A Man of Honor

    Here’s a peculiar thing I do that I bet you do too.
    When we are nearly out of ice cream – say, half a cup left – I will not finish it off, but will leave one-quarter of a cup in the bottom of the carton for Jane.        
    Then Jane will come along, see that quarter cup, and she will leave one-eighth of a cup for me.
    I will see that eighth of a cup, eat half of it, and leave Jane one-sixteenth of a cup.      
    She will see that spoonful … and so we go, leaving increasingly microscopic amounts of ice cream for each other.       
    I say we do it so we can each pretend to be morally superior.      
    Jane says we do it to be polite.     
    Both of us wish the other one would finish off the ice cream, and to hell with it, but both of us refuse to do it.
    We don’t do this with any other food: cheese, milk, bread. And both of us would crawl over the other’s inert body to get that last cup of coffee. Only ice cream has this curious effect on us. 
    Here’s another way I eat ice cream. I put the container on the kitchen counter and eat two spoonfuls of it, scraping the spoon along the top, to make sure the surface is smooth.
     “Why don’t you put it in a bowl?” Jane says.
     “I’m just having a little bit,” I say, and then I put it back in the freezer. 
     And then? That’s right, I return to the freezer a minute later – oh, all right, 30 seconds later – and I do it again. 
     “Why don’t you put it in a bowl?” Jane says.
      “I’m only having a little bit,” I say. 
      And so on.
      Eventually, I realize that I should put the ice cream in a bowl, so I can eat it in peace, but I am unable to do that because now I am afraid to go into the kitchen, because Jane is in there. And she will see me put the ice cream into a bowl. So I go back just one more time, for a little bit of ice cream …
      Here’s another thing I do. Sometimes when I get into bed in the dark, Jane is pretending to be asleep. I don’t know why she does this. Then I lie there in the dark, and I pretend to sleep. I don’t know why I do this.
      So there we lie in the dark, two fakes pretending to sleep, so as not to disturb the fake next to us.
      Why we think feigning sleep is less disturbing than lying there honestly awake until we really are asleep is beyond me. 
      Some nights I want to say, “Are you pretending to be asleep?” but I’m afraid it will scare the hell out of her. Or it will give her a chance to say, “I was asleep until you woke me by asking if I was pretending to be asleep.”
       This would not be true, of course, but it’s what I would say in that situation.
      So we lie there, like two small republics, uncertain of the wisdom of our own policies, but pretending to be at peace. Who knows what we are really thinking?
      It reminds me of the game my friend Terry invented. The game is chess, played by regular rules, but each player gets to make one illegal move.
       The beauty of the rule is that whoever uses it first loses.
       That’s what I feel like as I lie in bed awake, pretending to sleep, thinking about that one-sixty-fourth of a cup of ice cream. I would get up and finish it, but I am asleep. Besides, it’s Jane’s.

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