that life was every day tedious and who cared anymore.

Part of the deal was I’d release her brother either way, after the match, regardless of the outcome.

Still, she might’ve felt a certain pressure to throw the match if she cared at all about her brother.

I didn’t discourage this.

I may’ve even said, I hope this works out for your brother’s sake.

To make it more cinematic I had to tune up her brother a little. It’s more effective if the Polaroid indicates the hostage has been beaten.

I took no pleasure in beating my friend like that.

I told him this. I told him, I take no pleasure in having to beat you like this. I told him I had no choice.

He took the beating like a man, I’ll say that much for him.

The match started early in the morning, before the sun could get vindictive, before the rain could go sideways and the wind, as well.

The weather promised to be an issue all day. They were calling for temperatures in the mid 90s come early afternoon, with the possibility of thunderstorms.

We warmed up together as tennis players do. Starting with mini for a few minutes, then to the baseline for ground strokes, then she came to the net for volleys and overheads, then I did, then we served into both courts, both deuce and ad.

I could tell she was focused.

There was a buzz as the crowd gathered. Apparently, word had gotten out.

I was a legend by the time I turned fourteen, so it’s no surprise. By then I was already the biggest and strongest in our neighborhood and could serve upwards of 140 miles per hour.

I was on the lookout for a film crew, as I’d heard that a famous documentary filmmaker had gotten wind of this.

But this was years ago, I think. I hadn’t played since the injury, since my friend low-bridged me during a friendly game of touch football.

I did think of this as I tuned him up earlier. I may’ve even said this out loud. I may’ve said, remember the friendly game of touch football in the park as I broke his jaw.

He said he was sorry but I didn’t believe him. He said it was part of the game, that he didn’t mean it, that it wasn’t illegal.

I spun the racket and said up or down. My friend’s sister waited a split second and said up and when the racket fell to the court the logo was indeed pointing up.

I prepared to return her serve and situated myself a solid foot behind the baseline with my legs straddling the sideline. I knew she tended to go out wide on the deuce court so I started to lean that way as she tossed the ball high in the air.

Her toss is elegant, like the way a ballerina would serve.

Graceful arm extended skyward, ball rolling off long fingers as though she is inviting it into the air not two feet above her head.

She blasted one down the T, which I managed to get a racket on. The ball floated deep enough into her court for me to have a chance in this first point, but her next shot pinned me in the backhand corner and she followed behind it for an easy put away.

She won the first game at love and had a smirk on her face as we changed ends.

I responded in kind and held serve and then she held serve and this went on for eight games until I broke for a 5-4 lead.

For some reason I tightened up at this point, double faulted twice during my service game and was broken right back.

She took the tiebreak.

We were playing a best of five sets, so I wasn’t worried. I figured I’d let her win the first set to get her hopes up, get her overconfident.

Shortly after this first set my chest began to hurt and my limbs tingled. I lost feeling in my right foot, which had been broken by my friend during a friendly game of touch football.

I tried not to think of my friend during the match. I knew he’d be fine, more or less. I’d given him a certain freedom of movement, so he could attend to function and need, eat food, drink water, relieve himself, etc.

There was no way he could do himself in, I don’t think, not that he ever indicated an interest in doing so.

We’d never discussed the nuances of defenestration.

I had him chained to a radiator and reminded him that if he tried anything he probably wouldn’t live to regret it, but his sister would.

I think I kissed him on the lips after I said this.

I thought it an effective maneuver.

I sometimes wear a headband around my head but this day I tied myself up in a black bandana. Years ago people would talk about that black bandana, how it along with my imposing figure could intimidate anyone in the world.

The second set was back and forth. The games were all well contested and several lasted a great long while. I believe three of them featured multiple deuces, one lasting until a ninth such deuce that mercifully ended when I struck a service winner that handcuffed my friend’s sister and rendered her helpless.

There were any number of long rallies that concluded with someone doing something spectacular, an impossible get, a well disguised drop shot, etc.

The crowd would explode whenever something like this occurred.

To be fair, it seemed as if the crowd leaned towards my friend’s sister in terms of support. This was probably due to the size differential, as most root for the underdog. She is no more than five-two, maybe 110 pounds if she’s retaining water.

She’d prompt the loudest ovations, which were either spurned on or accentuated by her joyful exultations.

She’d yell, Come on, whenever she did something dramatic.

I never speak while on court as I find such behavior coarse and vulgar.

I can’t say I recognized anyone in the crowd, which continued to gather as the match went on. You’d think I’d see someone I knew as I’ve spent any number of hours at my window looking out and down at my neighbors.

I’d recently purchased binoculars so I could see even more, so I could look into the windows of the surrounding buildings. So far I haven’t seen anything worth noting.

I haven’t learned a damned thing.

I did notice that the courts emptied of other players as our match went on. Most of these players took a seat and looked on in awe, I’m sure.

I took the second set 7-5 and everyone had to settle in for a long afternoon.

During the changeover my opponent called for the trainer. Apparently, she was complaining of a sore shoulder. I overheard her saying something about a rotator cuff, but I suggested it could be a torn labrum. I told her I once suffered a torn labrum. I said more often than not it requires surgery.

I told her if she decided to retire that it would count as a loss. I said I’m sure your brother will be proud either way.

I’m not above gamesmanship.

By this time I could feel the heat and the effect it was having on my body. I had bouts of dizziness every few minutes. I had to change my shirt for the fifth time. I ate a banana. I drank coconut water. I liked to have died.

I admonished one of the ball boys for not properly holding the umbrella over me, as the lower part of my left leg was in the sun and felt as if it were baking.

My friend’s sister started taking something off her first serve on account of her shoulder problem and I was able to take advantage of this. I stepped into her first serve repeatedly and gained the advantage on most points from here on out.

I wear a bandana to absorb sweat so that it won’t get into my eyes. Many players favor headbands and wristbands for this but I’ve never worn any kind of band on the court.

I took the third set but she came back in the fourth.

We were approaching the fifth hour of play.

I couldn’t feel my hands. My calves burned.

My friend’s sister has great stamina and didn’t exhibit any difficulties. There is something almost superhuman about her.

I didn’t allow myself to think about sleeping with her as we were playing. Maybe once or twice my thoughts drifted to her ample bosom or I got distracted as her skirt flared in the wind, which was kicking up and becoming more of a factor as play went on.

I started taking more time between points. I pretended to get distracted by birds and planes and people moving about in my field of vision. I’d step off the service line, pretend I didn’t like a ball toss, call for time in the middle of her service game, etc.

We’d decided there was to be no fifth set tiebreak, which was probably a mistake, but one we were both eager to make.

The fifth set could only be described as epic.

Match play was suspended at 24 all on account of darkness.

By this time the crowd had dwindled. People had to go home and eat dinner, talk amongst themselves, live their own lives.

I could describe the various games, extraordinary points, long rallies, but most of it is a blur, to be true.

I do remember one perfect topspin lob and my friend’s sister running it down and hitting a perfect between the legs cross-court winner.

At this point we were the only two remaining at the courts, out there in the gloaming, and I dropped my racket and applauded.

We agreed to resume play tomorrow.

I’m certain after a night of rest I can prevail.

So, when I told my friend I was about to sleep with his sister it wasn’t exactly true, but it could very well happen tomorrow.

Telling him to sit tight was good advice, though.

It’s also untrue that his sister was in my bedroom waiting for me. I think my imagination got the best of me there.

I was at mine own window. How you can tell it’s mine own is that’s me looking out of it.

Everything looked the same, the people and dogs and whatnot.

It had started to rain and was coming down sideways.

I didn’t know where my friend’s sister was spending the night. But I was sure she was going over the match in her mind, replaying the points, agonizing over particular decisions, when to come to net and when not to, for instance. She’d try to devise a winning strategy for tomorrow and I was doing likewise.

No one was thinking about her brother or the stakes or the nuances of defenestration. 

I couldn’t see into anyone’s window as I’d misplaced the binoculars recently, but I’m sure everyone was huddled together at home discussing the extraordinary feats they witnessed that day and what was still to come.

I considered calling my friend to tell him that everything was still to be decided, that his sister was doing him proud, that there was still hope for him, but I decided against it.

My sister’s friend is a great player and it’s a privilege to stand across the net from her.

I’m glad it’s turning out this way. That everything is still to be decided.

We are the only two playing. 


Robert Lopez

ROBERT LOPEZ is the author of two novels, Part of the World and Kamby Bolongo Mean River and a collection of short fiction, Asunder.


The Brooklyn Rail

OCT 2014

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