What’s Love Got To Do With It?
No matter how hard I tried, I could never get my head around this whole tennis business!
The Wimbledon Widower and Widow, we jokingly called ourselves
What’s Love got to do with it?” I asked, that first time we watched it together.
Gerald sighed. “It’s part of the scoring system.”
I didn’t understand it then and it never did make sense to me, no matter how many times Gerald tried to explain.
I’ve never seen the fascination with tennis. I don’t understand the rules or the scoring and can’t remember the names of the players. Unlike Gerald, who loves it.
Every year, for two weeks in July, he goes into the living room, shuts the door on the outside world, and immerses himself in Wimbledon.
“I don’t see the problem, Jenny,” he said, when I first voiced the opinion that it was a bit weird. “Other people watch football on Saturday afternoons or rugby at weekends. I just cram it all into two weeks every year. I know we’d said we’d do things together when we retired, but it’s only a fortnight – the rest of the time I’m yours.”
I really couldn’t think of an argument when he put it like that. But it didn’t stop me feeling at a loose end when Wimbledon came round.
“Why don’t you meet up with a friend?” he suggested. “Have a few days out – all I need is some food shoved under the door each evening. Treat it as a bit of a break for yourself. Only, without me.”
So that’s why I’m sitting on the bench down by the river, waiting for Alfie to arrive.
We met one summer almost 10 years ago – the Wimbledon Widower and Widow we jokingly called ourselves.
“Not watching Wimbledon?” he’d asked as he settled down on the bench beside me.
“No,” I smiled. “I don’t get what Love’s got to do with it, though my husband’s explained many a time.”
“That’s a Tina Turner song in my book,” Alfie replied. “But Deuced if I know.”
We’d both collapsed into giggles then. It was like finding a kindred spirit. And that was the beginning.
We’ve been through a lot, me and Alfie, even though it only amounts to 20 weeks, or four months, or approximately 140 days, over 10 years. Grandkids arriving, a health scare, talking about Gerald, and Alfie’s wife Rosie. But we’ve always managed our two weeks to sit, chat, laugh, sometimes shed a tear, and put the world to rights.
We’ve walked by the river, rowed a boat down the canal, shared fish and chips for lunch, caught the local steam railway to the fun park and back... Stuff we’d never do in our everyday lives, and never anything to feel guilty about.
So why didn’t we tell our partners? Maybe it would have spoilt the magic. Or sown a seed of doubt. No, best to leave them happily watching Wimbledon, none the wiser. And there’s something special about having a secret, even an innocent one, isn’t there?
As Wimbledon approaches, I always have the slight fear he won’t be there. What if something’s happened to him? What if he can’t make it? What if I’m left waiting, wondering?
“I’d let you know,” he said when I broached the subject once. “I promise.” He’d put his hand over mine, the closest we’d ever come to more than simply enjoying our time together, and I didn’t like to push things any further.
But today, it’s like my worst nightmare coming true as time ticks on and Alfie doesn’t show.
I’m cursing myself for not getting a phone number, an address, anything really.
And then I see the woman coming towards me.
“Do you mind?” she gestures at the bench and sits down as I smile and nod. She’s crying, softly, like she doesn’t want anyone to notice but isn’t able to hold back the tears.
“You OK?” I ask tentatively. The woman nods, sniffs, and musters a smile as she wipes away the tears with a crumpled tissue. “This is the first time in years I’ve missed any of Wimbledon. I used to watch it every year while my husband...” she trailed off sadly. “But he passed away a few months ago, taken suddenly ill. There was nothing anyone could do. He was just so positive, even at the end. He made me promise I’d come to meet a friend of his here and let her know...”
The world spins, and I have a vivid memory of Alfie’s hand on mine, and the last thing he’d ever said to me… I’d let you know. I promise.
“Rosie?” I asked, placing my hand over hers.
When I get home I pause outside the living room door, hearing the soft muffle of the tennis match on the other side. The ball being batted back and forth, the call of the umpire, the applause of the crowd. For the first time ever, I turn the door handle and interrupt him.
“Gerald,” I call. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet.”
Another five years have passed. Alfie and I are sitting on the bench just as we always did.
It’s a new bench now, with an inscription: In memory of Alfie and Jenny, who loved it here during Wimbledon Fortnight.
Back home, Gerald and Rosie are watching Wimbledon, and it’s a comfort to know they have each other. Alfie places his hand over mine and we smile.
I still don’t understand the scoring – Love and Deuce continue to be a mystery to me. But I think I understand at last what Love’s got to do with it.