Local View: Under the spell of summer love

As soon as school let out in June, we walked 15 blocks each morning to Aqua Park, the community pool, and walked home again at 6 p.m. In between, we swam in the largest of the three pools, playing water tag, standing in line for the 20-foot slide...

David McGrath

As soon as school let out in June, we walked 15 blocks each morning to Aqua Park, the community pool, and walked home again at 6 p.m.

In between, we swam in the largest of the three pools, playing water tag, standing in line for the 20-foot slide and leaping off the high dive, hollering like Tarzan. At lunch time, we bought bags of French fries at the snack bar and ate them with ketchup at a redwood picnic table in our trunks and bare feet. In the afternoon, we launched cannon balls and can openers off the 2-meter spring boards, seeing who could make the tightest splash with the greatest altitude.

Worn out, finally, we spread our towels and lay on the concrete deck, drying, dozing, before heading into the locker room to change into our clothes. We rolled the wet swimsuits into our towels for toting home.

Come August, my pals Tom and Joey floated other ideas. To hitch a ride to the beach. Or to play ball at the diamond behind the carwash. Maybe swipe cigarettes from unlocked cars in the bowling alley parking lot. Anything but the Aqua. They were bored to death of the pool.

So was I. Except that I kept going. Did not miss a day. Stayed eight hours by myself, perfecting my backstroke, idling at a table in the corner by the cyclone fence. Every day, all day long -- just for a glance of her.


She would arrive wearing a white terry cloth robe and carrying a floppy bag. She set up at the end of the adult pool, spreading her towel and shedding her robe to sit cross-legged and to apply suntan lotion. Sometimes she wore the navy blue bathing suit, and other times the white two-piece that made her legs and arms look all golden and glossy. She had brown hair worn straight like Natalie Wood's in "West Side Story." And red nail polish on her petite hands, with which she could never quite reach the middle of her back.

Once when she saw me watching her, she smiled and waved. I did not move, thinking she meant someone behind me. But she cocked her head insistently, for she recognized me from school. And it wasn't so much her mouth or the smile itself, but the eyes so large and deeply brown; I nearly lost myself within them, though I sat on the opposite side of the pool, a swim lap away.

She seemed to glow, the way a spirit must. I felt physically unable to move when she appeared.

That evening at dinner, Mother asked if I was sick, to which I rolled my eyes in reply; and she said that's good, because it was my turn to do the dishes. Accidentally on purpose, I rattled the plates and flipped the silverware, because it was a stupid job, in this stupid house. My mother turned up the radio, and I wished I'd never come home, had just stayed through the supper break and into the evening adult swim. And I cringed at the thought that my summer love would ever see me here, related to these nosy people, wiping this chipped green plate.

And it was uncanny, the words being sung over the radio: "It's going to be a long, lonely summer," for you could hear the sadness in the music and the ache in the singer's voice, similar to what I felt, missing her, while counting the minutes and hours and forks and knives until I could return to the same sacred place. The song's promise to send her a letter "sealed with a kiss," with minor chords that conveyed a sense of desperation, tugged at something deep inside me. It played over and over in my head, even as I lay in bed late into the night.

On Friday the pool was jammed. She was with someone. Or, thinking back, I may have been mistaken. Maybe it wasn't even her, since white swimsuits were fairly common. And the glow was missing from her eyes.

She was with a boy who was not even in our class, someone older with wavy black hair and a silver chain around his neck.

In the midst of the crowd, I receded to the snack bar, near the corner of the cyclone fence.


They could even have been brother and sister, the way he snatched away the suntan lotion. Except that he put his hand on the center of her back, smoothing it on. Unsmiling, she submitted, as he covered her shoulders.

Certainly a sister could have done her own shoulders.

People were in line ordering fries and hot tamales and Cokes. The noise made me not remember how the music went with the words: It's going to be a cold, lonely summer.

I wished now I had brought sunglasses. Then I could have shut my eyes and no one would have known. I could have floated in my own private space, concentrating on that briefest of moments just after sleep, when we still harbor hope that the dream is for real.

David McGrath of Hayward is a writer, author and adjunct college professor. He can be contacted at .

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