Backspin / by John D. Ersing

“I don’t know how my girl is gonna come back from this,” my mom lamented to the whole family with an exasperated sigh, eyes glued to the television as Serena Williams was falling behind in a Wimbledon match.

“She might lose,” my brother Thomas baited. “Would you still put money on her?” Practically the face of middle child syndrome, he knew how wild a Serena fan she was and couldn’t help but challenge her.

Steven, the youngest, and I exchanged a knowing glance: Why’s he gotta stir the pot?

I had been at my parents’ house for less than forty-­eight hours and Tom was already testing the limits of my mother’s patience.

“Absolutely,” she responded immediately, eyes still firmly on the screen.

“How much?”

“Two hundred bucks. What would you put on her to win?”

My brother was bored now. “Five bucks,” he said, largely disinterested at this point in his futility to get a rise out of her. They looked at me in unison, quiet until this point in the recliner in the corner of the living room, smoking a Marlboro Light next to a full ashtray and on my tenth Fresca of the afternoon.

“John, what would you put on Serena?”

I turned to look at them, melodramatically holding my cigarette like an Old Hollywood movie star.

“A Versace gown.”

• • •

Barely breathing but with enough air in my lungs to howl, I laid in my backyard sobbing. “It’ll all be okay,” my mom told me tenderly and ceaselessly, perhaps hoping I would discover a shred of consolation in her repetition.

I was lying on the couch, emotionally invested in Charlotte York’s fertility problems.

“Do you want to watch The Matrix?” my father asked. His favorite movies, the Matrix trilogy was the last thing I wanted to dedicate time to.


I spent an entire day wrapped up in a world where not even reality could be depended upon, which didn’t feel so far from my own at the moment.

“Everything’s gonna be fine,” he offered out of the blue without looking at me. He was a complete emotional foil to my mother, and the way he said it was as obvious and matter-­of-fact as it was borderline patronizing.

“I know,” I sighed, rolling my eyes and burying my nose in my Fresca.

“Temet nosce,” he recited.

“Hm?” I looked at him, annoyed at how good he was at the succinct-­dad-­wisdom thing.

“Know thyself,” he clarified, giving a nod toward the screen. The Latin phrase hung on a sign above the door in The Oracle’s apartment. Neo walked through it.

• • •

In a kooky and ironic twist of fate, I split from my boyfriend the same week that same-­sex marriage was legalized countrywide. Newly single and absolutely heartbroken, I did what any sensible person would do­­I ran home to my mommy.

Sneaking away to my parents’ house for a week to put physical distance between myself and New York City in order to decompress, I binge-­watched every episode of Sex and the City (including the movies) in the name of research to decide which Carrie boyfriend my ex was. I was even starting to think like Carrie Bradshaw, which is never a good omen and is often listed as the first sign of an impending stroke. Imagining Carrie at Wimbledon, 

I couldn’t help but wonder...would my dating record ever see an ace, or was I stuck at love-love?

Toward the end of my visit I went to the physician for a check-­up, just to make sure I wasn’t completely dead inside. I hadn’t been drinking alcohol for a week in order to process the state of my life with a clear head, and I was pretty sure at that point my bloodstream had been transfused with Fresca.

“Do you engage in any high­-risk sexual activity?” the physician asked me. A pretty standard question. I looked at her, incredulous.

“Of course I engage in high-­risk sexual activity,” I responded cooly. “I fell in love with someone I had sex with.”

• • •

“There's a part of me that believes I can still do it, but it's definitely not easy," Serena told BBC on the night before Wimbledon began.

I laughed. “Same,” I said out loud to no one in particular.

Serena won the whole Grand Slam, arriving at Wimbledon’s Champions Ball resplendent in a gorgeous jewel­-encrusted gown. Carrie’s voice appeared in my head to ask,

How much would you put on yourself to win?





John Ersing is a writer somewhere between fashion, beauty, and LGBTQ issues whose work has appeared for Mic, Fashionista, and The International Design Times, among others. He lives in Brooklyn with his emotional baggage and his limited-edition "Oops! I Did It Again: The Remixes" vinyl.