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Chapter 16

The summer after sixth grade, my father sent me to camp, a two-week affair for wayward ex-Boy Scouts, the purpose of which, I realize now, was to get me reinstated among my merit-badge peers. I'd been de-kerchiefed the year before for lighting bottle rockets in Willy Carlson's tent, and more specifically for saying I still thought it was funny even after Willy's weak constitution and excitable bladder were explained to me. Time had passed, and, my parents hoped, indiscretions had been forgotten. In the hubbub surrounding twelve-year-old Jake Ferguson, whose pornographic comic book business had turned the morally constipating experience of Scout camp into a lucrative and horizon-broadening enterprise, I was demoted to lesser-evil status. Fourteen days on the south shore of Lake Erie, my parents seemed to think, would bring me back into the fold.

It took less than ninety-six hours to prove them wrong. Halfway through the first week, a scoutmaster dropped me back at home and drove off in a wordless huff. I'd been dishonorably discharged, this time for teaching campmates an immoral song. A three-page letter from the camp director, heavy with correctional, parole-style adjectives, ranked me among the worst Boy Scout recidivists of greater central Ohio. Unsure what a recidivist was, I told my parents what I'd done.

A troop of Girl Scouts had met us for a day of canoeing, singing a song I knew from my sisters' own dark days of camps and badges: Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver, the other is gold. Having inherited a set of alternative lyrics, I shared them with my fellow men.

Make no friends, and kick the old.

All I want is silver and gold.

Those lines alone were hardly grounds for expulsion, but Willy Carlson, in a brilliant stroke of retribution, gave the oldest camp counselor a kick as he bent over to light a campfire, then blamed the act on my influence, the new lyrics having conjured his foot into the old man's ass. Within hours, the full machinery of Boy Scout justice was in motion, and both of us were packing our bags.

Only two things came out of that experience, other than my permanent retirement from scouting. First, I became good friends with Willy Carlson, whose excitable bladder, it turned out, was nothing but another He he'd told the scoutmasters to get me kicked out the first time around. You had to like the guy. And second, I got a stern lecture from my mother, the motivation for which I never understood until my Princeton years were almost over. It wasn't the first line of the revised lyrics she objected to, despite the fact that, technically, the kicking of old people was what got me bagged. It was the strange mania of the second line that she read into.

Why silver and gold? she said, sitting me down in the small back room of the bookstore, where she kept the overstocks and old filing cabinets.

What do you mean? I asked. There was an outdated calendar on the wall from the Columbus Museum of Art, turned to the month of May, showing an Edward Hopper painting of a woman sitting alone in her bed. I couldn't help staring at it.

Why not bottle rockets? she asked. Or campfires?

Because those don't work. I remember feeling annoyed; the answers seemed so obvious. The last word has to rhyme with old

Listen to me, Tom. My mother placed a hand on my chin and turned my head until I was facing her. Her hair seemed gold in the right light, the same way the woman's did in the Hopper painting. It's unnatural. A boy your age shouldn't care about silver and gold.

I don't. What does it matter?

Because every desire has its proper object.

It sounded like something I'd been told once at Sunday school. What's that supposed to mean?

It means people spend their lives wanting things they shouldn't. The world confuses them into taking their love and aiming it where it doesn't belong. She adjusted the neck on her sundress, then sat beside me. All it takes to be happy is to love the right things, in the right amounts. Not money. Not books. People. Adults who don't understand that never feel fulfilled. I don't want you to turn out like that.

Why it meant so much to her, this correct aiming of my passions, I never understood. I just nodded in a solemn way, promised that I would never sing about precious metals again, and sensed that my mother was pacified.

But precious metals were never the problem. What I realize now is that my mother was waging a bigger war, trying to save me from something worse: becoming my father. My father's fixation on the Hypnerotomachia was the essence of misguided passion to her, and she struggled with it until the day he died. She believed, I think, that his love for the book was nothing but a perversion, a crooked deflection, of his love for his wife and family. No amount of force or persuasion could correct it, and I suppose it was when she knew she'd lost the battle to realign my father's life that she brought the fight to me.

How well I kept my promise, I'm afraid to say. The stubbornness of boys in their childish ways must be a prodigy to women, who learn faster than angels how not to misbehave. Throughout my childhood there was a monopoly on mistakes in my house, and I was its Rockefeller. I never imagined the magnitude of the error my mother was warning me against, until I had the misfortune of falling into it. By that time, though, it was Katie, and not my family, who had to suffer for it.

January came, and Colonna's first riddle gave way to another, then a third. Paul knew where to look for them, having detected a pattern in the Hypnerotomachia: following a regular cycle, the chapters grew in length from five or ten pages, to twenty, thirty, or even forty. The shorter chapters came in a row, three or four at a time, while the long ones were more solitary. When graphed, the long periods of low intensity were interrupted by sharp upticks in chapter length, creating a visual profile we both came to conceive of as the Hypnerotomachia's pulse. The pattern continued until the first half of the book ended, at which point a strange, muddled sequence began, no chapter exceeding eleven pages.

Paul quickly made sense of it, using our success with Moses and his horns: each spike of long, solitary chapters provided a riddle; the riddle's solution, its cipher, was then applied to the run of short chapters following it, yielding the next part of Colonna's message. The second half of the book, Paul guessed, must be filler, just as the opening chapters of the first half appeared to be: a distraction to maintain the impression of narrative in an otherwise fragmented story.

We divided the labor between us. Paul hunted for riddles in the longer chapters, leaving each one behind for me to solve. The first I tackled was this: What is the smallest harmony of a great victory?

It makes me think of Pythagoras, Katie said when I told her over pound cake and hot chocolate at Small World Coffee. Everything with Pythagoras was harmonies. Astronomy, virtue, math

I think it has to do with warfare, I countered, having spent some time at Firestone looking at Renaissance texts on engineering. Leonardo, in a letter to the Duke of Milan, claimed he could build impenetrable chariots, like Renaissance tanks, along with portable mortars and great catapults for use in sieges. Philosophy and technology were merging: there was a mathematics to victory, a set of proportions to the perfect war machine. It was only a small step from math into music.

The next morning, Katie woke me at 7:30 to go jogging before her 9:00 class.

Warfare doesn't make sense, she said, beginning to parse the riddle as only a philosophy major could. There are two parts to the question: smallest harmony and great victory. Great victory could mean anything. You should focus on the clearer part. Smallest harmony has fewer concrete meanings.

I grumbled as we passed the Dinky train station on our way to the west of campus, envying the stray passengers waiting for the 7:43. Running and thinking were unnatural things to be doing while the sun was still rising, and she knew the fog wouldn't burn off my thoughts until noon. This was just taking advantage, punishing me for not taking Pythagoras seriously.

So what are you suggesting? I asked.

She didn't even seem to be breathing hard. We'll stop at Firestone on our way back around. I'll show you where I think you should look.

It continued like that for two weeks, waking at dawn for calisthenics and brainteasers, telling Katie my half-baked ideas about Colonna so that she would have to slow down to listen, then forcing myself to run faster so that she would have less time to tell me how I was wrong. We were spending the last part of so many evenings with each other, and the earliest part of so many mornings, that I thought it would eventually occur to her, rational as she was, that spending the night at Dod would be more efficient than trekking back and forth to Holder. Every morning, seeing her in spandex and a sweatshirt, I tried to think of a new way to extend the invitation, but Katie always made a point of not understanding. Gil told me that her old boyfriend, the lacrosse player from one of my seminars, had made a game of her from the start, not pushing her for affection on the few occasions when she was drunk, so that she would melt with gratitude when she was sober. The pattern of his manipulation took so long for her to realize that she brought the aftertaste of it to her first month with me.

What should I do? I asked one night after Katie left, when the frustration was almost too much. I was getting a tiny kiss on the cheek after each morning run, which, all things considered, hardly covered my expenses; and now that I was spending more and more time on the Hypnerotomachia, and getting by on five or six hours of sleep a night, an entirely new sort of debt was accruing. Tantalus and his grapes had nothing on me: when I wanted Katie, all I got was Colonna; when I tried to focus on Colonna, all I could think of was sleep; and when, at last, I tried to sleep, the knock would come at our door, and it would be time for another jog with Katie. The comedy of being chronically late for my own life was lost on me. I was due for something better.

For once, though, Gil and Charlie spoke with one voice: Be patient, they said. She's worth it.

And, as usual, they were right. One night in our fifth week together, Katie eclipsed us all. Returning from a philosophy seminar, she stopped by Dod with an idea.

Listen to this, she said, pulling a copy of Thomas More's Utopia from her bag and reading from it.

The inhabitants of Utopia have two games rather like chess. The first is a sort of arithmetical contest, in which certain numbers take others. The second is a pitched battle between virtues and vices, which illustrates most ingeniously how vices tend to conflict with one another, but to combine against virtues. It shows what ultimately determines the victory of one side or the other.

She took my hand and placed the book in it, waiting for me to read it again.

I glanced at the back cover. Written in 1516, I said. Less than twenty years after the Hypnerotomachia. The timing wasn't far off.

A pitched battle between virtues and vices, she repeated, showing what determines the victory of one side or the other. And it began to dawn on me that she might be right.

Lana McKnight used to have a rule, back in our dating days. Never mix books and bed. In the spectrum of excitement, sex and thought were on opposite ends, both to be enjoyed, but never at the same time. It amazed me how such a smart girl could suddenly become so ravenously stupid in the dark, flailing around in her leopard-print negligee like some cave-woman I'd thumped with a club, barking things that would've horrified even the pack of wolves that raised her. I never dared to tell Lana that if she moaned less it might mean more, but from the very first night I sensed what a wonderful thing it might be if my mind and my body could be aroused at the same time. I probably should've seen that possibility in Katie from the beginning, after all the mornings we spent exercising both muscles at once. But it was only that night that it happened: as we worked out the implications of her discovery, the last residue of her old lacrosse player finally slipped off the page, erased, leaving us to start again.

What I remember most clearly about that night is that Paul had the grace to sleep at Ivy, and that the lights were on the whole time Katie stayed. We kept them burning while we read Sir Thomas More, trying to understand what game he was referring to, in which great victories were possible when virtues were in harmony. We kept them burning when we found that one of the games More mentioned, called the Philosophers' Game, or Rithmomachia, was precisely the kind Colonna would've favored, the most challenging of any played by medieval or Renaissance men. We kept them burning when she kissed me for saying I thought she was right after all, because Rithmomachia, it turned out, could be won only by creating a harmony of numbers, the most perfect of which produced the rare outcome called a great victory. And we kept them burning when she kissed me again for admitting my other ideas must have been wrong, and that I should've listened to her from the beginning. I realized, finally, the misunderstanding that had persisted since the morning of our first jog: while I'd been struggling to stay even with her, she'd been pushing to stay one step ahead. She'd been trying to prove that she wasn't intimidated by seniors, that she deserved to be taken seriously-and it never occurred to her, until tonight, that she'd succeeded.

My mattress was craggy with books by the time we got around to lying down together, hardly even pretending to read anymore. It's probably true that the room was too hot for the sweater she was wearing. And it's probably true that the room would've been too hot for the sweater she was wearing even if the air-conditioning had been on and the snow had been falling the way it did Easter weekend. She was wearing a T-shirt beneath it, and a black bra under that, but it was watching Katie take off that sweater, and seeing the way it left her hair mussed, strands floating in a halo of static electricity, that gave me the feeling Tantalus never quite got to, that a sensational future had finally pressed itself up against a heavy, hopeful present, throwing the switch that completes the circuit of time.

When my turn came around to take clothes off, to share with Katie the wreckage of my left leg, scars and all, I never hesitated; and when she saw them, neither did she. Had we spent those hours in the dark, I would never have made anything of it. But we were never in the dark that night. We rolled, one over another, across Saint Thomas More and the pages of his Utopia, into the new positions of our relationship, and the lights were always burning.

The first sign that I'd misunderstood the forces at work in my life came the following week. Paul and I spent much of the next Monday and Tuesday debating the meaning of the newest riddle: How many arms from your feet to the horizon?

I think it has to do with geometry, Paul said.

Euclid?

But he shook his head. Earth measurement. Eratosthenes approximated the earth's circumference by figuring out the different angles of the shadows cast in Syene and Alexandria at noon on the summer solstice. Then he used the angles

I realized only midway through his explanation that he was using an etymological sense of the word geometry-literally, as he'd said, earth measurement.

So that, knowing the distance between the two cities, he could triangulate back to the curvature of the earth.

What does that have to do with the riddle? I said.

Francesco's asking for the distance between you and the horizon. Calculate how far it is from any given point in the world to the line where the earth curves over, and you've got an answer. Or just look it up in your physics textbook. It's probably a constant.

He said it as if the answer were a foregone conclusion, but I suspected otherwise.

Why would Colonna ask for that distance in arms? I asked.

Paul leaned over and crossed out arms on my copy, replacing it with something in Italian. That should probably be braccia, he said. It's the same word, but braccia were Florentine units of measurement. One braccio is about the length of an arm.

For the first time, I was sleeping less than he was, the sudden high in my life needling me to keep pressing my luck, to keep mixing my drinks, because this cocktail of Katie and Francesco Colonna seemed to be just what the doctor ordered. I took it as a sign, the fact that my return to the Hypnerotomachia had brought a new structure to the world I lived in. Quickly I began to fall into my father's trap, the one my mother tried to warn me about.

Wednesday morning, when I mentioned to Katie that I'd dreamt of my father, she did something that in all our days of jogging she'd never done before: she stopped.

Tom, I don't want to keep talking about this, she said.

About what?

Paul's thesis. Let's talk about something else.

I was telling you about my dad.

But I'd grown too used to conversations with Paul, invoking my father's name in any situation and expecting it to deflate all criticism.

Your dad worked on the book Paul's studying, she said. It's the same thing.

I mistook the sentiment behind her words for fear: fear that she would be unable to solve another riddle the way she solved the last one, and that my interest in her might fade.

Fine, I said, thinking I was saving her from that. Let's talk about something else.

And so a period of many pleasant weeks began, built on a misunderstanding as complete as the one we started with. In the first month we dated, up until the night Katie spent at Dod, she built a facade for me, trying to create something she thought I wanted; and in the second month I returned the favor, avoiding all mention of the Hypnerotomachia in front of her, not because its significance had diminished in my life, but because I thought Colonna's riddles made her uneasy.

Had she known the truth, Katie would've been right to worry. The Hypnerotomachia was slowly beginning to bully my other thoughts and interests out of focus. The balance I thought I'd struck between Paul's thesis and nine-the waltz between Mary Shelley and Francesco Colonna, which I imagined more vividly the more time I spent with Katie-was devolving into a tug of war, which Colonna gradually won.

Still, before Katie and I knew it, trails had formed in every corner of our shared experience. We ran the same paths each morning; stopped at the same coffee shops before class; and snuck her into my eating club the same ways when my guest passes ran out. Thursday nights we danced with Charlie at Cloister Inn; Saturday nights we shot pool with Gil at Ivy; and Friday nights, when the clubs on Prospect fell quiet, we watched friends perform in Shakespeare comedies or orchestra concerts or a cappella shows across campus. The adventure of our first days together gradually blossomed into something else: a feeling I'd never had with Lana or any of her predecessors, which I can only compare to the sensation of returning home, of joining a balance that needs no adjusting, as if the scales of my life had been waiting for her all along.

The first night Katie noticed I couldn't sleep, she recited a work by her favorite author for me, and I followed Curious George to the ends of the earth, where the weight on my eyelids carried me off. After that, there were many nights I tossed and turned, and Katie found a solution for each of them. Late-night episodes of M*A*S*H; long readings from Camus; radio programs she used to listen to at home, now caught on a faint transmission down the coast. We left the windows open sometimes, to hear the rain in late February, or the conversations of drunk freshmen. There was even a rhyming game we invented for empty nights, something Francesco Colonna might not have found as edifying as Rithmomachia, but that we enjoyed just the same.

There once was a man named Camus, I would say, leading her.

When Katie smiled at night, she was like a Cheshire cat in the dark.

Who left U. Algiers with the flu, she would respond.

He had lots of potential.

But was not existential.

Which made old Jean-Paul Sartre so blue.

But for all the ways Katie had found to make me sleep, the Hypnerotomachia still kept me awake more often than not. I'd figured out what the smallest harmony of a great victory was: in Rithmomachia, where the goal is to establish number patterns containing arithmetical, geometric, or musical harmonies, only three sequences produce all three harmonies at once-the requirement for a great victory. The smallest of these, the one Colonna wanted, was the sequence 3-4-6-9.

Paul quickly took the numbers and made a cipher of them. He read the third letter, then the fourth after that, followed by the sixth and ninth, from the appropriate chapters; and within an hour, we had another message from Colonna:

I begin my story with a confession. In the keeping of this secret many men have died. Some have perished in the construction of my crypt, which, imagined by Bramante and executed by my Roman brother Terragni, is an unequalled contrivance for its purpose, impervious to all things, but above all to -water. It has taken many victims, even among the most experienced men. Three have died in the movement of great stones, two in the felling of trees, five in the process of building itself Others of the dead I do not mention, for they have perished shamefully and will be forgotten.

Here I will convey the nature of the enemy I face, whose rising power lies at the heart of my actions. Reader, you will wonder why I have dated this book 1467, some thirty years before I wrote these words. It was for this reason: in that year the war began which we are still fighting, and which we are now losing. Three years earlier His Holiness, Paul the Second, fired the court abbreviators, making clear his intentions toward my brotherhood. Yet the members of my uncle's generation were powerful men, with much influence, and the expelled brethren flocked to the Accademia Romana, which good Pomponio Leto sustained. Paul saw that our number persisted, and his jury increased, hi that year, 1461, he crushed the Academy by force. So that all would know the strength of his determination, he imprisoned Pomponio Leto, and had him accused as a sodomite. Others of our group were tortured. One, at least, would die.

Now we are challenged by an old enemy, suddenly reborn. This new spirit grows in strength, and finds a more powerful voice, so that I have no choice but to construct, with the assistance of friends wiser than I, this device whose secret I disguise here. Even the priest, philosopher though he may be, is not equal to it.

Continue, reader, and I will tell more.


The court abbreviators were the humanists, Paul explained. The pope thought humanism bred moral corruption. He didn't even want children to hear the works of the ancient poets. Pope Paul made an example of Leto. For some reason, Francesco took it as a declaration of war.

Colonna's words stayed with me that night, and each night that followed. For the first time, I missed a morning run with Katie, too tired to pull myself from bed. Something told me Paul was wrong about the new riddle-How many arms from your feet to the horizon?-and that Eratosthenes and geometry were not the solution. Charlie confirmed that the distance to the horizon would depend on the height of the observer; and even if we could find a single answer and calculate it in braccia, I realized, the answer would be enormous, far too big to be useful as a cipher.

When did Eratosthenes make that calculation? I asked.

Around 200 b.c.

That sealed it.

I think you're wrong, I said. All the riddles so far have to do with Renaissance knowledge, Renaissance discoveries. He's testing us on what humanists would've known in the 1400s.

Moses and comma had to do with linguistics, Paul said, trying on the idea for size. Correcting faulty translations, like what Valla did with the Donation of Constantine.

And the Rithmornachia riddle had to do with math, I went on. So Colonna wouldn't use math again. I think he's choosing a different discipline every time.

It was only when Paul looked so surprised by the clarity of my thinking that I realized how my role had changed. We were equals now, partners in the enterprise.

The two of us began meeting at Ivy each night, back in those days when he kept the President's Room in better shape, expecting Gil to check up on him at any minute. I ate dinner upstairs with Gil and with Katie, who was only weeks away from beginning the bicker process, then returned downstairs to join Paul and Francesco Colonna. I thought it just as well to leave her alone, hard as she was trying to position herself for admission to the club. Busy with the rituals, she seemed not to make much of my disappearances.

But the night after I missed my third morning run, all of that changed. I was on the cusp of a solution to the riddle, I thought, when by sheer accident she realized how I was spending our hours apart.

This is for you, she said, letting herself into our room in Dod.

Gil had left the door unlocked again, and Katie no longer knocked when she thought I was alone.

It was a cup of soup she'd brought me from a local deli. She thought I'd been holed up with my thesis this whole time.

What are you doing? she asked. More Frankenstein?

Then she saw the books spread out around me, each with some reference to the Renaissance in the title.

I never thought it was possible, to lie without knowing it. I'd strung her along for weeks on a raft of pretexts-Mary Shelley; insomnia; the pressures we were both facing, which made it hard to spend time together and eventually it carried me away, drifting from the truth so slowly that the distance each day seemed no greater than the last. She knew I was working on Paul's thesis, I thought; she just didn't want to hear about it. That was the arrangement we'd come to, without ever having to say it.

The conversation that followed was all silences, hashed out in the way she looked at me and I tried to hold her stare. Finally, Katie put the cup of soup on my dresser and buttoned her coat. She looked around the room, as if to remember the details of where things stood, then returned to the door and locked it before letting herself out.

I was going to call her that night-as I knew she expected me to, when she returned to her room alone and waited by the phone, the way her roommates later told me she did-except that something got in the way. Fantastic mistress, that book, flashing leg at all the right times. Just as Katie left, the solution to Colonna's riddle dawned on me; and like a whiff of perfume and an eyeful of cleavage, it made me lose sight of everything else.

The horizon in a painting was the solution: the point of convergence in a system of perspective. The riddle wasn't about math; it was about art. It fit the profile of the other puzzles, relying on a discipline peculiar to the Renaissance, developed by the same humanists Colonna seemed to be defending. The measurement we needed was the distance, in braccia, between the foreground of the painting, where the characters stood, and the theoretical horizon line, where the earth met the sky. And remembering Colonna's preference for Alberti in architecture, when Paul used De re aedificatoria to decipher the first riddle, it was to Alberti I turned first. On the surface I intend to paint, Alberti wrote in the treatise I found among Paul's books, I decide how large I wish the human figures in the foreground of the painting to be. I divide the height of this man into three parts, -which will be proportional to the measure commonly called a braccio; for, as can be seen from the relationship of his limbs, three braccia is just about the average height of a mans body. The proper position for the centric point is no higher from the base line than the height of the man to be represented in the painting. I then draw a line through the centric point, and this line is a limit or boundary for me, which no quantity exceeds. This is why men depicted standing furthest away are a great deal smaller than the nearer ones.

Alberti's centric line, as the accompanying illustrations made clear, was the horizon. According to this system, it was placed at the same height as a man drawn standing in the foreground, who in turn was three braccia tall. The solution to the riddle-the number of braccia from the man's feet to the horizon-was just that: three.

It took Paul only a half hour to figure out how to apply it. The first letter of every third word in the following chapters, when placed in a row, spelled out the next passage from Colonna.

Now, reader, I will tell you the nature of the composition of this work. With the help of my brethren, I have studied the code-making books of the Arabs, Jews, and ancients. I have learned the practice called gematria from the kabalists, according to which, when it is written in Genesis that Abraham brought 318 servants to help Lot, we see that the number 318 signifies only Abraham s servant Eliezer, for that is the sum of the Hebrew letters of Eliezers name. I have learned the practices of the Greeks, whose gods spoke in riddles, and whose generals, as the Mythmaker describes in his History, disguised their meanings cunningly, as when Histiaeus tattooed a message on his slaves scalp, so that Aristagoras might shave the man's head and read it.

I will reveal to you now the names of those learned men whose wisdom forged my riddles. Pomponio Leto, master of the Roman Academy, pupil of Valla and old friend of my family's, instructed me in matters of language and translation, where my own eyes and ears did fail me. In the art and harmonies of numbers, I was guided by the Frenchman Jacques Lefevre d'Etaples, admirer of Roger Bacon and Boethius, who knew all manner of numeration which my own intellect could not illuminate. The great Alberti, who learned his art in turn from the masters Masaccio and Brunelleschi (may their genius never be forgotten), instructed me long ago in the science of horizons and paintings; I praise him now and always. Knowledge of the sacred writing of the descendants of Hermes Thrice-Great, first prophet of Egypt, I owe to the wise Ficino, master of languages and philosophies, who is without equal among the followers of Plato. Finally it is to Andrea Alpago, disciple of the venerable Ibn al-Nafis, that I am indebted for matters yet to be disclosed; and may this contribution be looked upon even more favorably than all the rest, for it is in man s study of himself, wherein all other studies find their origin, that he most closely contemplates perfection.

These, reader, are my wisest friends, who among them, have learned what I have not, knowledge that in prior times was foreign to all men. One by one they have agreed to my single demand: each man, unbeknownst to the others, devised a riddle to which only I and he know the solution, and which only another lover of knowledge could solve. These riddles, in turn, I have placed within my text in fragments, according to a pattern I have told to no man; and the answer alone can produce my true words.

All this I have done, reader, to protect my secret, but also to transmit it to you, should you find what I have written. Solve but two more riddles, and I will begin to reveal the nature of my crypt.


Katie didn't wake me up the next morning to go running. The rest of that week, in fact, I spoke to her roommates and to her answering machine, but never to Katie herself. Blinded by the progress I was making with Paul, I didn't see how the landscape of my life was eroding. The jogging paths and coffee shops fell away as our distance grew. Katie didn't eat with me at Cloister anymore, but I hardly noticed, because for weeks I rarely ate there myself: Paul and I traveled like rats through the tunnels between Dod and Ivy, avoiding daylight, ignoring the sounds of bicker above our heads, buying coffee and boxed sandwiches at the all-night WaWa off campus so that we could work and eat on our own schedule.

The whole time, Katie was only one floor removed from me, trying not to bite her nails as she moved from clique to clique, searching for the right balance between assertiveness and compliance so that upperclassmen would look on her favorably. That she wouldn't have wanted my interference in her life at that moment was a conclusion I'd come to almost from the beginning, another excuse for spending long days and late nights with Paul. That she might've appreciated some company, a friendly face to return to at night, a companion as her mornings grew darker and colder that she would've expected my support even more now that she'd come to the first important crossroads in her time at Princeton-was something I was too preoccupied to consider. I never imagined that bicker might've been a trial for her, an experience that tested her tenacity much more than her charm. I was a stranger to her; I never knew what she went through on those Ivy nights.

The club accepted her, Gil told me the following week. He was bracing himself for a long night of breaking the news, good and bad, to each candidate. Parker Hassett had thrown some roadblocks in Katie's way, fixing on her as a special object of his anger, probably because he knew she was one of Gil's favorites; but even Parker came around in the end. The induction ceremony for the new section was the following week, after initiations, and the annual Ivy ball was slated for Easter weekend. Gil listed the events so carefully that I realized he was telling me something. These were my chances to fix things with Katie. This was the calendar of my rehabilitation.

If so, then I was no better a boyfriend than I'd been a Boy Scout. Love, deflected from its proper object, had found a new one. In the weeks that ensued, I saw less and less of Gil, and nothing at all of Katie. I heard a rumor that she had taken an interest in an upperclassman at Ivy, a new version of her old lacrosse player, a man in a yellow hat to my Curious George. But by then Paul had found another riddle, and we'd both started to wonder what secret lay in Colonna's crypt. An old mantra, long dormant, rose up from its slumber and prepared for another season of life.

Make no friends, and kick the old.

All I want is silver and gold.


Chapter 15 | The Rule of Four | Chapter 17