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Those who were lucky enough to witness the event knew they had seen magic. The match was good enough, in fact, to write a book about, and Vilas comes well-armed for that task as well. Jonathan Segal, an editor at Simon & Schuster who is working on a book with Vilas, says, "Guillermo has a great sense of the absurdity of things. In time he could become a full-fledged writer."
Vilas says, "To write is very special. I think I started when I was alone in the fields and the trees. I had so much time then. I am lucky now. I don't have to worry about selling books. I can write what I feel. I can write for myself."
Vilas began writing in secondary school but a teacher discouraged his efforts by throwing away his work. When Vilas went out on the tour, he kept a diary. He scribbled on napkins, programs, the back of his hand. An idea would come and Vilas would grab onto it and write it down. He says he had written three books before he published Ciento Veinticinco (125), a 1975 paperback of prose and poetry dealing with man's loneliness and the emptiness of life.
Vilas put out 125 entirely on his own. He wrote it, designed the cover and paid the printer. The book is "the fruit of my moments of greatest anguish," he says, but he will not reveal the meaning of the title. There are chapter headings such as Ilusiones, Nostalgia, Impotencia. The book is ironic, sarcastic, funny and sad, but it was bombed by the critics. When asked what he thought of 125, Jorge Luis Borges, Argentina's first man of letters, who is now 78 and blind, said, "Just imagine me playing tennis."
Vilas is undeterred. In conversation he is obsessed with cosmic subjects—fear, age, death. His screenplay, which he labored over in longhand all last summer, is entitled The Deciding Years. It is about a suicidal man who is talked out of committing suicide. Two songs he wrote with his friend Spinetta are called Angels, Angels and Children of the Bells, but Spinetta says he had to convince Vilas to make the lyrics in Children of the Bells happy, not sad.
"When something nice happens to me, I live it," says Vilas. "When something sad happens, I write it. I cannot write when contented. Stupid things come out. But time passes and I get depressed. When I am traveling, I am unhappy. I am thinking about death a lot. In my screenplay, everybody dies."
When Vilas was 18, a friend committed suicide. A few years ago he met a girl who wore a container of poison on a chain around her neck. In 1976 after Wimbledon, Vilas went into analysis to explore the feelings and experiences that always seemed to surface in his writing.
"Is it me in my screenplay?" he repeats a question. "It doesn't have to be me, but it can be me. I change and find different things in people, including myself."
In 125, in his chapter on illusions. Vilas relates the story of a little boy who digs a hole in the sand and pours buckets of water into the hole. The boy asks his father for some ice cream, and the father says the boy can have the ice cream as soon as the hole is filled with water.
After he finished writing Ilusiones, Vilas says he was reminded of his father and himself on the beach at Mar del Plata. He says he laughed, remembering. Then he cried. Vilas says in that moment he realized he had grown up There were no illusions anymore.