“With the pigs and the hornets and the TOCs and the whatnot?”
“Yes, camping,” said Colin, and then he tried to give Hassan an extremely meaningful look.
After staring back quizzically for a moment, Hassan’s eyes shot open, and he said, “Well, I’m not going with you. As we’ve learned, I’m an inside cat. ”
“Keep your phone on,” Hollis said. “Do you have a tent?”
“No, but it’s pretty out and I’ll just take a sleeping bag if that’s all right. ”
And then before Hollis could further object, he climbed the stairs two at a time, grabbed his supplies, and headed out.
It was early evening—the fields receding into a pink invisibility as they rose back into the horizon. Colin felt his heart slamming in his chest. He wondered if she even wanted to see him. He’d taken “sleeping over at Janet’s” as a hint, but maybe it wasn’t. Maybe she really was sleeping at Janet’s, whoever that was—which would mean a lot of hiking for naught.
After five minutes of driving, he reached the fenced-in field that had once been home to Hobbit the horse. He climbed over the tri-logged fence and jogged across the field. Colin, of course, did not believe in running when walking would suffice—but here and now, walking would not. He slowed down, however, as he made his way up the hill, the flashlight a thin and shaky beam of yellow light against the darkening landscape. He kept it directly before him as he picked through bushes and vines and trees, the thick rotting floor of the forest crunching beneath his feet, reminding him of where we all go. To seed, to ground. And even then he couldn’t help but anagram. To ground—Run, Godot; Donor Gut. And the magic through which “to ground” can become “donor gut,” combined with his newfound feeling that he had at some recent point received a donor gut, kept his pace quick. Even as the darkness became so complete that trees and rocks became not objects but mere shadows, he climbed, until finally he reached the stone outcropping. He walked along the rock, his flashlight scanning up and down, until the light passed over the crack. He leaned his head in and said, “Lindsey?”
“Christ, I thought you were a bear. ”
“Quite the opposite. I was just in the neighborhood and I thought I’d drop by,” he said. He heard her laugh echo through the cave. “But I don’t want to impose. ”
“Come on in,” she said, and he squeezed through the jagged crack and shuffled sideways until he reached the room. She turned on her flashlight; they were blinding each other. “I thought you might come,” she said.
“Well you told your mom you were sleeping at Janet’s. ”
“Yeah,” she said. “It was kind of a code. ”
Lindsey pointed the light next to her, and then drew a line back to Colin, like she was bringing an airplane into the gate. He walked over, and she arranged a couple of pillows into a chair, and he sat beside her.
“Out, damn light,” she said, and it was dark again.
“The most upsetting part of it is that I’m not even upset. About Colin, I mean. Because I—in the end I just didn’t care. About him, about his liking me, about his screwing Katrina. I just—don’t care. Hey, are you there?”
“Here. Hi. ”
“Oh, hi. ”
“So go on. ”
“Right. So, I don’t know. It was just so easy to dismiss. I keep thinking I’m going to get upset, but it’s been three days, and I just don’t even think about him. Remember when I told you that unlike me, he was real? I don’t think he is, actually. I think he’s just boring. I’m so pissed off about it, because—I mean, I wasted so much of my life with him and then he cheats on me and I’m not even particularly, like, depressed about it?”
“I would love to be like that. ”
“Yeah, except you wouldn’t, I don’t think. People are supposed to care. It’s good that people mean something to you, that you miss people when they’re gone. I don’t miss Colin at all. I mean, literally. I only ever liked the idea of being his girlfriend—and that is just such a goddamned waste! That’s what I realized—that’s what I cried about the whole way home. Here’s Hollis, really doing something for people. I mean, she works all the goddamned time and now I know it’s not for herself; it’s for all these fugging people in Sunset Acres who get a pension that pays for their diapers. And it’s for everybody at the factory. ”
“. . . ”
“I used to be an okay person, you know. But now I. Never. Do. Anything. For anybody. Except retards I don’t even give a shit about. ”
“But people still like you. All the oldsters, everybody at the factory . . . ”
“Right. Yeah. But they like me as they remember me, not as I am now. I mean, honestly, Colin, I’m the world’s most self-centered person. ”
“. . . ”
“Are you there?”