An Abundance of Katherines

Page 29

was working. But his work that night came to naught. He couldn’t make the Theorem work, and he realized that his Eureka moment had been a false alarm. Imagining the Theorem only required a prodigy, but actually completing it would take a genius. Proving the Theorem, in short, required more mattering than Colin brought to the table.
“I’m going to burn you,” he said out loud to the notebook. “I’m going to throw you in the fire. ” Which was a fine idea—only there was no fire. There don’t tend to be a lot of crackling fireplaces during the Tennesse summer, and Colin didn’t smoke, so no matches were on hand. He rousted about the empty drawers of his adopted desk for matches or a lighter, but he could find nothing. He was hell-bent on burning that goddamned notebook with all his Theoremizing, though. So he walke d through the bathroom and cracked open the door to Hassan’s darkened room.
“Dude, do you have a match?” Colin asked, failing at whispering.
“Your daddy is sleeping. ”
“I know, but do you have a lighter or a match or something?”
“Daddy is trying really fugging hard to think of a not-terrifying reason why you’d wake Daddy up in the middle of the night to ask that fugging question. But no. No. Daddy does not have a match or a lighter. And, okay, enough of the Daddy shit. Anyway, you’ll just have to wait till morning to douse yourself in gasoline and self-annimilate. ”
“Self-immolate,” Colin corrected, and then pulled the door shut.
He walked downstairs and shuffled past Hollis Wells, who was too distracted by all the papers around her and the blaring Home Shopping Network to notice him. Down a hallway, he came to what he believed to be Lindsey’s room. He’d never technically seen it, but he’d seen her enter the living room from this approximate side of the house. Also, a light was on. He knocked softly.
“Yeah,” she said. Lindsey was seated in a plush armchair beneath a giant wall-length bulletin board, on which she’d thumbtacked pictures of herself and Katrina, herself and TOC, herself in camouflage. It was like every single picture of Lindsey Lee Wells ever taken—except Colin noticed immediately that they were all from the last couple of years. No baby pictures, no kid pictures, and no emo-alternative-gothy-screamo-punk synthesis pictures. A four-poster queen-size bed jutted up against the wall opposite the bulletin board. Notably, the room lacked pink.
“It’s not so pink in here,” Colin commented.
“It’s the only refuge in the entire house,” she said.
“Do you have a match?”
“Sure, I got a shitload of ’em,” Lindsey answered without looking up. “Why?”
“I want to burn this,” he said, holding it up. “I can’t finish my Theorem, and so I want to burn it. ”
Lindsey stood up, darted toward Colin, and snatched the notebook from his hand. She paged through it for a while. “Can’t you just throw it away?”
Colin sighed. Clearly, she didn’t get it. “Well, yeah, I could. But look, if I can’t be a genius—and clearly I can’t be—I can at least burn my work like one. Look at all the geniuses who either successfully or unsuccessfully tried to burn their papers. ”
“Yes,” Lindsey said absentmindedly, still reading from the notebook. “Just look at all of them. ”
“Carlyle, Kafka, Virgil. It’s hard to imagine better company, really. ”
“Yes. Hey, explain this to me,” she said, sitting down on the bed and motioning for him to sit next to her. She was reading from a page with an early version of the formula and several inaccurate graphs.
“The idea is that you take two people and figure out if they’re Dumpers or Dumpees. You use a scale that goes from -5 for a strong Dumpee to +5 for a strong Dumper. The difference between those numbers gives you the variable, D, and then by putting D into the formula, you get a graph that predicts the relationship. Only—” he paused, trying to think of a way to put his failure poetically. “Uh, it doesn’t really work. ”
She didn’t look up at him; just closed the notebook. “You can burn it,” she said, “but not tonight. I want it for a couple days. ”
“Uh, okay,” Colin said, and then he waited for Lindsey to say something more. Finally, she added, “It’s just a cool-ass way to tell stories. I mean, I hate math. But this is cool. ”
“Okay. But soon, we burn it!” Colin said, his finger in the air, mock emphatic.
“For sure, yo. Now go to bed before your day gets any worse. ”
On their fifth night in Gutshot, Hassan and Colin split up. Hassan went out with Lindsey to go “cruising,” an activity that apparently involved driving in Hollis’s pink truck from the Gutshot General Store to the gas station/ Taco Hell and then back to the General Store, and then back to the gas station /Taco Hell, ad infinitum.
“You should come out,” Hassan told him. He was standing beside Lindsey in the living room. She wore dangly blue earrings and quite a bit of rouge, which made her look flushed.
“I’m behind on my reading,” Colin explained.
“Behind on your reading? All you do is read,” Lindsey said.
“I’ve been way behind because I’ve worked so hard on the Theorem and because of oral historianing. I try to read four hundred pages a day—ever since I was seven. ”