Stretch Number 8,147


Chloe Mendoza, Co-Editor in Chief

The summer before ninth grade, I sauntered onto the tennis courts an intimidated thirteen year-old. The only freshman at the time, I flinched at the upperclassmen that emanated power and experience. A sorely inexperienced tennis player, I envied my teammates’ precise swings and their loyal, years long friendships. I wished for my very own doubles partner-best friend to flail about with on the court and to snicker with behind our coaches’ backs. 

About two days later my hopes were prophetically answered, though I didn’t know it at first. Along came an unruly-haired, strong-opinionated, high achieving freshman girl with a middle finger shock absorber on her racquet. She said her name was Dash Pandher, and I quietly thought to myself, “How cool.” 

We were not best friends immediately. I remember thinking my new acquaintance intense, and I know her initial thoughts of me were of the same measure of fondness. But we quickly learned that sweaty van rides to tournaments and practices under the blazing summer sun are much more enjoyable with a friend. When exactly our friendship clicked into place, I’m not sure. But it was sometime after we created our first inside joke. 

Dying from the two-hour singles match I’d just lost, I limped off the blue courts of Immanuel’s sports complex, over to my friend with the last name remniciant of bread in Spanish. My knee, cramping from the last two hours of strain, cried out in agitation. So together we Googled some good stretches to ease my pain, but to no avail. Disappointed in the results of our search, we invented our own maneuvers. They were unorthodox and silly, much like us, and so we named them with random, far-reaching numbers. My favorites now include stretch number 1,128 and stretch number 8,147. 

After that our friendship was somehow solidified, as if we were tied to each other in some significant way reaching beyond the sport we both played and our status as new double partners. Together we’ve tasted the triumph of success and bitterness of failure.  We’ve learned to trust, and how to let go. We’ve created unique solutions to many unpleasant situations, while raucously laughing along the way. We’ve offered shoulders to cry on and hands to lend.  Occasionally, we’ve even bullied and knocked the other around, but all in good nature of course. We’ve shared our most confidential secrets, and sealed our lips in response.  

Today our jokes aren’t confined to just the red (tennis reference) and the summer heat, but extend to even the farthest reach of colorful winter.  

I found acceptance, support, and encouragement in my doubles partner. No longer am I the scared ninth grader, because I know I can look to my right and find my friend smiling deviously, awaiting the nonsense we’re about to cook up. I found true friendship in one of the places I most hoped for, but least least expected, on the tennis courts. And I have a certain yellow ball and stretch number 8,147 to thank for it.