He could do little else except enjoy the bath for them, at least for the ones who had no baths. But he’d never know for sure who had prospered and who hadn’t. Growing up before the blossoming of the internet, many of the bather’s friends from elementary school probably shunned social media. They’d favor reality, and perhaps that gave many of his generation a greater chance. But it also meant the bather could never check up on them. He only knew some of their first names, so those friends had truly drifted away forever.
He thought of one child more than the others while watching the steam vanish—a girl named Meadow. She said her parents had named her that because she played in a meadow. The bather, all those years ago, skeptically wondered why the parents would wait so long to name their child. But he believed it anyway.
Meadow, something of a tomboy, played tag with the boys during lunch hour. In those days, kids would run around outside. The teachers locked all the kids outside to wait in the cold, whether some kids brought their mittens to school or not.
The bather never knew much else about Meadow except that she longed for toys and didn’t have any. Her family moved shortly after they arrived. Meadow had entered a meadow of mystery, boundless and unfathomable. When one’s friends moved away at elementary school age, as many did in the pre-internet era, they simply disappeared forever. No Facebook, no pen pals, not even a phone number would get left behind. They only left a creepy emptiness, like that of a kidnapping victim.
Some kids never even announced their moving day or their last day at the bather’s school. He often wondered if their parents told them at all.
It made the bather wonder about the selfishness of parents who moved too much. Maybe they didn’t like the view of the hills outside their bathroom window, or they gobbled up a few hundred bucks from selling their house and moving again. Maybe a child would never fulfill them, and they just needed more and more and more.
The bather would shudder if not for the block of warm water around him. He recalled a chance meeting of another girl from his elementary school days. Now grown up, this one had turned out too petite, almost runty. She had facial asymmetry, and her teeth pushed close in a way the bather had luckily forgotten. Maybe Meadow, who played with the boys, should remain a complete mystery to him.
But in all likelihood, she didn’t live into her 30s as the bather had. Most of his classmates didn’t.