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It's rusty, he says. It's one of those big, old-fashioned keys. Normally I'd be curious, but in this case I feel no reason to find what it opens because it's obviously been used many times and what it opens has already been explored.
Following her prompts, he comes upon a cup in the forest ... then a bear ... a wall ... and a body of water, describing each one and his reaction as he sees it in his mind's eye. It intrigues him, this game called A Walk in the Woods. But what does it mean?
His depiction of the forest as difficult and dense, Brooke Shields explains, reveals how he sees life. That rings true. The key symbolizes education, and since Andre is an eighth-grade dropout who learns through experience rather than books, his reaction to the key makes sense as well.
His eyes kindle. The game conjures the path-blazing life he wants to lead, self-discovery around every corner. Whenever it comes to a pause, he grows so uneasy that he's willing to take wrong turns and even go backward.
Like marrying the beautiful woman.
Like leaving her in such haste that night: Jan. 26, 1999.
He has just arrived in Los Angeles after a 13-hour flight from Australia, taken her to dinner and confirmed what he knows in his bones: It's over. It's nearing midnight, he hasn't slept in a day and a half, but he grabs some clothes, a bag of coffee beans and his margarita blender, heaves everything into the backseat of his big, white '76 El Dorado, Lilly, and heads hell-bent for his hometown, Las Vegas.
What do words mean? What's COMMITMENT? What's REAL? Tears stream down his cheeks as he rips at himself. The traffic, as he climbs the San Bernardino Mountains, slows to a crawl.
The cars around him begin to peel off in search of motels. But he needs motion. When he proposed to Brooke 2 1/2 years earlier, he thought, I'm asking her to marry me, and I could just as easily be breaking up with her. But he's a glutton for experience, for what lies beyond the next bend, and so, like tonight, he ignored the omens and shoved on.
O.K. So he's wrong again. Snow has shut the mountain pass. He turns Lilly around and begins creeping back, pulling off and being turned down at one crowded motel after another. It all begins to feel like a dream ... or like his life. He's nearing 30, marriage shot, another Grand Slam title opportunity in Australia frittered away, his forward-then-backward career appearing ready to perish far short of the glory that his teenage fame and forehand promised.