An Abundance of Katherines

Page 41

“. . . AkhhhhEchhhAhhhh. Kahhh. Ehhhhhh. Wow. Wow. Man. It’s like French-kissing a dragon. ”
“That’s the funniest thing you’ve ever said, Colin Singleton. ”
“I used to be funnier. I kinda lost all my confidence. ”
“. . . ”
“. . . ”
“Let me tell you a story. ”
“Ooh, a Lindsey Lee Wells story. Does it star an Archduke?”
“No it stars a Lindsey, but it’s got all the elements of a top-notch story. Where are you? Oh, there. Hi. Hi, knee. Hi, calf. Okay. So we all went to Danville for elementary school and pretty much all the Gutshot kids stuck together because everyone else thought we were dirty and poor and spread lice. But then in about third grade—like I’ve said, I was ugly—Colin and all his friends started saying I was a dog. ”
“I hate that. I hate kids like that so fugging much. ”
“Rule Number One. No interrupting. But anyway, so they starting calling me Lass, short for Lassie. ”
“Hey, he called you that just the other day on the way to the oldsters!”
“Yeah, I recall. Also, to repeat myself: Rule. Number. One. So it’s fourth grade, okay? And it’s Valentine’s Day. I really wanted to get some valentines. So I asked Hollis what I should do, and she said I should just make a valentine for everyone in the class and then people would respond. So Hollis bought a bunch of these Charlie Brown valentines, and I wrote one for every kid in the class even though my handwriting wasn’t very good and it took me a shit-long time. And then, predictably, I didn’t get any valentines.
“So then I went home and I was really upset but I didn’t want to tell Hollis about it so I just sat in the chair by the window in my room and felt so—just horrible—I don’t even want to think about it. And then I see Colin running up to my house with a little cardboard box. And he’s the cutest boy in school and the only one from Gutshot who’s popular. He puts the box on my doorstep and then rings the doorbell and runs off and I run down there and my heart’s beating like crazy and I’m so hopeful that he’s got this secret crush on me and I get down there and there’s this really elaborately decorated cardboard box with red-construction-paper hearts pasted all over it. . . . God, I hadn’t thought about this in so long till he called me Lass. ”
“Wait, what was in the box?”
“Alpo. A can of Alpo. But I got him in the end, because now he dates that dog. ”
“Wow. Jesus Christ. ”
“Nothing. Just, you know, I thought my romantic relationships were fugged up. ”
“Anyway, it became my life’s goal to get him. To kiss him. To marry him. I can’t explain it, but it did. ”
“And you did it. ”
“I did. And he’s different now. I mean, we were eight. We were little kids. He’s sweet now. Very protective and everything. ”
“. . . ”
“. . . ”
“Do you ever wonder whether people would like you more or less if they could see inside you? I mean, I’ve always felt like the Katherines dump me right when they start to see what I look like from the inside—well, except K-19. But I always wonder about that. If people could see me the way I see myself—if they could live in my memories—would anyone, anyone, love me?”
“Well, he doesn’t love me now. We’ve been dating for two years and he’s never once said it. But he would really not love me if he could see inside. Because he’s so real about everything. I mean, you can say a lot of shit about Colin, but he is completely himself. He’s going to work in that factory his whole life, and he’s going to have the same friends, and he’s really happy with that, and he thinks it matters. But if he knew . . . ”
“What? Finish that sentence. ”
“I’m full of shit. I’m never myself. I’ve got a Southern accent around the oldsters; I’m a nerd for graphs and deep thoughts around you; I’m Miss Bubbly Pretty Princess with Colin. I’m nothing. The thing about chameleoning your way through life is that it gets to where nothing is real. Your problem is—how did you say it—that you’re not significant?”
“Don’t matter. I don’t matter. ”
“Right, matter. Well, but at least you can get to the part where you don’t matter. Things about you, and things about Colin, and things about Hassan and Katrina, are either true or they aren’t true. Katrina is bubbly. Hassan is hilarious. But I’m not like that. I’m what I need to be at any moment to stay above the ground but below the radar. The only sentence that begins with ‘I’ that’s true of me is I’m full of shit. ”
“. . . ”