It was 10 p.m. at Robyn’s birthday party when Katy drunkenly approached the karaoke stage, a look of bitter malice in her eye. For an entire verse, a trio of sorority girls had been butchering Salt-N-Pepa’s “Push It,” giggling idly between small spurts of lyrics they read off the screen. Katy had had enough. We all had. But only she was ready to do something about it.
In a single move of both authority and panache, Katy mounted the stage and shooed the girls off of it the way you might coerce a cat from a bookshelf. She grabbed the mic. Tossing a magnificent shower of red hair back, she began to hump the mic stand. Though her dance moves suggested that a better part of her senses had left several drinks ago, Katy dropped a verse so hard and clean that Christopher Wallace nodded along in his grave:
Yo yo yo yo yo baby-pop
Yeah, you come here, gimme a kiss
Better make it fast or else I’m gonna get pissed
“Who is that?” I asked Robyn. She shook her head. “That’s Crazy Katy, and she is in full effect tonight.” Robyn waved to Katy, who refused to acknowledge anything but the beat while the group of girls complained to the DJ.
“You’ve met her before. She came to happy hour a few weeks ago.”
I was there with another girl — she didn’t seem to be enjoying karaoke quite as much.
“So you’re sure you’re not going to do a song?” She looked at me like I had asked her to go out back and shoot heroin. I didn’t take it personally, but it’s hard for me to understand a person who doesn’t want to get on stage and risk embarrassment. Only a few minutes later my name was called, and I assaulted the stage like a seasoned madman:
I wish I was a little bit taller,
I wish I was a baller,
I wish I had a girl who looked good I would call her;
I wish I had a rabbit in a hat with a bat and a ’64 Impala
I could see Katy’s face light up from across the room. Robyn’s, too — everyone was enjoying it. I worked the room, winking and motioning my approval.
Cause it’s hard to survive
When you’re livin’ in a concrete jungle
And these girls keep passing me by
She looks fly, she looks fly
Makes me say, “My, my, my”
Not long after that, things ended amicably with the girl who didn’t want to sing — Robyn overhead this as we were locking up the office one night.
“So no more of that one girl?”
“Nice. Katy will be excited.”
I paused for a moment. “Katy Katy?”
“Crazy Katy! Yeah, she’s way into you. She has been for like a year, but especially since she saw you at karaoke.” Robyn made a dancing motion with her hips, “Remember when she humped the mic stand?”
“A year?” I asked.
“Do you want me to set you guys up?”
Of course I did! After a couple years of dating people that weren’t even sure they wanted to be seen in public with me, how could I turn down a girl that’d been harboring a crush like a subplot on Dawson’s Creek?
What I wasn’t expecting was everyone else’s opinion on the matter.
“Crazy Katy!” My coworker Eric slapped his knee. “So, Robyn has picked her next victim.”
I looked to my fellow developers for answers, who were now circling me like hawks.
“Robyn has been trying to set her up with some poor guy since she started. She already burned through Andrew.”
Andrew nodded. “I tried to keep up with her. But I passed out in the cab. She just left me there.” Andrew’s eyes widened as if revisiting a painful childhood memory. “I woke up with this Armenian man trying to drag me out of his cab.”
“The first time I met her,” Eric continued, “She started a huge fight with me at my house over some boy she met. I’m telling you, man. She’s crazy. Were you there when she pushed those girls off the stage?”
“Yes, I was there.” I was beginning to feel worried — we were only a few hours from a group meetup, and I was practically receiving the last rites.
I’ll skip some of the more boring details — the shuffle of this mixed group into the bar, the way Robyn arranged herself so that I was sitting directly beside Katy. The awkward, self-aware conversation we made as we waited for the group to filter off, until we found ourselves alone.
“So you’ve probably heard the stories.” Katy shrugged, ready to capitulate the information. She had these piercing blue eyes, but they looked weak now. She didn’t want to talk about Crazy Katy, but she’d become accustomed to it — rather, she had become defined by it.
“So you left Andrew for dead in a cab?”
Katy looked appalled. “Is that what he said? It was 7:30. It’s not my fault he pounded six shots before we even got to our reservation. He was so scared of me, I think I made him nervous, so he just drank and drank and drank. I tried to wake him up but…” Another shrug.
“Okay,” This sounded like something Andrew would do. “Eric said you yelled at him, at a house party. About your date.”
“Yes, because he wouldn’t stop holding my hand. It was our first date and he was walking me around like I was at a royal ball. I told Eric it was weird and he called me crazy for not wanting a guy to hold my hand. Crazy!” This story clearly made her upset. Her big saucer eyes had turned defensive and piercing. “I know he thought the guy was being a gentlemen, but it was weird. Hand holding is kind of intimate, you know?”
Our hands were brushing just a bit on the edge of the table. I couldn’t tell if it was intentional, or if she’d simply lost track of her physical self in the story.
“And the girls you pushed off the karaoke stage?”
“Oh, they were awful, Nick.” She hung to this answer for along as she could, eventually letting go with a sigh. “And I was drunk. Sometimes I become domineering when I drink. My kindergarten teacher actually told my mom that I couldn’t be given too much responsibility in the classroom because I would begin to wield it over others.” Katy shook her head. “I think I spent too much time in my teepee as a child. A small teepee,” Katy illustrated, sensing my confusion, “That my parents set up for me in the living room. I was an only child, so I had to come up with ways to entertain myself. I would host my own version of Sally. She’s actually why I have red glasses.”
Katy paused long enough to elicit another straw’s length of whiskey from her glass.
“You think I’m crazy.”
“No, no,” I replied.
“You don’t have to say that. I know how I come off.”
“It’s not— ” I wasn’t sure how to word what I wanted to say. “You’re crazy. Definitely. But not the kind of crazy everyone is telling me you are. You’re…”
Her pinky finger had hooked itself around mine, and it was holding on tightly.
She’s crazy! The familiar refrain of a guy who’s been broken up with, shot down, or who just needed an excuse for their sudden disinterest. It gets used so ubiquitously, you would think every woman was barely stitched together; one shot of tequila away from a lycanthropic rage of snapping Xbox discs and kicking testicles. In my years of dating, I think I dated one, maybe two actually crazy people. These were girls that had something deeply wrong with them, and not in a way defined by their gender — yet they were lumped together with Katy. Katy served two years in Niger with the Peace Corps teaching young women family planning — and that made her crazy. All of her friends would tell you so. She verbally confronted a group of men who yelled sexist remarks during a movie — it was crazy. I would tell you that — the men were skyscrapers of solid muscle. I tried to lead her out of the theater as quickly as possible but a small group of people formed around her, cheering her on. The men apologized and ended up talking to her about women’s issues for half an hour after the theater had cleared. They’re friends on Facebook now.
Katy is mind-bogglingly crazy. She sees a way to make a conversation, a country, or a night better, and she just goes; no amount of common sense or social construct will slow her down. It can be overwhelming, yes, but only to people who are afraid of it. I could see that Katy was not dangerous, or malicious — the energy she exuded was pure and well-meaning. It was passion, strength, confidence. It was something I could feel even then, that first night at the bar.
I grabbed the rest of Katy’s hand.
“I want a certain kind of crazy.” I meant that earnestly, but I had never fully felt it until I pulled her towards me and we kissed. Fireworks, tiny pop rocks on our lips — the right kind of fire. Not the kind that consumes houses and forests, but the kind you build in the woods on a late spring evening, that brings friends and strangers together, that keeps you warm.