November 1999

My name is Paul and I'm 18. I live in Michigan, but I attend college in Pennsylvania, where I'm a freshman. As a first time writer, I don't know exactly what I'm doing or even supposed to be doing; I'll try my best though, and hopefully something useful will arise...Here goes.

As the late afternoon sun created shadows across the courts of Knollwood Country Club, I found myself in the third set of a tennis match. My limbs ached, my eyes were had lost their focus, and I longed to sit in my air-conditioned house, precisely monitored at seventy-two degrees. The tennis mattered so little to me, but so much to my parents. So I kept at it. For the past three years, I had won this small, junior tournament in South Bend, IN. Driving a good two hours to get there, my parents knew that I played my best tennis of the summer at this idyllic, peaceful club. Having been the number one seed two years running, the tournament director told me that he wouldn't be surprised if I took home the trophy again. So like the three previous summers, I began my road to another Knollwood championship, But this summer was different that the former ones; this summer I was "out."

As the match wore on into the third set, my competitive spirit returned. I belted my groundstrokes but could find no opening to move ahead. I lost it 6-4 in the third set. My parents were not upset at all; only slight disappointment surrounded them as they became aware that things were different now. Maybe if I won the tournament again, then everything would return to its normal state; I wouldn't be gay anymore. When I hit my forehand past the baseline on match point, my mom and dad received a healthy dose of reality. No longer did I care about the tennis tournaments, the rankings, the long, arduous practices; more important struggles awaited me.

With my final exit from junior tennis tournaments, I left an important part of my life behind: the hiding, the fear, and the anger. The feelings which had dominated my teenage existence thus far now seemed but a far cry from reality. No longer needing the challenge and relief which tennis had presented me, I was content to fight on another battlefield. I had waged the war to overcome my own anxieties about being gay during the school year; I came out to everyone. That had been my challenge, and I had succeeded.

Although my parents still have far to go to understand me, I knew that I had gone further toward being me. As the sun set over Knollwood Country Club, our car pulled onto the expressway and headed north. The sun streamed in through the side window, and a sense of warmth enveloped me. I didn't win a trophy from the tournament that year or, for that matter, the rest of the summer. But I had won the fight to accept myself. I was moving in the right direction.

I like getting e-mails and stuff. So write if you want. e-mail address is alec689@hotmail.com.

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