Bartlenoop

I had never been on a train before. It had been two years since we last spoke, but I was still on my way to the city. As the train gained speed, I adjusted myself in the seat to try and find a way to get comfortable. The train lurched.

I sat thinking about what to say when I arrived at the station. I wasn’t sure if I should apologize for what I said. Some time had passed and she invited me up, so I thought maybe it would be awkward. Besides, I still wasn’t sorry.

I put my hands between my thighs to try and warm them. My hands were always cold. She probably thought all of me was cold. All I had said was her boyfriend was a douchebag.

“But I love him,” she said. “You’re very unsupportive. I need someone who understands me.” And those were the last words she said to me. As if explaining to her that her boyfriend wasn’t treating her right wasn’t in her best interest.

Unsupportive.

I drew the word in the carpeted seat. Wondered what it meant. Wondered if the meaning might be blurred like the branches outside but still clear like the punctuated trunks.

How could you grow up with someone and be considered unsupportive? Eight years we had been friends. I drew the word ‘friends’ on the scummy, wet window. Eight years, and she dismissed them with the reckless abandon of tossing out unused napkins left in a take out bag.

I was drawing ‘time’ on the window when someone entered the booth with me.
“Is anyone else sitting here? It was stuffy in the one I was in,” he stood over me waiting for a reply.

“No.”

“Don’t you think the window is a little dirty to be sticking your finger on?”

“No.” I drew ‘no’ on the window, covering the other words with excessive squiggles.

He considered me. He must of decided I wasn’t strange enough because he settled himself into the seat. I continued to pick at the fabric while he pretended to be interested in the landscape.

“So I’m assuming those words mean something?” he asked.

“All words mean something,” I replied, surprised that he was so dumb. The bag he carried seemed like the type a law student would carry, leather bound and clean. I figured a college-aged person would not ask obvious questions.

We let the silence lengthen.

“Bartlenoop.”

“Excuse me?”

“Bartlenoop doesn’t mean anything.”

I stared at him, my eyebrows huddled together to discuss their confusion. “You have to give words meaning.”

He nodded, smiling like he won. “So what do those words mean to you?”
I narrowed my eyes. Boredom and the thirst for an outside opinion pushed me forward.

“A friend told me I was unsupportive.”

“Were you?”

“No.”

“According to who?”

“Me.”

“Ah.” He nodded again, thoughtful this time, but I really doubted he understood. I tugged at a loose shirt string, twirling it in my hand. “I was telling her what I thought for once.”

“And how did that make you feel?” He leaned forward putting the tips of his fingers together.

So law wasn’t his major, and my eyes glanced at the door wondering if it was too late to leave. Too late to pretend I had to be somewhere else.

“Feelings didn’t matter because I was right,” I let the words slide out hoping the slowness would emphasize my point.

“But how did that make her feel?”

“I didn’t care. It was something she needed to know.”

“Maybe she already knew but didn’t want to hear it.”

“Why do you care?”

He threw his arms up at the empty cabin around us. “Unless you want to play tic-tac-toe on the window.”

I smeared a board on the window. We both played silently for a few rounds, his o’s blocking my x’s. After four rounds of no one winning, I wiped the board away with my sleeved forearm.

He smirked as if the only logical thing was to return to my dilemma. I glared out the window waiting for something interesting to say. Searching the trees and buildings for anything inspiring to discuss, maybe even if he was afraid to die. I leaned back in the seat.

“But I was right,” I said.

“Right. You were right.” He surrendered his hands. “But are you still friends?”

I shrugged. “We haven’t spoken in two years, but I’m still on a train to the city by myself to meet her.”

“Would she do the same for you?”

I shook my head. “Probably would have been angry still.”

“So you could have lost more than two years had she not needed whatever favor she asked of you?” The conversation had excited him to the end of his seat like he was on the brink of a breakthrough.

Pressing my forehead against the window, I closed my eyes and sighed. The interrogation was making me tired. “So you’re saying being right wasn’t worth all the lost time even though she’s over-bearing and wrong?”

He looked at me as if expecting me to say more.

“What?”

The train stopped. Muffled thumps and clicks of doors signaled the first departure of passengers. He got up reaching for his bag.

“You already know the answer.”