An Abundance of Katherines

Page 61

But there’s another way. There are stories. Colin was looking at Lindsey, whose eyes were crinkling into a smile as Hassan loaned her nine cents so they could keep playing. Colin thought of Lindsey’s storytelling lessons. The stories they’d told each other were so much a part of the how and why of his liking her. Okay. Loving. Four days in, and already, indisputably: loving. And he found himself thinking that maybe stories don’t just make us matter to each other—maybe they’re also the only way to the infinite mattering he’d been after for so long.
And Colin thought: Because like say I tell someone about my feral hog hunt. Even if it’s a dumb story, telling it changes other people just the slightest little bit, just as living the story changes me. An infinitesimal change. And that infinitesimal change ripples outward—ever smaller but everlasting. I will get forgotten, but the stories will last. And so we all matter—maybe less than a lot, but always more than none.
And it wasn’t only the remembered stories that mattered. That was the true meaning of the K-3 anomaly: Having the correct graph from the start proved not that the Theorem was accurate, but that there’s a place in the brain for knowing what cannot be remembered.
Almost without knowing it, he’d started writing. The graphs in his notebook had been replaced by words. Colin looked up then and wiped a single bead of sweat from his tanned, scarred forehead. Hassan turned around to Colin and said, “I realize the future is unpredictable, but I’m wondering if the future might possibly feature a Monster Thickburger. ”
“I predict it will,” Lindsey said.
As they hustled out the door, Lindsey shouted, “Shotgun,” and Colin said, “Driver,” and Hassan said, “Crap,” and then Linds ran past Colin, beating him to the door. She held it open for him, leaning up to peck his lips.
That brief walk—from the screened-in porch outside to the Hearse—was one of those moments he knew he’d remember and look back on, one of those moments that he’d try to capture in the stories he told. Nothing was happening, really, but the moment was thick with mattering. Lindsey laced her fingers in Colin’s hand, and Hassan sang a song called, “I love the / Monster Thickburger at Ha-ar-dee’s / For my stomach / It’s a wonderful pa-ar-ty,” and they piled into the Hearse.
They’d just driven past the General Store when Hassan said, “We don’t have to go to Hardee’s, really. We could go anywhere. ”
“Oh good because I really don’t want to go to Hardee’s,” Lindsey said. “It’s sort of horrible. There’s a Wendy’s two exits down the interstate, in Milan. Wendy’s is way better. They have, like, salads. ”
So Colin drove past the Hardee’s and out onto the interstate headed north. As the staggered lines rushed past him, he thought about the space between what we remember and what happened, the space between what we predict and what will happen. And in that space, Colin thought, there was room enough to reinvent himself—room enough to make himself into something other than a prodigy, to remake his story better and different—room enough to be reborn again and again. A snake killer, an Archduke, a slayer of TOCs—a genius, even. There was room enough to be anyone—anyone except whom he’d already been, for if Colin had learned one thing from Gutshot, it’s that you can’t stop the future from coming. And for the first time in his life, he smiled thinking about the always-coming infinite future stretching out before him.
And they drove on. Lindsey turned to Colin and said, “You know, we could just keep going. We don’t have to stop. ” Hassan in the back leaned forward between the seats and said, “Yeah. Yeah. Let’s just keep driving for a while. ” Colin pressed down hard on the accelerator, and he was thinking of all the places they might go, and all the days left in their summer. Beside him, Lindsey Lee Wells’s fingers were on his forearm, and she was saying, “Yeah. God. We could, couldn’t we? We could just keep going. ”
Colin’s skin was alive with the feeling of connection to everyone in that car and everyone not in it. And he was feeling not-unique in the very best possible way.