Finally, Tokyo’s billion-dollar carnival of flesh and fury, of spinning divas and aqua tenors is over, and a good time was had by all, even by the hundreds who tested positive for COVID-19. That full number is yet unknown.

No one, it seems, wants to dump on a good time.

I speak of the fabled, overblown weeks of muscles and madness that every two years grabs the imagination of the planet, even the dying one we now inhabit: 2,311 deaths in Tokyo as I write, but the show must go on?

I watched some of the players, the kids who grew up with visions of gold medals dancing in their dreams. Why aren’t there gold medals for teachers? Because few kids ever dream of growing up to teach the third grade?

I took particular notice of that chorus line of incredibly handsome muscular youths, swimming back and forth, that conjures up lovely youthful memories for me. I’ll never look that good again.

First of all, I never looked that magical in swimming shorts, and I would have lost those fancy glasses by day one.

But I had my glory days.

Rosemary De Branco, she of the first bikini swimsuit at the Marquette Avenue pool, thought I was “darling” in my brother’s old navy trunks and wet T-shirt.

Unlike the great Caeleb Dressel, I always wore a T-shirt at the pool.

Not only was I the skinniest kid at Marquette pool in my big brother’s old swimsuit, but my skin was so white that today, I would be the poster boy for white supremacist groups.

Sometimes I would bravely slip down and stand there in the shallow end with the toddlers, with water only up to my 12-inch waist, while Rosemary skimmed by and splashed me.

“Watch the hair, watch the hair!” I would shout.

I was paranoid about getting my $6 hair cut wet and stringy. I may have had Don Knotts’s body, but I had Elvis Presley’s hair.

In my later years, no matter where I went in the world of pools, from St. Louis to Beverly Hills, I would recall Rosemary D. swimming back and forth in the pool (in her black bikini, a first for Cleveland High) while flocks of pool jocks swam around her like she was Esther Williams.

I recall sitting on the edge of the shallow end, trying to hold up my brother’s old swimsuit while eating a grape popsicle. Luckily, cameras weren’t allowed.

Rosemary may have been the Jayne Mansfield of Mr. King’s homeroom, but it was only this skinny lover with a $6-styled haircut that got to spoon with her in the moonlight at Bellerive Country Club in her daddy’s old convertible.

The deep end of pools never drew me in. To this day, nothing good ever happened to me around large bodies of water.

I would add that bats and balls of any size also spelled danger for me.

First of all, from kindergarten to high school, I could never actually catch anything coming at me at high speed, except for Rosemary’s lips. By the time I left school I had had my face smashed, bruised and lacerated by balls and bats.

Well, it’s all over for a while. We’ll get a break until we’re faced with the dreaded, boring winter Olympics, which feature the lavishly-costumed figure skaters, all performing the same twists and twirls, to the music of Beethoven or Cardi B.

To tell you the truth, I secretly like that event.

Did I ever tell you about Rosemary’s red velvet with ermine collar and cuffs skating outfit? Sigh.

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer. 


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