The seagulls are circling the outdoor barbecue, waiting to snatch the half-cooked chicken off the grill.
"And are you his wife?," the tallest one says to me. Her tennis skirt matches her shoes. She twirls the pickleball racquet.
I am the briefest of interruptions in their constant discussions about third shot drops, back handed serves, and poaching. I pause on the word poaching, such dual meanings.
I came to the tournament both to admire Kevin's impressive athletic ability to smash the ball and to remind the seagulls that I do exist. The half-cooked chicken on the grill is mine.
I imagine my funeral, the flock that would arrive to console poor Kevin. Armed with casseroles and self help books on how to rebound in record time. They would offer up a dizzying number of opportunities to play pickleball. Or to talk. Or to ...
They all know that I don't play the game, not to their level. They have spent 40 years of chasing balls on a court. They have taken lessons, watched videos and attended camps to improve their footwork, decrease unforced errors, and achieve a sports resume good enough to attract a tournament partner the quality of my husband. Kevin allows them to stand on the podium at the end of a tournament. He serves up the trophy.
While Kevin takes a break between matches, I head out for a five mile run. Usually I run one large loop around all the ball fields, but today I stay closer. I create a two mile loop that takes me through the parking lot, around the courts, and out to the bathrooms.
I eye up the flock of seagulls. The half-cooked chicken is on the barbecue, court number 9. They are here to poach. I do not take my eye off the ball. That's one lesson I have learned -- not from 50 years of chasing balls on a court or from videos, coaching, or camps on how to play the game --- but from 30 years of being married.