43rd Time’s the Charm: In a Thriller, Wozniacki Wins Her First Grand Slam Title
The headline of an article in the Sports Section of the Sunday edition of the New York Times reads like a poem. I cut the article out and, hanging it on the fridge, forget it almost immediately.
Months later I sit at a cafe with my friend James. He is fresh out of a breakup. I am fresh out of ideas for a poem I try to write on the concept of NEW. As we talk I sketch out the word N-E-W on a napkin alongside funny drawings of various bad haircuts I’ve had over the various years. I write out: K(NEW) on the napkin. “Subversive, right?” He does not think so. Next, I write SEND (NEW)DS. I think this is funny—him, less so. The trope ‘send nudes‘ comes from his generation, “so you are welcome,” he says. I am a decade older than James. My play on words makes no sense so I scratch the idea. And, yet, there is such newness to the body stripped bare. Doesn’t this almost always catch us by surprise? Can newness be interchangeable with surprise? The body, albeit aging swiftly right out of the gate, is just surprising as hell—(hell as the groundless pit of pain and suffering we must each of us encounter).
The body—our great surprise. I think of Wozniacki. Newness as the Phoenix. 43rd Time’s the Charm. Newness as mythology. As that bird rose from the ashes, who do you think was more surprised, the Phoenix or those watching in the audience? In the photo accompanying the article, Wozniacki lays on the ground, spent and recumbent, hands over her face. Through exhaustion and loss repeated like a grid she arrives at newness. Who was more surprised, her or those watching in the audience? The article reads, “It took Wozniacki more than a decade to join the club by winning her first major singles title.” Ten years sits between James and me. It’s a surprising friendship, and even though I have no wisdom to offer I welcome him to the club, not of Grand Slam Champions, but the club of pain, the surprising gap heartache creates within the body—an initiation by blood. It was a grueling tennis match, apparently. Two hours and 49 minutes. It was really hot out —”sweltering” as the article says. No wonder she lays down. The body spent, nearly killed then Surprise. And then, Newness.
Being young(er) James grapples with the newness of love’s particular devastations. Being old(er) all I know is that pain leaves us all spent and on the ground, hands over our faces. I know enough to be surprised every time at the brunt the body bears. What grueling lives we have been given—sweltering. The newness of love lost guts the insides, renders us bested, leaves us panting as our bodies forget how to be bodies, requiring us to re-teach the lungs to breathe, the heart to beat, the legs to move. It is that same feeling in the dead of night when you jerk awake, the mind testing to see if the body is alive or dead—this is heartbreak. Beat, beat, beat you must say to the heart. In, out, in, out you must say to the lungs. Somehow this pain does not kill us, which is the most surprising thing of all, and so we must go through the days teaching the legs to walk again, right, left, right, left. A grueling match—sweltering.
The article goes on: “She then had to summon the guts, the energy and the accuracy on the run to prevail.” With broken legs we learn accuracy on the run. What sweet surprise this agony. Since James is wise he is surprised at the pain (he should be). Since I am afraid of getting hurt, curling my body around wounds, my surprise comes only at my own ever-renewing capacity to be cruel out of the places I have been hurt, the places of loss where I fell into the gaps of groundless pain. Above all, James, fight against this. Remember Wozniacki—the Phoenix who summoned the guts to be surprised, ash caught in the teeth, the lungs still—in, out, in, out—heaving to learn a (new) rhythm. Let the exhaustion bring you to the ground to teach you the surprises of the body. With head in hands get up, re-teach the body to be a body, summon your guts, 43rd Time’s the Charm. Beat. Beat. Beat. In. Out. In. Out. Surprise. Left. Right. Left. right. Newness. Remember this James. Remember this.
*New York Times article written by Christopher Clarey. Photo of Wozniacki by Mark Kolbe.