Corie Skolnick

This Is What Life Does

(Photo by Silvia Grešová on Unsplash)

In “This Is What Life Does,” Corie Skolnick shares a story about living, aging, changing, and being competitive, whether at love, pickleball, or casseroles.

 

This is what life does. One day you are perfectly happy with your life and the next day your husband tells you that he’s found Jesus and he’s moving out. He’s also found Jennifer and the sequence of those “findings” is suspicious, but who are you to question anyone, least of all the followers of the one true Lord?

So, you decide to keep things amicable while dividing up the marriage’s accumulation of worldly goods. Brian is no longer “bound to earthly treasures” (except for the new motorcycle, that’s a pretty obvious flaw in his conversion scenario, but, whatever) so you get to sell the house and take your fifty percent and re-locate to a 55-Plus community, a brand new one with a posh workout facility and two great swimming pools, one for laps and one for water aerobics classes. Your broker tells you how lucky you are she found this place. She would like to live here herself (she claims) if only she qualified.

“You look great for fifty-five,” she tells you upon the close of escrow and you decide that maybe you can pull off that ponytail thing, too. After all, you’ve always had good hair.

This is what life does. By the time you met Brian, you were nearly thirty; and by the time the two of you had arrived at the place he called “economic security” and you had also traveled sufficiently to contemplate, perhaps, settling into domesticity, your shitty ovaries had refused to cooperate with the production of viable eggs.

“Never mind,” Brian had said. “I never really wanted children anyway.”

He would have done it for you, he said, but it wasn’t on the top of his list. (Jennifer is only thirty-five and Brian has re-written his list, apparently.)

So, you decide that you’re going to spend most of your time at the pickleball court because, in truth, that’s where most of the men hang out. (The ones who are not yet tethered to a walker or a cane.)

This is what life does. After a bit, and without ceremony, you are granted permission to play in the “competitive” circle. You worked your way up from the ranks of the “novice players” speedily through the “recreational league,” and now you get to slam the pickleballs “damn hard”—like the boys. There’s really only one other woman in these rarefied pickleball ranks, a dour amazon who swears like the men and beats them sometimes but seems oddly intimidated by you. As you are, she is childless, and so not a grandparent like most of the residents here, and you wouldn’t mind her friendship, but she makes it very clear, she doesn’t want to be your friend. You beat her every single game no matter who your partner is.

You get lonely. You miss being married. You are tempted to stalk Brian and Jennifer on their joint Facebook page.

 

You get lonely. You miss being married. You are tempted to stalk Brian and Jennifer on their joint Facebook page.

 

This is what life does. Just as you begin to lose hope of ever finding love again yourself, there he is—one of the regular pickleballers who has been away from the courts for some time with a minor injury to his old tennis elbow. He’s probably been fifty-five for a couple decades, but he has a ton of boyish charm and still quite a bit of salt and pepper hair, trimmed neatly close to his head, just the way you like a man’s haircut.

That first day, it seems that he has been greatly missed by the other pickleballers. You don’t say much, and you and he are never on the same side, so all you learn about him comes through the sieve of the good-natured ribbing he takes from the other players. (He just bought a new Tesla and he’s a hell of a card shark at Friday night Texas Hold ’Em.)

The fact that there’s a wife (asked about but nowhere to be seen) is not the impediment it once would have been. (Did Jennifer care that Brian was married?) The wife is not a pickleball person. Not even a novice. Do you read too much into this schism in their retirement life interests? Perhaps she is an invalid, or terminally ill, you think. (Hope?) You stop just short of wishing imminent death on this wife as the days roll by and her husband flirts a little with you. (Yes, he also flirts with the gay girl, but you presume he’s just doing that to be nice to her and you let his niceness woo you even more.) You start to imagine what kind of casserole you might bring him in his (brief) period of mourning if indeed his wife is dying. (Perhaps one shouldn’t, but one can, hope.)

This is what life does. There comes a day when your ego gets bruised badly by several beatings on the court. Yes, you are competitive, and these defeats deliver a nasty sting. You try to shake it off when finally, FINALLY, your appointed partner is your new love interest. Aha! Together, you will crush your opponents and sweet victory will be yours! Your serve. Except … from the corner of your eye you see a blur at the edge of the lap pool. What? Someone appears to be poised to break the hard/fast rule: NO DIVING. Oh, no-no! Not on your watch! The rules are the rules.

“Hey!” you shout. “Hey you! No diving!”

The swimmer ignores you and plunges into the water. Your stunned disbelief that someone would so blatantly break the rules is probably what compels you to hold up the game you have yet to begin and run off the court. By the time you reach the pool’s edge, the swimmer is finishing up a vigorous second lap. Boldly, you bend over to tap their cap-covered head with your red-tipped index finger.

“Hey,” you repeat. “No diving!”

This is what life does. His wife (not an invalid, nor even a little bit ill), bobbed in the deep end and smiled up at you when she challenged you to a race.

Her terms: “Whoever swims the longest, the fastest wins. If I win, henceforth I get to dive. If you win, I’ll enter the pool any way you say.”

The gray wisps escaping her tight cap and the deeply etched lines in her tanned face make of you her sucker.

The day of the race arrives and all of the pickleballers come to watch. She loses you after the first thirty laps, and when she is still swimming after ninety laps you decide to go home to defrost your casserole.

 

Corie Skolnick

Corie Skolnick’s first novel, ORFAN (MVPress) has been optioned for adaptation and development as a feature film by Academy Award nominated (for BULL DURHAM) Director/Producer, Ron Shelton. She is the author of AMERICA’S MOST ELIGIBLE, a novel, (india street press), a contributor to the non-fiction anthologies, ADOPTION REUNION IN THE SOCIAL MEDIA AGE and ADOPTION THERAPY, and has been published in NAILED MAGAZINE. She writes for the travel website, DESTO3.com and has been featured on David J. Core’s podcast, THRILLS AND MYSTERY. She is a Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series selectee.

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