I still see Katz making his way down the up escalator, shouting to me in the waiting train:
= John! Wait. I want to confess something—his words tailing away behind him.
But let’s backtrack—a fitting, inadvertent pun in the Katz style—a bit.
Katz, my months-long seatmate on the New York-bound train, had bade me goodbye and left our car. Here, in Newark, the train waited, as it usually did at 8:40 A.M., for another train on a different line, before continuing on to New York. I saw Katz ascending the escalator, and then he disappeared. In installments. First his head. Then his torso. His briefcase. His legs. His cuffed trousers.
Then came a bizarre sight. A figure was struggling, trying to force his way down against the push of the upcoming throng. A couple of people moved to the left, opening a path for the man. I saw who it was. It was Katz, a wild look on his face, determined to descend as more and more people funneled into the up escalator. The scene reminded me of a Chaplin comedy, for—zhoop!—Katz was back up at the top of the stairs. Now once more he has to elbow his way down, battling not only crowds but gravity and the inexorable laws of physics. For a man to go down an up escalator, his descent velocity has to exceed the machine’s up speed, in conjunction of course with the resistant force of the crowd that keeps ascending, impeding his dogged downward path.
At times Katz seemingly stood still, since the speed of his descent equaled that of his involuntary ascent. And facing the wrong way too. Going up backward. Imagine, to be in transit, yet motionless; or, seeming to stand still while in obvious kinesis. And then, like a quarterback finding an opening and rushing for the one-yard line, Katz finally finds a gap and leaps and lands on the platform. He dashes to the now closing door in my car, can’t get his foot in quickly enough stop it from shutting but shouts as the door slides shut—
= I have a confession to make, John…I’m… —he says as the door slams shut in his face, cutting off whatever he wanted to say.
My train began to move. He ran alongside. Anyone who can run down a crowded up escalator can run with a New Jersey Transit train. He ran with it, looking for an open window to shout his words in at me. But a Jersey train isn’t like a European railroad car. The windows don’t open. For some reason Katz pointed to himself; he poked his index finger into his chest. I saw him mouthing his name: Katz. Katz. Katz. Then he opened his mouth wide as though he were meowing. The Katz meow. What was he trying to tell me?
And then the train, my train, gathering speed, now really zooming, entered a tunnel and Katz—Katz vanished.
But let’s begin at the beginning, since what I’ve told you is almost the end.
I’m aware that some people—I’m an editor, a careful observer of readers’ habits, so I should know—have the annoying habit of opening a book and reading the last page first. For those of you who do this, please note that you’ve just read the (almost) last page.
But I assure you, you won’t have lost anything—or gained anything, for that matter—by reading this, for there’s lots and lots to learn as you keep turning the pages, and lots and lots to turn as you keep learning the pages.
So relax and enjoy this—