I had passed this forlorn tennis court many times and never saw anyone using it. Usually I just gave it a glance as I went past, but this time the light was beautiful and I had some time. The court is a clearing in the woods and shaded most of the time, but this day it was aglow with soft afternoon light, so I stopped to have a look to see if there was a photograph.
I pulled off the road, half expecting someone to come out of the house across the road, but there was no one; the house appeared to be as neglected as the tennis court. It was eerily quiet, not even the noise of a breeze through the trees. Walking out onto the court itself it was obvious that it was going to take more than sweeping the leaves off the court and tightening the net to be able to play here. The artificial turf was sort of spongy-soft and weird to walk on. What happened here? Who had the idea of putting a tennis court here in the woods?
I imagined the couple who used to own the house across the road. They would have been real tennis fans, but more than that; they were looking for something they could do together as a couple, and perhaps teach their children. A way to bring the family together. A sport that the kids could get involved in that they would be able to enjoy into their old age. Maybe they hoped to draw the neighbors out of their shells and create a place where they might get together on Friday evenings for a game of mixed doubles until it got too dark; then back to the house for drinks and socializing. I imagined something like a John Cheever* short story but set in Connecticut instead of some New England suburb, and like in a Cheever story, things didn’t turn out as planned.
It was a great idea; a dream really. But what happens to our dreams when reality happens? I’ve imagined that the first year, all was pretty good. Oh, the kids weren’t as excited as Dad had hoped, and maybe the wife wasn’t either, truth be told, but they tried. There was always something else to do (isn’t there always something else to do?). But Dad kept trying. He met some of the neighbors and actually got them over a time or two. That’s when he found out what lechers the guys were when they had a few too many. The wife got disgusted and didn’t want them back over even though they played a good game. By the third year the court only got used on holiday weekends, and it took almost as long to get the court ready for play as the game itself. By the fifth year nobody used the court, but it would have cost more than it was worth to get rid of it. What becomes of our dreams?
We are a nation built on dreams. People immigrated from someplace else with a dream of a better life. They crossed an ocean, but didn’t stop there. They looked at the edge of the forest and dreamed. They wondered what was just over the far hills and some of them went to find out. Imagine all the dreams that had to come true for this to become a nation. Where would we be without dreamers?
*I later learned my “little fiction” was just that. In fact the house with the tennis court across the road had belonged to the late William Styron, author of “Sophie’s Choice” before he died November 1, 2006. No wonder it looked forlorn. Odd that I had thought of John Cheever. He and Styron both suffered from severe depression, but as far as I know that was the only connection between them.
Since I took this photograph the court suffered further damage when several trees fell on it in a storm. It is undergoing some sort of transformation as part of an extensive renovation by the new owners. They have their own dreams.
Pentax K10D with 35mm macro f2.8. Processed in Photoshop CS4 and Nik Color Efex Pro 4.