Khaki Tents

October 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

My tennis coach wore white like a lie, accessorizing his Mr. Clean white polo and his khaki shorts with a ruddy leer.

I was fourteen and chunky when I started taking tennis lessons, with nothing to worry about in terms of unwanted male attention. I had plenty of unwanted attention from myself, and once I met my coach, I reveled in my rolls. My cousins, my beauty queen, harpist, pianist, horse-back riding cousins, on the other hand, had none of my happy troubles. Their trophies from modeling competitions were taller than me. Taller than them, even. And I wasn’t the only one who noticed Erica’s strawberry-blonde and freckle combination, or Erin’s premature curves.

I watched my coach that first day. Felt my tennis racket falter in the air when I saw him teaching Erica the right hand position. We were learning how to serve. He stood behind her, positioned her hand on the newly-taped racket, guided her body through a serve. It could be so innocent. It was, until I saw his eyes as they consumed her, enveloped her in his want and I ran to the back fence and threw up my water and my granola bar, panting in the summer wet that rolled off the tennis court. Told my mother something about “being overheated.”But that was the moment I look to. The moment when I began to realize adults weren’t safety. Adults weren’t better or stronger or more moral than I was. They wrote the system that I lived under, and sometimes that system could put its hand on my waist and get away with it.

Sometimes that system could make us run laps while he stood in the middle of the court, arms crossed, feet planted, grinning at us as we jogged. My best friend explained the term “pitching a tent” to me that same summer and in disgust, I remembered the khaki tent on the tennis courts and wondered how our mothers never saw.

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