A judge I once knew told me of an experience from his youth. It’s always stayed with me as a moment that feels like time stopped.
During the Batista era, his family went to Havana one year for the holidays. They stayed at one of the posh hotels for which Havana was renowned.
On New Year’s eve, he joined his parents, dressed in tuxedo and gown, as they dined and danced in the grand ballroom of the splendid hotel. As midnight approached, he noticed his father being spoken to by a waiter, say something to his mother, then get up to leave. Out of curiosity, he followed.
His father went out to the hotel’s tennis court where he joined another man, also dressed in a tuxedo. There, in the light cast from the hotel itself, they commenced a spirited game of tennis, saying very little to each other apart from occasional mutual congratulation on points well-won.
They played as the minutes counted down to midnight. Just before the strike of midnight, a waiter brought forward a bottle of champagne. As the men put down their racquets and joined him at mid-court, he opened it with some ceremony. Both men shook hands across the net and solemnly toasted each other. As the fireworks commenced, they lifted their glasses to the blazing sky.
Oh, and the judge’s father’s opponent that night?