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Goodbye, Columbus
by Philip Roth

Field-Tested by Andrew Womack

on the D-Train in New York City, New York

On the first hot day of 2000—the first day, that is, that fell on a weekend when a trip to the beach was not out of the question—my girlfriend and I boarded what became the longest subway ride ever to Coney Island. We sat next to each other in the otherwise unoccupied train car and chatted. An idle topic of beach towels versus bathroom towels brewed into a heated discussion about why we had brought only the latter and not the former with us, which quickly boiled into a debate about why that is or is not patently wrong. Our good moods soured, I banished myself to a bench on the opposite side of the car and pulled my just-purchased copy of Goodbye, Columbus from my bag. I opened to the beginning and began reading. As the train car rattled onward, and the argument still banged around my head, I found I would read a paragraph, start thinking of the spat, and realize that I was at the end of a page I couldn’t remember a word of. The book eventually won out as I lulled into the story and quickly became engrossed. The rest of the trip down, I read, entirely removed from our argument and surroundings.

We arrived at the Coney Island stop and disembarked. By the time we reached the boardwalk, we’d said our sorries and agreed to have a lovely day. In the very early evening, we boarded the train for our trek back into the city. We sat on the bench, next to each other, and I again retrieved my book, concluding its final pages in enough time to discuss where we ought to go for dinner.

Andrew Womack is the co-editor in chief of The Morning News. He lives in Austin, Texas.

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