When they were checking in, she ran into someone she used to know. He’d stuttered out her name and shaken her husband’s hand with too much vigor. He appeared to still be single.
“Who was that?” her husband asked.
Now, she was in the hotel pool, sitting on the steps half-submerged, watching her daughter practice her underwater handstands. That old question came back to her.
“Did you hook up?”
That was the question girls used to ask each other in warbling voices, the boy or man linguistically unacknowledged but contextually vital.
In high school, the popular girls had dismissed her as fat and their boyfriends had slipped notes into her locker. The boys treated their slim girlfriends like valuable antiques they’d been bequeathed and were now the custodians of, but for which they had no real use. In their free time, they poured their secrets into her on the tops of hills with romantic overlooks: how their fathers disappointed them; how they faked it with the girlfriends; how their favorite colors were pink and turquoise.
“Hook up” had been a dragnet, she thought, as her daughter flipped her legs over a foam noodle. It covered everything past a kiss, so there was no avoiding a lie if you hadn’t wanted to answer the question honestly.
Back then, she savored the delicacy of those relationships. They were like tracing paper, thin and inessential and yet oddly useful. That was what made them fun, she remembered, watching her daughter break the surface—how they had barely been anything and yet still existed.