In high school, we were all forced to play round robin tennis. Looking back, I’m sure I was personally responsible for giving two young women one of the highlights of their high school years. One was a developmentally disabled girl named Nancy Izzy. She had probably never beaten anyone before at anything. Ever. After she bested me (it wasn't even close) she went up and down the corridors of our high school shouting, “I beat April Henry!” “I beat April Henry!”
I don’t remember the name of the other girl. She wore her long red hair in a braid down her back. Thinking about it now, someone else must have braided it, because she had juvenile arthritis so bad that she could not even use one of her hands. To serve in tennis she had to throw up the ball with the same hand that was already holding the racquet.
She beat me, too. By a mile.
When the aerobic dance craze hit 20 years ago, I took a few classes. And a few kicks and elbows, as I inevitably grapevined to the left when I was supposed to be going right. If I could get my legs right, my arms were all wrong, and vice versa.
It took me years to believe I was actually athletic. I’m fairly strong and flexible, and I run five miles four times a week. I’ve been taking Thai boxing, Pilates and kettleball.
Thursday, the kettlebell instructor was sick, so a woman came in to do body sculpting. Within 10 seconds I was back in touch with the embarrassed, miserable part of myself I thought I had left behind. The instructor shouted out moves every few seconds, a huge smile plastered on her face. I blundered the wrong way, bent the wrong knee, moved the wrong arm, etc. By the time I sort of understood what we were doing, we had moved on to something else that I was doing equally wrong.
I looked in the mirror and saw the ghosts of all those miserable mes.