An Abundance of Katherines

Page 9

“Like a stuck pig,” she said. “Don’t move. ” She turned to Hassan and said, “Give me your T-shirt,” and Hassan promptly said no, which Colin fig u red had something to do with Hassan’s man-boobs. “We need to apply pressure,” Lindsey explained to Hassan, and then Hassan calmly said no again, and then Lindsey said, “Jesus Christ—fine,” and took off her shirt.
Colin squinted through his glassesless fuzziness but couldn’t see much. “We should probably save this for the second date,” Colin said.
“Right, perv,” she responded, but he could hear her smiling. As she wiped at his forehead and cheek softly with the T-shirt, then pressed hard on a tender spot above his right eyebrow, she kept talking. “Some friend you’ve got, by the way. Stop moving your neck. The two concerns we’ve got here are some kind of vertebral injury or a subdural hematoma. I mean, slight-slight-slight chances, but you’ve gotta be cautious, ’cause the nearest hospital’s an hour away. ” He closed his eyes and tried not to wince as she pressed hard against the cut. Lindsey told Hassan, “Apply pressure with the shirt here. I’ll be back in eight minutes. ”
“We should call a doctor or something,” Hassan said.
“I’m a paramedic,” Lindsey answered as she turned away.
“How the hell old are you?” he asked.
“Seventeen. Okay. Fine. A paramedic in training. Eight minutes. I swear. ” She ran off. It was not the way Curve smelled that Colin liked—not exactly. It was the way the air smelled just as Lindsey began to
jog away from him. The smell the perfume left behind. There’s not a word for that in English, but Colin knew the French word: sillage. What Colin liked about Curve was not its smell on the skin but its sillage, the fruity sweet smell of its leaving.
Hassan sat down beside him in the tall grass, pushing hard at the cut. “Sorry I wouldn’t take off my shirt. ”
“Man-boobs?” asked Colin.
“Yeah, well. I just feel like I should know a girl a little before I trot out the man-tits. Where are your glasses?”
“I was just asking myself that very question when the girl took her shirt off,” Colin said.
“So you couldn’t see her?”
“I couldn’t see her. Just that her bra was purple. ”
“Was it ever,” Hassan replied.
And Colin thought of K-19 sitting over him on his bed wearing her purple bra as she dumped him. And he thought of Katherine XIV, who wore a black bra and also a black everything else. And he thought of Katherine XII, the first who wore a bra, and all the Katherines whose bras he’d seen (four, unless you count straps, in which case seven). People thought he was a glutton for punishment, that he liked getting dumped. But it wasn’t like that. He could just never see anything coming, and as he lay on the solid, uneven ground with Hassan pressing too hard on his forehead, Colin Singleton’s distance from his glasses made him realize the problem: myopia. He was nearsighted. The future lay before him, inevitable but invisible.
“I found ’em,” Hassan said, and awkwardly tried to place the glasses on Colin’s face. But it’s hard to put glasses on someone else’s head, and finally Colin reached up and nudged them up the bridge of his own nose, and he could see.
“Eureka,” he said softly.
Katherine XIX: The End (of the End)
She dumped him on the eighth day of the twelfth month, just twenty-two days shy of their one-year anniversary. They’d both graduated that morning, although from different schools, so Colin’s and Katherine’s parents, who were old friends, took them out to a celebratory lunch. But that evening was for them alone. Colin prepared by shaving and wearing that Wild Rain deodorant she liked so much that she’d nestle up against his chest to catch its scent.
He’d picked her up in Satan’s Hearse and they drove south down Lakeshore Drive, the windows down so they could hear, over the rumble of the engine, the waves of Lake Michigan beating against the rocky shore. Before them, the skyline towered. Colin had always loved Chicago’s skyline. Although he was not a religious person, seeing the skyline made him feel what is called in Latin the mysterium tremendum et fascinans—that stomach-flipping mix of awestruck fear and entrancing fascination.
They drove downtown, winding through the soaring buildings of Chicago’s Loop, and they were already late, because Katherine was always late to everything, and so after ten minutes spent searching for a parking meter, Colin paid eighteen dollars for a garage spot, which annoyed Katherine.
“I’m just saying we could have found a spot on the street,” she said as she pressed the elevator button in the parking garage.
“Well, I’ve got the money. And we’re late. ”
“You shouldn’t spend money you don’t need to spend. ”
“I’m about to spend fifty bucks on sushi,” he answered. “For you. ” The doors opened. Exasperated, he leaned against the wood paneling of the elevator and sighed. They hardly spoke until they were inside the restaurant, seated in a tiny table near the bathroom.
“To graduating, and to a wonderful dinner,” she said, raising her glass of Coke.
“To the end of life as we’ve known it,” Colin replied, and they clinked glasses.
“Jesus, Colin, it’s not the end of the world. ”
“It’s the end of a world,” he pointed out.