“Hi.” Today M sports a turquoise fox sweater that I can’t help but admire.
“Cute fox sweater,” I say.
“It’s a skunk.”
“Oh, of course. Cute skunk sweater.”
She shrugs, shy. “I like skunks. Do you?”
Annalise makes a face as she tosses her stuff around the locker. “Only if they are not by me…” She waves her arms away and around to ward off the imaginary skunk. M giggles.
Earlier in the pool, M had barely swam at all. Had gotten in the lane next to mine, given me a little wave. I was deep into my workout, but did take a moment to grin, say “Hi, nice to see you in the pool.”
M had only given a tired smile. Something seemed off. But she was in the pool, so what could be wrong?
Is this why I am drawn to M? Or she’s drawn to me?
“No, I don’t think so.”
“Is that why you got out of the pool early today?” I ask, glancing over at Annalise who is hurriedly squishing into her suit.
“Can I give you a hug?” she asks Annalise.
“No no non...not if you’re sick. Next time….” Annalise gives me a look, rolls her eyes. I am shocked. Or at least surprised. At Annalise’s refusal of a hug? Or at the fact that M wants to hug everyone? That I am not special?
Ian had told me once that kids with Down Syndrome like lots of physical contact. So this could be it. And that’s all.
M’s mom hollers something in Spanish from the other side of the locker room. “I don’t wanna hear her,” M says.
“But she knows where you are,” I point out.
“I guess….” M shrugs again, moves to hug me.
“Uh, Air Hug, okay?” I suggest. “Since you’re sick.”
She giggles, mimics a hug in the air as her mom hollers one last time. M turns and heads down the row of lockers. “See you next time,” she says, a glint in her eye behind thick glasses.
“In the pool,” I say.
She giggles again, then turns away, hugs lingering in the air behind her.