That Casual Hypocrisy

When they were lying in bed together, after the party, after everyone had gone home to cold beds and left them with stale smoke and spilled drinks and the close air of false gaiety, he lit a cigaret and stared up at the ceiling.

“Mmf,” she said. “Gimme a fag.” It was a command, the casual intimacy of the bed roughening her voice. It worried him.

He drew another cigaret from the pack on the nightstand and lit it with his. He handed it to her, without speaking. She drew on the cigaret, expelled a plume of smoke toward the ceiling. They mingled together, her smoke and his, and he watched them tightly.

“The beginning of jealousy is the fear of comparison,” he said, speaking to his feet where they stuck out beyond the welter of bedclothes. She rolled on to her side and stared at him. Her gin-and-vermouth eyes pressed into him. He repeated it, louder, twice, like a mantra. She snorted and rolled over. Suddenly he couldn’t stand her.

“Get out,” he said. He was very tired. There would be a scene, but he could already see beyond it to the peace and the calm that would follow.