An Abundance of Katherines

Page 19

“Um, okay. I wouldn’t care if you did,” Colin acknowledged. “Nerds always say they don’t give a shit about popularity; but—not having friends sucks. I never liked quote unquote cool kids, personally—I thought they were all dumb little shits. But I’m probably like them in some ways. Like, the other day, I told Hassan I wanted to matter—like, be remembered. And he said, ‘famous is the new popular. ’ Maybe he’s right, and maybe I just want to be famous. I was thinking about this tonight, actually, that maybe I want strangers to think I’m cool since people who actually know me don’t. I was at the zoo once when I was ten on a class trip and I really needed to pee, right? I actually had repeated urges to urinate that day, probably due to overhydration. Incidentally, did you know that the whole eight glasses a day thing is complete bullshit and has no scientific basis? So many things are like that. Everyone just assumes they’re true, because people are basically lazy and incurious, which incidentally is one of those words that sounds like it wouldn’t be a word but is. ”36
“It’s very weird to watch your brain work,” Lindsey said, and Colin sighed. He knew he couldn’t tell stories, that he always included extraneous details and tangents that interested only him. “Anyway, the end of that story is that I came relatively close to having a lion bite off my penis. And my point was that shit like that never happens to popular people. Ever. ”
Lindsey laughed. “That sounds like a hell of a good story if only you knew how to tell it. ” She bit at her thumb again. Her private habit. From behind her hand she said, “Well, I think you’re cool, and I want you to think I’m cool, and that’s all popular is. ”
The End (of the Beginning)
After their first kiss, Colin and Katherine I sat in silence for perhaps two minutes. Katherine watched Colin carefully, and he tried to continue translating Ovid. But he found himself with an unprecedented problem. Colin couldn’t focus. He kept glancing up at her. Her big blue eyes, too big for her young face really, stared unceasingly at him. He figured he was in love. Finally, she spoke.
“Colin,” she said.
“Yes, Katherine?”
“I’m breaking up with you. ”
At the time, of course, Colin did not fully understand the significance of the moment. He immersed himself in Ovid, grieving his loss in silence, and she continued to watch him for the next half hour until her parents came into the living room to take her home. But it only took a few more Katherines for him to look back nostalgically upon The Great One as the perfect spokesperson for the Katherine Phenomenon. Their three-minute relationship was the thing itself in its most unadulterated form. It was the immutable tango between the Dumper and the Dumpee: the coming and the seeing and the conquering and the returning home.
When you spend your entire life in and around the city of Chicago, as it turns out, you fail to fully apprehend certain facets of rural life. Take, for example, the troubling case of the rooster. To Colin’s mind, the rooster crowing at dawn was nothing more than a literary and cinematic trope. When an author wanted a character to be awoken at dawn, Colin figured the author just used the literary tradition of the crowing rooster to make it happen. It was, he thought, just like how authors always wrote things in ways other than how they actually happened. Authors never included the whole story; they just got to the point. Colin thought the truth should matter as much as the point, and he figured that was why he couldn’t tell good stories.
That morning, he learned that roosters really don’t start crowing at dawn. They start well before dawn—around 5 A. M. Colin rolled over in the foreign bed, and for a few slow seconds, as he squinted into the darkness, he felt good. Tired, and annoyed with the rooster. But good. And then he remembered that she’d dumped him, and he thought of her in her big fluffy bed asleep, not dreaming of him. He rolled over and looked at his cell phone. No missed calls.
The rooster crowed again. “Cock-a-doodle-don’t, motherfugger,” Colin mumbled. But the rooster cock-a-doodle-did, and by dawn, the crowing created a kind of weird dissonant symphony when mingled with the muffled sounds of a Muslim’s morning prayers. Those hours of unsleepthroughable loudness allowed him ample time to wonder about everything from when Katherine last thought of him to the number of grammatically correct anagrams of rooster. 37
Around 7 A. M. , as the rooster (or perhaps there was more than one—perhaps they crowed in shifts) entered its third hour of shrieking cries, Colin stumbled into the bathroom, which also connected to Hassan’s bedroom. Hassan was already in the shower. For all its luxury, their bathroom contained no bathtub.
“Morning, Hass. ”
“Hey. ” Hassan shouted over the water. “Dude, Hollis is asleep in the living room watching the Home Shopping Network. She’s got a billion-dollar house and she sleeps on the couch. ”
“Bees feefle are weird,” Colin said, pulling out his toothbrush mid-sentence.
“Whatever—Hollis loves me. She thinks I hung the moon. And that you’re a genius. And at five hundred dollars a week, I’ll never have to work again. Five hundred dollars can last me five months at home, dude. I can survive on this summer till I’m, like, thirty. ”
“Your lack of ambition is truly remarkable. ”
Hassan’s hand reached out from behind the shower and grabbed a towel monogrammed HLW. He emerged moments later, and walked into Colin’s room, towel around his sizable waist.
“Listen, kafir. Seriously. Lay off about me going to school. Let me be happy; I’ll let you be happy. Giving each other shit is fine, but there comes a point. ”
“Sorry. I didn’t know the point had come. ” Colin sat down on the bed, pulling on a KranialKidz T-shirt he’d been given.
“Well, you’ve brought it up like 284 consecutive days. ”
“Maybe we should have a word,” Colin said. “For when it’s gone too far. Like, just a random word and then we’ll know to back off. ”
Standing there in his towel, Hassan looked up at the ceiling and finally said, “Dingleberries. ”
“Dingleberries. ” Colin agreed, anagramming in his head. Dingleberries was an anagrammatic jackpot. 38
“You’re anagramming, aren’t you, motherfugger?” asked Hassan.
“Yeah,” Colin said.
“Maybe that’s why she dumped you. Always anagramming, never listening. ”
“Dingleberries,” said Colin.