An Abundance of Katherines, Page 26John Green
“While I generally don’t like to use the word ‘heart’ unless I’m referring to the blood-pumping, beat-beat-beating organ, there’s no question that Katherine XVIII broke my heart, because I loved her immensely from the very moment I saw her at a concert Hassan made me attend during Spring Break, and she was this short fiery woman who hated being called a girl, and she liked me and at first it seemed she shared my massive sense of insecurity, and so I just built up my hopes ridiculously and found myself writing her these extravagantly long and painfully philosophical e-mails, and then she dumped me over e-mail after only two actual dates and four actual kisses, whereupon I found myself writing her these extravagantly long and painfully pathetic e-mails.
“And just two weeks after that, Katherine I showed up on my doorstep and soon enough she became K-19, and she was a nice girl with a good heart who liked helping people, and none of them ever lit my heart—God, I can’t stop it with that word now—on fire like she did, but I just needed her so much and it never felt like enough and she wasn’t consistent and her inconsistency and my insecurity were this horrible match for each other, but I still loved her, because all of me was wrapped up in her, because I’d put all my eggs in someone else’s basket, and in the end, after 343 days, I was left with an empty basket and this gnawing endless hole in my gut, but then now I find myself deciding to remember her as a good person with whom I had some good times until we, both of us, got ourselves into an ineradicably bad situation.
“And the moral of the story is that you don’t remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened. And the second moral of the story, if a story can have multiple morals, is that Dumpers are not inherently worse than Dumpees—breaking up isn’t something that gets done to you; it’s something that happens with you. ”
“And the other moral of the story is that you, Smartypants, just told an amazing story, proving that given enough time, and enough coaching, and enough hearing stories from current and former associates of Gutshot Textiles, anyone—anyone—can learn to tell a damned good story. ”
“Something about telling that story made my gut grow back together. ”
“Oh, nothing. Thinking out loud. ”
“That’s who you really like. The people you can think out loud in front of. ”
“The people who’ve been in your secret hiding places. ”
“The people you bite your thumb in front of. ”
“. . . ”
“. . . ”
“Wow. My first Lindsey. ”
“My second Colin. ”
“That was fun. Let’s try it again. ”
“. . . ”
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They left the cave together very late that night, and drove home separately, Colin in the Hearse and Lindsey in the pink pickup. They kissed once more in the driveway—that kiss as good as her smile hinted it would be—and then snuck into the house for a few hours of sleep.
epilogue, or the lindsey lee Wells chapter
Colin Woke up, exhausted, to the rooster, and rolled around in bed for a solid hour before making his way downstairs. Hassan was already sitting at the oak table with a collection of papers in front of him. Colin noticed that Hollis was not asleep on the couch; maybe she actually had a bedroom somewhere.
“Pr o fit / Loss Margins,” Hassan explained. “It’s actually really interesting stuff. Hollis explained it to me last night. So, d’you hook up with her or what?”
Hassan got up, grinning goofil y, and smacked Colin on the back gleefully. “You’re such a vulture, Singleton. You just circle, baby. You circle, and you just slowly fly lower and lower, always circling, waiting for the moment when you can just land on the carcass of a relationship and fugging feast. It’s a beautiful thing to watch—particularly this time, because I like the girl. ”
“Let’s go out to breakfast,” said Colin. “Hardee’s?”
“Hardee’s,” agreed Hassan excitedly. “Linds, get up we’re going to Hardee’s!”
“Gotta go visit Mabel this morning,” Lindsey called back. “Eat seven Monster Thickburgers for me, though. ”
“Will do!” Hassan promised.
“So listen. When I got home last night, I plugged Lindsey and me into the formula,” Colin said. “She dumps me. The curve was longer than K-1 but shorter than K-4. That means she’s going to dump me within four days. ”
“Could happen. It’s a crazy fugging snow globe of a world. ”
Three days later, the day the Theorem indicated Lindsey and Colin would not survive together, Colin woke up to the rooster and rolled over groggily only to find a piece of notebook paper against his cheek. It was folded in the shape of an envelope.
And, for once, Colin saw it coming. As he carefully unfolded the paper, he knew that the Theorem’s prophecy had been fulfilled. And yet, knowing it was going to happen made it no less horrible. Why? It’s been so amazing. The best first four days ever. Am I crazy? I must be crazy. As he opened the note, he was already debating whether to leave Gutshot immediately.
I hate to fulfill the Theorem, but I don’t think we should be involved romantically. The problem is that I am secretly in love with Hassan. I can’t help myself. I hold your bony shoulder blades in my hands and think of his fleshy back. I kiss your stomach and I think of his awe-inspiring gut. I like you, Colin. I really do. But—I’m sorry. It’s just not going to work.
I hope we can still be friends.
Lindsey Lee Wells
P. S. Just kidding.
Colin wanted to be all-the-way happy, he really did—because ever since he saw the steepness of the curve with Lindsey, he’d been hoping that it’d be wrong. But as he sat there on the bed, the note in his still-shaky hands, he couldn’t help but feel that he would never be a genius. For as much as he believed Lindsey that what matters to you defines your mattering, he still wanted the Theorem to work, still wanted to be as special as everyone had always told him he was.
The next day, Colin was feverishly trying to fix the Theorem while Hassan and Lindsey played Hold ’Em poker for pennies in the Pink Mansion’s screened-in porch. A ceiling fan blew the warm air around without really cooling it. Colin was half paying attention to the game while scribbling graphs, trying to make the Theorem account for the fact that Lindsey Lee Wells was, quite clearly, still his girlfriend. And then poker finally clarified the Theorem’s unfixable flaw.
Hassan shouted, “She’s all in for thirteen cents, Singleton! It’s a huge bet. Should I call?”
“She does tend to bluff,” Colin answered without looking up.
“You better be right, Singleton. I call. Okay, turn ’em over, kid! Gutshot Dolly has trip Queens! It’s a hell of a hand, but will it beat—A FULL HOUSE?!” Lindsey groaned with disappointment as Hassan flipped over his hand.
Colin knew nothing about poker except that it was a game of human behavior and probability, and therefore the kind of quasi-closed system in which a Theorem similar to the Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability ought to work. And when Hassan turned over his full house, Colin all of a sudden realized: you can make a Theorem that explains why you won or lost past poker hands, but you can never make one to predict future poker hands. The past, like Lindsey had told him, is a logical story. It’s the sense of what happened. But since it is not yet remembered, the future need not make any fugging sense at all.
In that moment, the future—uncontainable by any Theorem mathematical or otherwise—stretched out before Colin: infinite and unknowable and beautiful. “Eureka,” Colin said, and only in saying it did he realize he had just successfully whi
“I figured something out,” he said aloud. “The future is unpredictable. ”
Hassan said, “Sometimes the kafir likes to say massively obvious things in a really profound voice. ”
Colin laughed as Hassan returned to counting the pennies of victory, but Colin’s brain was spinning with the implications: if the future is forever, he thought, then eventually it will swallow us all up. Even Colin could only name a handful of people who lived, say, 2,400 years ago. In another 2,400 years, even Socrates, the most well-known genius of that century, might be forgotten. The future will erase everything—there’s no level of fame or genius that allows you to transcend oblivion. The infinite future makes that kind of mattering impossible.
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.