I walked previous a tennis court docket and, with the solar excessive within the sky and the scattered clouds as white as cotton balls, I considered Mike and all of the summers that had been taken from him.
His title was
He was my doubles accomplice once we had been youngsters, again once we dreamed we’d sometime make our livings enjoying tennis collectively.
He was so clever—blond and wiry, with eyeglasses he seldom took off. He was a a lot better participant than I, however in doubles the mixed efforts of two teammates can exceed the sum of their particular person expertise. His face would flush crimson when one thing went incorrect on the court docket, however the anger would fade as quickly because it had arrived. He was flashy, I used to be regular—he generally known as me “the human backboard”—and I liked enjoying tournaments with him.
All these years later, I stood subsequent to the empty court docket. It had a Har-Tru floor—inexperienced clay with a sandlike coating—and I might see footprints of the gamers who had used it final and marks the place the ball had landed. Those scuffs on a court docket are an autobiography of the match simply performed.
With Mike, every day was a brand new promise. We may win, we’d advance in a match, we’d come house with a trophy. The intoxicating whoosh of compressed air escaping from a metallic can of tennis balls, the signature scent from inside—each time, it felt like dawn.
He saved getting higher on the sport and determined to focus on singles, whereas I stayed principally the identical. I knew instinctively I might by no means be nearly as good with out him, and I wasn’t. I ran some municipal courts one summer season, however that was as near being an expert tennis participant as I might ever get.
One March evening on the cusp of spring in 1967, Mike was flying again to varsity on the University of Michigan when the Lake Central Airlines Convair 580 on which he was a passenger crashed close to Marseilles, Ohio. All 38 aboard died immediately. He was 19. A pal we’d recognized since childhood was given the dreadful process of creating the official identification.
All the issues Mike has missed out on within the 55 years because the crash: falling in love and getting married, discovering out the place life may take him, listening to the nice music that arrived on automotive radios, seeing the well-known motion pictures which have come and gone. All the tennis matches he by no means performed, all of the books he by no means learn—all of the summer season nights, all of the cheeseburgers, all of the laughter.
He was magical on each court docket he ever stepped onto. Now, on this heat afternoon, I stepped alone onto the Har-Tru floor in order that my footwear would depart their pair of marks. Then I stepped to the aspect to depart a second set. On days like this, I see his face.
Mr. Greene’s books embody “And You Know You Should Be Glad: A True Story of Lifelong Friendship.”
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Appeared within the July 28, 2022, print version.