Love Fifteen

Some person from Guernsey won some tennis match at Wimbledon or something. It was big news. Even here in Jersey. People from Guernsey are, as a rule, excellent at sport – they’ve even got a marathon runner going to the Olympics – and I know exactly why. The best sports people on Earth come from the grimmest most godforsaken places on Earth. Loads of good sports people are from Guernsey. That famous footballer is from Guernsey. For people from wretched places such as Guernsey sport is an escape, as there’s nothing else to do, and so they train harder. In Jersey we’re all pretty rubbish at sport but then it’s like Miami here, certainly compared to Guernsey, the second largest of the Channel Islands.

Whenever there’s an Inter-Insular event held goblins from Guernsey come over and dominate. They’re hobbits. Genetically modified hobbits. They might be better at sport but they look a fucking mess with all their equipment from the 1980s while we’re all much slower but look great in our expensive gear. People from Guernsey are fucked so it was no surprise one of them won a match and Wimbledon.

Tennis, in my opinion, is only one step up from horse racing in terms of being an actual human sport. Swinging a racket at a ball? That’s not a sport, it’s a game – a game of tennis – so quite why Enrique’s suddenly so into it I could not fathom. What a fucking dick.

He had it on in his office all day. The only time he wasn’t watching the tennis on the telly he was out in the shop talking about the tennis he was watching. He stood at the end of the counter.

“S’good match,” He said swigging from a bottle of red Oasis.

“I don’t care.”

“Doze woman. Sheeeit.”

“Jesus, Enrique, women’s tennis is less of a sport than real tennis and that isn’t even a sport.” Running is the only true sport.

“I like it,” he said nodding and taking another swig.

“Whatever mate, it’s a game. A game of tennis. Like Scrabble.” I told him. I didn’t care. Enrique took another swig and looked around the shop. It was pretty quiet but not empty.

“Hey Paula, Serena she win,” said Enrique loudly.

“So?” She replied.

He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand then shook his hand at the floor. “I like it when you see dey knickers,” whispered Enrique, changing tack and I laughed.

“You sitting in there whacking off?” I asked remembering my coat was in there.

“No, no, no, I just like watchin’ tennis.”

A woman who looked familiar brought a box of Nutrigrain Bars to me. Purple. I smiled at the woman. I definitely knew her from somewhere but from where? Fuck only knows. A parent from school? I looked at her when she was rummaging through her bag for a method of payment.

Hang on, she was the woman I’d gone running with that time. The depressed woman. The one who I’d dropped after a few metres. “Hey!” I said pointing at her when I realised. She smiled and nodded. “What happened to you?” I asked. I knew what happened, she couldn’t keep up with me because I was too fast. I wasn’t from Guernsey but she definitely wasn’t from Guernsey. I just wanted to hear her say she couldn’t keep up with me, that would make me feel good.

“I don’t know,” she lied. She’d either been through the mill in the couple of months since I’d seen her or more likely hadn’t been that nice to begin with and I’d built her up in my mind. She wasn’t bad but she wasn’t the Cameron Diaz lookalike I pictured when I was alone.

“We should go for a run,” I told her while Enrique stood there listening with his big ears. I didn’t mind, this woman was mentally unstable and had already gone out with me. I wasn’t intimidated. She’d found her purse but hadn’t taken out the cash or card. She clearly wanted to chat. Watch and learn, mon greasy patron, I thought. “You still running?”

“Not so much, I’ve got plantar facsiitis.”

“Oh right,” I said. I looked at Enrique. He was nodding and listening. The woman rubbed the side of her leg even though plantar facsiitis is a foot problem.

“Physio said not to run for a couple of months.”

“You could probably still run. Run through it. My achilles-“

Enrique clapped and announced, “backa to Weem-bowl-den!” He picked up his now empty bottle of Oasis and threw it towards the bin. He missed. Enrique had heard enough about my achilles over the last few weeks, it seemed. He went and bent to pick up the bottle.

“How’s Serena getting on?” The woman asked. She was looking down and probably addressing Enrique.

“She won, I think,” I said. Enrique was bent over behind me. “She won?” I asked him. Enrique stood up.

“Yeah she win easy, man!”

“Oh good, I’m pleased,” said the woman but she didn’t look pleased. She still looked depressed, whatever medication she was on wasn’t working. She should double the dose.

“Yeah, she magnificent,” said Enrique nodding.

“Tennis though, eh?” I said screwing my nose up. “Not a sport, is it? Not like running,” I tensed my calf muscles.

“Don’t know about that,” the woman said and she was right, she didn’t know about that. Perhaps she should know about that before she said she didn’t know about that, to me, somebody who does, most certainly, know about that.

“It’s like darts. Or ping-ding-ding.” I looked at Enrique, his face wore a horrified expression. He was looking at the woman, then to me then back to the woman. His face, with his mouth hanging open, suggested he’d just seen a unicorn crash into family of leprechauns. I ignored Enrique. The woman had produced her card. She was ready to leave I had to think fast. “What about Saudi Arabia not sending women to the Olympics?” I said. “That’s bad shit.”

“Is that true?” The woman who didn’t bother reading the news asked while Enrique said, ‘is terrible!’ somewhere to my right.

“Yeah, they’re not sending women, in this day and age,” I said shaking my head. Enrique was copying me.

“Well that’s terrible,” said the woman handing me her card. I didn’t put it in the machine.

“Is terrible,” Enrique was saying. I looked at him and he avoided my eyes nicely. “Weemin is juzzas goo’ as men, a spor,'” said Enrique. He looked upset, the horrible manipulative arsehole

“What do you know about sport?” I chuckled. ” You can’t even talk.” I shook my head at the woman. “But they, women, should certainly be allowed in the Olympics.”

“Well of course,” snorted the woman.

“Or have their own. Or do the Special Olympics,” I’d never vocalised this long held thought before. I was doing it now and I was interested to see how it panned out. How it would be received. First bit was okay although Enrique was doing his horrified face again. He was looking at the woman and me and the woman. This time he was also pointing. His pointed finger followed his furrowed face. The woman was staring at me with her head cocked. She wanted me to continue. “Well, you know, a woman… I mean, you’ve experienced this. A woman is never going to beat a man. Never in a million years. Just as a disabled man is never going to beat a… a real man.”

“A real man?”

“You know, a man with both his legs. You’ve seen the guy on stilts?” Silence, I had to fill it. “He’s never going to beat Usain Bolt, is he?” Silence. “So it’s right they have their own Olympics. It’s only right and fair, yeah?” Silence. How could they argue with that? “Although imagine you ordered Olympic tickets and you got tickets to that!” I went to lean on the counter and chuckle but the woman didn’t chuckle so in one continuous movement I looked at her card in my hand and stood straight. Her name was Tabitha. I looked at Enrique for support. He was looking at me with his eyebrows raised. “So,” I said, “women should have their own Olympics or maybe woman should compete with disabled men.” That hung there for a while, giving me a chance to run through it once again in my mind. I’d said nothing offensive, I was sure. My face twitched, there was a flaw in my plan. “Although disabled woman wouldn’t have anybody to compete against.”

“Wha’ bout animals, dey could race again cats and…” Enrique couldn’t think of another animal. Now Enrique’s suggestion was serious, I am sure, but the woman took it as sarcasm and she repeated what Enrique had said but phrased it as a question. “Skirrels!” Added Enrique after he’d thought of another animal.

“They can race against each other,” I said. I was actually thinking that disabled woman could race against really badly disabled men but I didn’t say it. I pushed the card into the reader. I knew the woman and Enrique were exchanging glances so I gave them time before offering the keypad to her. I didn’t want to see those glances being exchanged because they were about me. When I thought they had finished I handed her the keypad.

“Chu no leesten to heem. I think women is great and I look forwar to watchin d’great Olympics dat dey do,” said Enrique. The woman smiled at him and removed her card and again spent ages fucking around putting it into her handbag. As she was doing it Enrique mouthed, ‘The Fucking Olympics’ at me, his hips pumping slightly. but his face was soft and friendly like a priest when the woman looked up at him and smiled. She didn’t smile at me.

“Hey, chu wan’ watch Wee-bowl-din here for bit?” Enrique asked. Now this woman was depressed and not that hot and shit at running – Oh, I’ve got an injury I’m not going to run for a month – but the fact she’d gone out with me that day had given my confidence a boost. When she went into the office with Enrique that boost unboosted itself so powerfully that my confidence went lower than it had been before it was boosted. He came out ten minutes later and grabbed a bottle of wine, before going back in he had time to do his eyebrow thing at me. Not the – oh I care about women’s rights eyebrows where they go up and stay up. The one he does when his eyebrows go up and down. The horrible ones. ‘She’s a fucking nutter!” I mouthed but he’d already gone. When I went to leave I had to get my coat. I didn’t go in, just grasped for it on the hook from outside the door. I heard laughter. They laughed at my arm.