This morning when I walked into the tennis club, the woman who was cleaning the bathroom I usually use to change in sent me to the vestuari. I had never been in it before, never even knew where it was, though I vaguely remember someone flourishing a finger toward it one day when I first arrived, the extent of my grand tour of the place.
Like a couple of the tennis clubs I’ve been to here, it is multi-level, terraced into the side of the hill on which it sits, the courts a compact and gritty deep orange clay, the building a rambling, crumbling old thing. Apparently, there’s a swimming pool somewhere around the back. It seems like it was once a lovely place to spend an afternoon with friends out on the old stone terrace that has a faded beauty about it–when the lines were freshly painted on the courts, the nets crisp and not yet sagging. The view remains superb. Like the famous Club Natació Montjuic, our club shares that stunning view out over the city, whose buildings punctuate the hillside in a scattering of alabaster and cream and rose. I have to peek at it through the stands of evergreens of course, but it’s a distracting view and probably better hidden.
I used to love the faded blue wall at the back of court five where I started playing. The paint was peeling off in places, revealing a pale sea green beneath, evidence of another lifetime. The small fingers of tender green plants dusted in clay splayed out of the cracks where the wall met the court. All I thought about was how I would capture it on film if I could. I spent so much time staring at it over the days and weeks, I couldn’t focus on my play. Shards of words would float over me–sigue, arriba, más fuerte, bien–and I would have to shake myself out in time to meet my shot.
The wall is gone now. It disappeared sometime while I was away, when the construction project I didn’t know was coming finally got underway. It hurts my heart to see it gone, a cold metal fence–a temporary fixture–erected in its spot. The courts have been dismantled, the earth has been cut again and leveled. Yellow bulldozers litter the grounds, and there are small and shaky bridges made of two by fours to get us over the deep troughs where the plumbing lies and onto the few remaining courts.
I love the rambling ivy covered ground around the courts, scattered with dead brown leaves that crackle when the wind blows. I like that the courts are sunken and hidden deep down below the view of the still-sleeping city. I like to look up into the tops of the trees instead, to see the sharp white needle of the Estadi Olímpic and the cold winter sky and feel protected. But the ground is being flattened now, the trees dismembered. I feel so much loss at its destruction.
So this morning when I arrived and reluctantly entered the changing room, I stopped short, as if in wonder. Like the rest of the edifice, it is not an attractive place. It is white and clinical and marked by fixtures that seem a sort of testament to a time already ended. But it was there, unchanged, as if forgotten for a moment. I felt like it was mine.
I felt like I had to capture it, now while it’s still there. I loved the pale flowered tiles in the shower stalls, like something a grandmother might choose, and the small dash of daylight peeking in through a tiny window.
I felt a kind of comfortable regularity in the lockers lined up in square stacks, soldiering forth around the room, hardly used.
The florescent light tubes put off more light than you would expect from ones so thin, but they lit the room into a kind of incandescence that made the scene freeze in time, the way I wanted it to be.
Even the ceiling tiles cut a jaunty step above me, as though a relic of a half-hearted attempt to make the place feel divertit, perhaps a hint of what lay beyond the doors.
The room was mine, if only for a minute. The Ukranian girl I played with arrived and caught me mid shot. She stood there awkwardly for a moment, while I finished taking a photo near her bag. I stammered an apology, made an awkward joke about taking photos in a changing room, while she stared blankly in the direction my camera was pointing. “It’s for a project I’m doing,” I told her. “But… But it’s nothing beautiful,” she answered, confused. “It doesn’t have to be,” I said.
I walked home, down the long hill that cuts along the front of Poble Espanyol, pulling my collars–both of them–up against the wind. I found a newspaper laying on the ground beside a bench, an orange leaf, stamped to the sidewalk both.
I stopped and read the headlines, just because I could.
I checked the news when I got home, and thought of you when I saw the news about the blizzard, of your grandma bundled up against the cold. Surely she’ll be sitting at her kitchen table, her robe pulled close around her, with the pale morning light hitting her hair just so. She’ll be reading the newspaper 315 miles away from you, dunking a small teabag into a large flowered mug and deciding just which egg cup to use, which one reminds her most of you.