To say that Eleanor would become my mentor, my confidante, my everything, would be telling you the premise of a story without ever giving away the ending.
I first saw Eleanor on a busy main road, through the sunlit glass of a crowded bar at dusk, she was with another lover then. Or was it before that, through the stacks of a beloved bookshop? Perhaps it was even before that, at these very tennis courts that still remain, even after all this time, after all that has happened.
Of course, the playing days of these courts have long since departed. The net has been eaten away at over the years, by insects, the weather, just time itself. The lines are no longer the crisp, blinding white they once were, the grass surface worn down to patches and tufts. I can almost see her here still, moving across court with the determination and grace that had so quickly captivated my young, yearning heart.
Had I already willed her into existence before I’d ever known her? Had I sent out some quiet, modest signal to the world, that this was what I needed, and until I found it I would not feel as if life were something that would move ever forward, however steady or shaky.
It was late on a Sunday afternoon during the middle of one of the warmest summers on record. Or maybe it just felt that way, the heat consuming, lucid as the light it spilled onto the courts. I saw her first, from afar; as we see the things we most want, with distance and desire. She hit a divine backhand down the line, winning her the match. Eleanor had this ability on and off the court, to catch one completely off guard. So off guard she would catch me that the balance of the life I was living and the life I wanted to live tipped so suddenly, so severely that it took all I had not to fall with it.