Schtitt's thrust, and his one great irresistible attraction in the eyes of Mario's late father: The true opponent, the enfolding boundary, is the player himself. Always and only the self out there, on court, to be met, fought, brought to the table to hammer out terms. The competing boy on the net's other side: he's not the foe: he is more the partner in the dance. He's the what is the word excuse or occasion for meeting the self. As you are his occasion. Tennis's beauty's infinite roots are self-competitive. You compete with your own limits to transcend the self in imagination and execution. Disappear inside the game: break through limits: transcend: improve: win. Which is why tennis is an essentially tragic enterprise, to improve and grow as a serious junior, with ambitions. You seek to vanquish and transcend the limited self whose limits make the game possible in the first place. It is tragic and sad and chaotic and lovely. All life is the same, as citizens of the human State: the animating limits are within, to be killed and mourned, over and over again.
Mario thinks hard again. He's trying to think of how to articulate something like: But then is battling and vanquishing the self the same as destroying yourself? Is that like saying life is pro-death? Three passing Allstonian street-kids mock and make fun of Mario's appearance behind the pair's backs. Some of Mario's thinking-faces are almost orgasmic: fluttery and slack. And then but so what's the difference between tennis and suicide, life and death, the game and its own end.?
It's always Schtitt who ends up experimenting with some exotic ice-cream flavor, when they arrive. Mario always chickens out and opts for good old basic chocolate when the moment of decision at the counter comes. Thinking along the lines of like Better the flavor you know for sure you already love.
'And so. No different, maybe,' Schtitt concedes, sitting up straight on a waffle-seated aluminum chair with Mario beneath an askew umbrella that makes the flimsy little table it's rooted to shake and clank in the sidewalk's breeze. 'Maybe no different, so,' biting hard into his tricolored cone. He feels at the side of his white jaw, where there's some sort of red welt, it looks like. 'Not different' -- looking out into the Ave.'s raised median at the Green Line train rattling past downhill -- 'except the chance to play.' He brightens in preparation to laugh in his startling German roar, saying 'No? Yes? The chance to play, yes?' And Mario loses a dollop of chocolate down his chin, because he has this involuntary thing where he laughs whenever anyone else does, and Schtitt is finding what he has just said very amusing indeed.