An Abundance of Katherines

Page 57

“It just occurred to me that in point of fact what you just said can’t be true because I am the world’s most self-centered person. ”
“Or maybe we’re tied. Because I’m the same, right? What did I ever do for anyone?”
“Didn’t you stay behind Hassan and let, like, a thousand hornets sting you?”
“Oh. Yeah. There was that. Okay, you’re the world’s most self-centered person after all. But I’m close!”
“Come here. ”
“I am here. ”
“More here. ”
“Okay. There?”
“Yes. Better. ”
“So what do you do about it? How do you fix it?”
“That’s what I was thinking about before you came. I was thinking about your mattering business. I feel like, like, how you matter is defined by the things that matter to you. You matter as much as the things that matter to you do. And I got so backwards, trying to make myself matter to him. All this time, there were real things to care about: real, good people who care about me, and this place. It’s so easy to get stuck. You just get caught in being something, being special or cool or whatever, to the point where you don’t even know why you need it; you just think you do. ”
“You don’t even know why you need to be world-famous; you just think you do. ”
“Yeah. Exactly. We’re in the same boat, Colin Singleton. But it didn’t really fix the problem, getting popular. ”
“I don’t think you can ever fill the empty space with the thing you lost. Like getting TOC to date you doesn’tfix the Alpo event. I don’t think your missing pieces ever fit inside you again once they go missing. Like Katherine. That’s what I realized: if I did get her back somehow, she wouldn’t fill the hole that losing her created. ”
“Maybe no girl can fill it. ”
“Right. Being a world-famous Theorem-creator wouldn’t, either. That’s what I’ve been thinking, that maybe life is not about accomplishing some bullshit markers. Wait, what’s funny?”
“Nothing it’s just, like—I was thinking that your realization is like if a heroin addict suddenly said, ‘You know, maybe instead of always doing more heroin, I should, like, not do heroin. ’”
“. . . ”
“. . . ”
“. . . ”
“. . . ”
“I think I know who’s buried in the Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s tomb, and I don’t think it’s the Archduke. ”
“I knew you’d figure it out! Yeah, I already know. My great-grandfather. ”
“You knew?! Fred N. Dinzanfar, that anagramming bastard. ”
“All the old-timers here know. He insisted on it in his will, supposedly. But then a couple years ago, Hollis had us put up the sign and start giving tours—now I realize it was probably for the money. ”
“It’s funny, what people will do to be remembered. ”
“Well, or to be forgotten, because someday no one will know who’s really buried there. Already a lot of kids at school and stuff think the Archduke is really buried here, and I like that. I like knowing one story and having everyone else know another. That’s why those tapes we made are going to be so great one day, because they’ll tell stories that time has swallowed up or distorted or whatever. ”
“Where’d your hand go?”
“It’s sweaty. ”