An Abundance of Katherines

Page 37

“And I’m taking Colin to dinner,” Lindsey said. “This Colin,” she clarified, her extended pointer finger poking his bicep. Hollis beamed; Colin looked over at Lindsey with equal parts surprise and confusion.
“Well, I guess I can do some work this evening with y’all out then,” Hollis said.
Colin spent his remaining pre-“date” hours working on the Theorem. Within thirty minutes, he’d nailed K-19. The problem, as it turned out, was not so much bad math as false hope: Colin had been trying to tweak the Theorem to make K-19’s graph look like:
In short, he had been counting upon a reunion. He’d been assuming that the Theorem could see into the future, when K-19 would return to him. But the Theorem, he decided, couldn’t take into account its own influence. So then with the same formula he’d worked out before, in the car with Lindsey, 65 Colin managed to get it to reflect his relationship with Katherine XIX up until now:
By five o’clock, he was perilously close. He had captured the Katherine roller coaster eighteen times. But what he hadn’t done was quite important—he hadn’t gotten Katherine III on paper, and one cannot take an equation that predicts eighteen out of nineteen Katherines to the Nobel Prize Committee. 66 For the next two hours, he thought of every facet of Katherine III (given name: Katherine Mutsensberger) with the precision and clarity that made his brain so unusual. And yet he could not fix what he came to call the III Anomaly. The equation that correctly predicted the other eighteen came out looking like this:
The graph’s smiley-facedness indicated that Colin had not been dumped by III but had dumped her, which was ludicrous. He could remember every-thingabout Katherine III, and the rest of them, too, of course—he remembered everything about everything—and yet something about Katherine III clearly eluded him.
As he worked on the Theorem, Colin was so focused that the world outside his notebook seemed not to exist, so he jolted upright in surprise when he heard, from behind him, Lindsey say, “Time for dinner, dude. ” He turned around to see her head peeking through the open door. She wore a blue cotton tank top with tight blue jeans, Converse All Stars, and—as if she knew what he liked—no makeup. She looked, well, pretty—even not smiling. Colin glanced down at his jeans and yellow KranialKidz T-shirt. “Don’t dress up on account of me,” Lindsey said, smiling. “We gotta get going, anyway. ”
They came downstairs just in time to look through the screen door and see Hassan get into Katrina’s SUV. Hassan handed her a sagging pink rose he’d plucked from the mansion’s garden. She smiled, and then they kissed. Lo r d. Colin had seen it with his own eyes: Hassan kissing a girl who had to have been Homecoming Queen.
“Was Katrina Homecoming Queen?”
“No I was,” Lindsey responded immediately.
Lindsey pursed her lips. “Well, no, but you don’t have to sound so surprised about it! Katrina was on the Court, though. ” She stopped and shouted toward the kitchen, “Hey, Hollis! We’re leaving. We might be back late. Hot sex and all!”
“Have fun!” replied Hollis. “Call if you’ll be out past twelve!”
They drove downtown, to the gas station/Taco Hell, where they ordered at the drive-thru. They both peered through the accordion window, Lindsey leaning over Colin to catch a glimpse of Hassan and Katrina eating.
“She seems to really like him,” Lindsey said. “I mean, I really like him, too. I don’t want to sound mean. I’m just surprised. She usually goes for, um, the dumb, hot ones. ”
“So she’s like you. ”
“Watch it. I’m paying for your dinner, after all. ”
They took their chicken soft tacos and drove off, and finally Colin decided to ask what was going on.
“Um, why are we going out for dinner together?”
“Well, three reasons. First, because I’ve been thinking about our Theorem and I have a question. How does it work if you’re gay?”
“Well it’s all graph-going-up means boy dumps girl and graph-going-down means girl dumps boy, right? But what if they’re both boys?”
“It doesn’t matter. You just assign a position to each person. Instead of being ‘b’ and ‘g,’ it could just as easily be ‘b1’ and ‘b2. ’ That’s how algebra works. ”
“Which would explain my C-minus. Okay. Thank God. I was really worried that it would only help the straights, and that’s not much of a Theorem. Reason two is I’m trying to get Hollis to like me, and she likes you, so if I like you, she’ll like me. ” Colin was looking at her, confused. “C-minus in algebra; A-plus in coolology. See, popularity is complicated, yo. You have to spend a lot of time thinking about liking; you have to really like being liked, and also sorta like being disliked. ” Colin listened intently, nibbling the inside of his thumb. Listening to Lindsey talk about popularity made him feel a little bit of the mysterium tremendum. “Anyway,” she went on, “I need to find out what’s going on with her selling land. That guy Marcus built this cookie-cutter house subdivision south of Bradford. I mean, it’s vomitous. Hollis would never stand for that shit. ”
“Oh, okay,” Colin said, feeling a bit like a pawn.
“And reason three,” Lindsey said, “is I gotta teach you how to shoot so you don’t embarrass yourself. ”
“Shoot a gun?”
“A shotgun. I put one in your trunk this afternoon. ” Colin nervously glanced toward the back. “It won’t bite,” Lindsey said.
“Where did you get a gun?”
“Where did I get it? Smartypants, getting a gun in Gutshot, Tennessee, is easier than getting chlamydia from a hooker. ”