I can't believe I've managed to go three whole weeks without mentioning Bazza. He's someone I've got to know quite well, having played tennis with him for four and a half years. He's got Asperger's syndrome, I think, which makes him inept in most social situations. I've always struggled socially and feel inferior to those who are more adept in that arena, in other words most people, so even though Bazza can be difficult to handle at times, I don't perceive him as a threat.
Bazza is 53, forever single like me, forever sun-tanned unlike me, and forever rotund from years of eating family-sized packs of fish and chips. My cholesterol is a slightly elevated five-point-something; his is off the scale. Food aside, Bazza's obsession is tennis, and his regular forays to the tennis court are probably keeping him from having a heart attack.
I'm the captain of the Saturday doubles team but in name only. Bazza tells me well in advance who to pick for the team and I ignore his instructions at my peril. At the moment we're leading the competition by a healthy margin, an unprecedented situation for him and me alike, and he's desperate for our name to appear atop the final league table come April. All the scores are reported on the internet, a facility that he doesn't have, so he's constantly ringing me to find out the results of our nearest rivals. "Whangaparaoa got seven against Glenfield," I'll say. "Good, so that means," Bazza does some swift mental calculations, "if we get eight against Browns Bay on Saturday, we'll be eleven points clear, so long as Mairangi Bay don't win. Oh, and that's assuming Silverdale don't pick up nine or ten against Northcote, of course." "Of course Bazza," I'll say.
Remarkably, since my first match with Bazza back in 2004, we've only lost once together. Like me, his technique is all over the place, but he's incredibly determined and his concentration never wavers for a second. His favourite shot is the lob which he has perfected into an art form. Today it was blowing a gale, meaning Bazza was in his element. He put up high lobs into the wind, leaving our opponents clattering into the fence in vain attempts to retrieve them. We won the first set 6-4. After dropping the opening game of the second, it was my turn to serve. Despite holding both my service games of the first set comfortably he wanted to change the order because "if you lose your serve we'll be down 2-0". Thanks Bazza. For once I stood my ground and stepped up to the baseline. We quickly went up 40-love. On the next point I hit straight to the net man. 40-15. Then I missed my first serve. "Make sure you get the second one in." When he says that, my double fault probability skyrockets. Of course that's exactly what I did. Thankfully we won the next point on the way to a flattering 6-2 second-set win.
We won the mixed match 6-4 6-4. Neither of us was anywhere near our best. We both hit a few nice-looking winners, but the whole match, like most of my life at the moment, seemed to be in slow motion. I'm always so tired, my limbs feel so lifeless and everything takes on this dull, metallic quality. I just wish things could get back to normal again.
Playing number four in our team, I got the easiest ride against the second-placed side. Overall we won by five matches to three, a result which should keep Bazza happy for the next couple of weeks at least.