“I do mean it!”
“No, you don’t, you’re just saying it to be nice.”
“Would I do that?”
“Yes. You would.”
“Okay, yes, I would. But that doesn’t mean I don’t mean it now.”
Jane and Erin argued all the time. They had known each other since they were both in preschool and knew each other better than they knew anyone else. They knew their friendship was rare, and they appreciated it, but they couldn’t help bickering. It was precisely because they knew each other so well that they couldn’t help this. Jane knew that Erin always tried to soften her criticisms of any artwork that Jane showed her, just as Erin knew that Jane could never be unbiased when it came to her relationship issues, since she always thought that Erin must be right. It meant that, although they could discuss anything and everything, and although they did, there were some subjects that would always be problematic.
They walked down 42nd street toward Grand Central Terminal and continued to disagree, voices getting shriller until a man painting a cartoon portrait of a little girl in pigtails stared at them with such astonishment that they both burst out laughing and changed the subject.
“So did you and Mark go to that thing?”
“Oh, yeah, we did. It was so boring, you have no idea.”
“But then why do you always go to this stuff?”
“I don’t know, cause he wants to, and I’m like whatever.”
“But you don’t enjoy it so what’s the point?”
“I don’t know.”
Grand Central Terminal was teeming with people going home. It was peak time and Jane and Erin complained about the increased price of the train fare as they bought their tickets from the only two machines on the bottom concourse. They saw a pair of twins walking together and talking urgently to each other with violent hand gestures.
“The one on the right is cute.”
“What? They look exactly the same. They’re both cute.”
“No, the one on the right is better dressed.”
“You’re so full of it. That’s blatantly ridiculous.”
“That’s not how you use the word ‘blatantly.'”
“Oh, fine, English major, educate me, why don’t you.”
And they were off, unknowingly mimicking the twins as they talked with their hands on their way to track 106 to the train. They threw themselves down onto empty seats and continued to talk in loud voices as the train filled up with people in suits, leaving their fancy city jobs and going into the small towns on the Harlem line.
“Excuse me, could you be a little quieter?”
“Excuse you, rather. This is a public place-”
“We’ll speak however we want.”
“Yeesh. Can you believe the nerve?”
“I know! I mean, dude, seriously, how can anyone ask anything like that? It’s a loud freaking train, you know?”
“What if one of us had ear problems?”
“Yeah, like, what if we were half deaf or something?”
But they both lowered their voices without meaning to, embarrassed that they’d been talking loudly enough to make anyone ask them to be quieter. They often felt like they were too rambunctious when they were together. They knew that their other friends couldn’t stand being around both of them at the same time, because they would end up talking only to each other, or, if they talked to the others, they would still have inside jokes and references that nobody else could understand and that they refused to explain even when asked about them.
The train began to move and they recited the stops with the electronic voice that came on over the PA system. They took the train into the city every weekend, religiously, and they always left and came back at exactly the same times, so they always knew what stops they were going to pass by and in what order.
“I’m concerned about you.”
“Who says that anymore?”
“Oh, brother. No one says that. Have you been watching old movies again?”
“So what if I have?”
“Oh my god, never mind, that’s like so beside the point. How do you always manage to do this? I was saying that I’m worried about you.”
“And then you went on a rant about how no one says ‘oh, brother’ anymore.”
“It wasn’t a rant. It was an observation. Anyway. You need to go out on another date.”
“Ugh, but boys are icky and stupid.”
“If you like girls, just say so now so I can start finding those for you instead.”
“No! No, I don’t like anyone right now.”
“That’s exactly why I’m worried. You need to get out there again! One bad boyfriend doesn’t mean they’re all like that.”
Jane and Erin continued fighting until they got off the train at White Plains and walked home together, still disagreeing on the subject of dating.
“I do mean it!”