by Eileen Brener

A long time ago—way before the flood in New Orleans, I took private tennis lessons from a devilishly good-looking coach named Luis.  I loved him as only a middle-aged woman can love a tall, tan, thirty-year-old man who watches her for an hour and talks—even if it is about a wimpy backhand.  All the women in my set vied to get on his schedule.  He smiled at us with a studied nonchalance as though he didn’t know that we each found him more attractive than Tyrone Power.

I always tried to get the last lesson of the day so that I could buy Luis a drink at the clubhouse bar.  He had a net full of stories about his Mexican parents’ great expectations for him and he enjoyed telling them.  Luis was a suave fellow with a devil-may-care way about him.   He was in the U.S. to perfect his English, to make business and social contacts, and to have a good time.  He was slated to return to Mexico City to take over the family business.  He was confident—even arrogant—about his future success.

Over drinks I often asked him personal questions.  He didn’t seem to mind.   One day he told me that he was in love with the most beautiful girl in the world.  “Really?” I said.  “Yes,” he answered, starry-eyed.  Elsa was Swedish and in New Orleans for a six month training program.  She was due to return to Sweden in a week or two and had invited him to accompany her and meet her family.  Luis told me that she laughed when he praised her beauty, saying that in her family she was average.  He couldn’t believe that she’d ever be considered “ordinary looking,” as she described herself.

Luis returned from Sweden with his tan faded, his dark eyes clouded, his broad shoulders drooping.  He told me with a solemn face he had to agree that his formerly “most beautiful girl in the world” was  “ordinary looking” in the company of her two sisters who were taller, blonder, and more athletic than Elsa.  Luis was brokenhearted.  “I really thought I’d found the most beautiful girl in the world,” he said.

A bum knee kept me off the courts for several months, and during that time I wondered and worried about Luis and his prospects for romance.  When I returned to play, I learned that he had been called back to Mexico City.  Disgruntled, I decided to quit taking tennis lessons.  The new coach seemed so ordinary.


As a New Orleans attorney in my pre-IRP days, I occasionally—lord help me—taught legal writing.  Now thanks to the writing workshop, I’ve left lawyerly letters for the fun of writing memoir and fiction.