Behold the great lover. What a sight he is. The brown hair thinning on top, a paunch starting to envelop his hips. Slight chin lag and perhaps a few gray hairs around the ears but he still has the step, the walk, the look. The quick wetting of the lips with the tongue, the half smile on his face, the generosity of his soul, a twinkle in his eye if that could actually happen, the enigma of the great lover.
�and then there was Karen in San Diego and then Christine in Seattle, no, that was Portland�Rachel in St. Louis, Mary in Port Clinton, a suburb of Cleveland, how many do I have so far?�.
THEORY AND MISSION STATEMENT
The great lover does not try to conquer women. They are trying to conquer him. He�s trying to conquer Love.
He taught a class at the Extension School entitled �The Do�s and Don�ts of Being The Great Lover.� It was listed under the psychology department but also cross-listed under Ethnography and Business.
Being a great lover, he stated, is all in the approach. The key is attitude.
The students wrote this down. Surprisingly, there were three women in a class of twelve men.
He added, It is not how deep the well is but how one dangles the bucket, and then he sat at his desk, gazing sagely out the window.
The students pondered this for a few moments but then quickly noted it.
The great lover met a woman named Marie. He classified her as a level 6 which meant a slower approach. When asked by a friend why, the great lover said, I believe my heart has been pricked. He then quickly fled, taking the nearest empty cab uptown.
He received love letters from all over the United States. He replied to each letter personally despite the rumor that he had hired others to do it. Nor did he use form letters or mail merge. While it�s true that when simultaneously responding to one hundred letters a day that certain phrases might be repeated, the intent was to respond to each individual�s need.
It�s a people business, he said.
A consortium of international businessmen and women approached the great lover. They wished to purchase his product and package it. What is my product, he asked? The consortium offered him a large sum of money, not disclosed. His task was to answer all queries, whether by mail or e-mail, on how to become the great lover.
He was married. He had a wife and a mistress. He also had a girlfriend but only on Thursdays while his wife and mistress were together at a watercolor class. Because he was the great lover, he must cheat on them. It is irremediable.
He loved them. He said he did. He knew he did. He would be heartbroken without them. But he was the great lover and he must woo the world. Besides, he thought, they knew. The wife knew of the mistress, and the mistress was cognizant of the girlfriend, and the girlfriend believed he might be married but didn�t really want to know because then she would have to end it.
Once he tried to fight the urge to be the great lover. No, he said to himself, I am now married. I have uttered my oath and taken my vow. I have pledged and been pledged.
But the urge was malarial. It made him feverish. He constantly craved water. His lower back ached and his knees were puffy on the sides, so puffy he had to either stand all the time or when he sat down he had to keep his legs stiff since he couldn�t bend them at the knee. He tried desperately to deny the urge. His temperature ran to 104 and his wife wanted to call 911 but he said no. He went to the 7-11 and bought 10 bags of ice and dumped them in his bathtub, where he sought refuge. After the fever broke and he got the circulation back into his slightly blue-colored legs, he knew he had no choice. It was his Calling. He was the great lover. And he had warned his wife before they married. He had warned his mistress while she laced up her black corset and shiny leather boots. He had warned his girlfriend at the time. What else could he do? He was the great lover. It had been thrust upon him.
A television network wanted to give him a morning talk show.
The audience will love you, the Network President said. They were sitting in the Network Conference room with its black leather and silver frame chairs, marble conference table and three framed Sam Francis prints on the walls. The Network President�s six assistants sat equally on each side of him. They glistened like polished silver.
Of course, he replied, I�m the great lover.
We will pay you an obscene amount of money, the Network President said, chuckling. His assistants laughed in time with him.
And I will take it, the great lover said, smiling at them.
Unless the advertisers resist, the Network President said.
How could they? the great lover asked. Soap gets out all the stains of love.
The Network President chuckled. The great lover chuckled. They chuckled together.
There was a lot of love in the room until the great lover�s lawyer returned from his phone call in the hallway. He stated to the room that the Consortium�s contract would not permit this since they were working on a deal with a different network. (It did not happen.)
Damn, the Network President said, disappointed. Well, then, maybe a few tips on how to quickly get to first base.
The Consortium wanted the great lover to write a book � �How To Be a Great Lover.�
Let me contemplate this, the great lover replied, wary of revealing all his secrets to the public.
While on his lunch break, he banged Ms. Brado, a secretary, in the copy room on top of several boxes of paper. When he was close, someone outside came to the locked copy room door and rattled the handle but eventually went away. The great lover guided Ms. Brado to several multiple orgasms, the last being two separate orgasms at the same time while he simultaneously manipulated three different areas of her pelvis much to her delight.
She sat exhausted across the boxes, the top of the copy machine clenched in her two hands, one foot, sans high heel, resting by its ankle on a paper shelf. Her eyes were closed. She was smiling.
It is more important to give than to receive, the great lover stated.
Amen, Ms. Brado replied.
The act of love is like exercise. If you do not practice every day, you will lose shape.
He fell into a funk. An artistic crisis. He could not find the right woman to love. Not one of the recent women he met had seemed right. The one at the coffee shop who caught his eye. The one at the bookstore who casually grabbed the same book his hand was on, a lascivious look on her face. The one at the deli who asked his choice of cigarettes to buy even though he didn�t smoke. The one at the restaurant who sat in his booth while he ate lunch alone because, she said, there was no other spot to sit. But not one seemed right. It was not the right moment. Not the right woman. He kept hesitating and afterwards, after he had walked away, he would ask himself, What is wrong with me? He thought that perhaps he had lost his flair, that thing that had made him the great lover, and now he was just a fraud, just a masquerader, a Halloween trick and treater behind a false face begging for candy. He drank himself into a stupor. He watched sporting events he didn�t like. He forced himself to oversleep. He read the TV Guide and then re-skimmed it in case he had missed something. At the Consortium, he just sat at his desk, looking desolately out his window onto the Corporate Office park below with its pine benches and small wall waterfall.
I�m just in a slump, he kept telling himself.
The great lover had never taken artificial stimulants. No preservatives or effort-enhancing drugs. To be the great lover, he told a workshop class, it must be all you. It must come from within. The passion must be true. Or else you are a fraud, a faker. And this infidelity will betray you to your lover who will go away disappointed and you will have failed.
Slowly he reiterated, The passion must be true.
The audience gave him a standing ovation. He bowed respectfully.
What is this thing I feel? That I can�t put my finger on? Is it guilt? Nonsense, I�m far beyond that. What is it then?
An ontological crisis ensued:
Why am I the great lover? How did I get to this point? Why did I choose this or did it choose me? What am I doing to my family and friends? To my wife? To my dear wife? Why have I sacrificed my marriage of ten years for the status of being the great lover? From a modest apartment on Hemlock Ave. to our current split level ranch with a terracotta-tiled pool and a guest house in the converted garage, she has always been there, trying to be patient with this career choice but how long can she last? And despite my vow to quit, to find another occupation, surely with the B.S. in Marketing, I can find another career but I don't. I keep doing this, time and time again, in alcoholic hazes to dull the guilt, I keep saying I�ll quit but I do not.
The epiphany: what does the great lover have to prove?
During office hours one day, his wife called him, her voice slightly strained, an octave higher, a sign, he knew, that she was unhappy.
When�re you going to be home? she asked.
Soon, he replied, I have three more women before I leave.
Can you pick up a loaf of sourdough on the way home?
Sure, he said.
There�s a long silence on the line. He knew it was bothering her. It hit her every now and then.
Okay, she replied and hung up.
He saw a woman waiting outside the door. Work, he sighed.
At one time in his life he had denied the urge. It was just after he had married Patrice. He decided a change of careers would be the best thing for their relationship even though when they had met he had been the great lover. After one particularly energetic night, Patrice agreed that he was. But the transition after the marriage was tough and because he loved her so much, agreed, no, he actually initiated the idea of finding a new line of work. Despite the hundreds of blurbs he had acquired over the years from appreciative women �
�Today�s Casanova.� � Samantha B., Houston
�Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.� � Leslie O., Rochester (The Consortium sold this one to a watch company)
�I give him an �A�.� � Amanda R., Honey Creek
�Well worth the trip.� � Graciela W., New Orleans
� and Patrice�s well-meaning but frustrated attempts at understanding, he went out and looked for a job. Even though he had never made any money directly from being the great lover. He was no gigolo or some cheap hustler of sex. He made his money from the instructing of how to become the great lover. The making of love to women was his art form.
So he drove a truck for a dog food manufacturer, he painted houses for a couple months, he worked at a pet shop and cleaned the cages but he felt his talent going to waste. It even affected his life at home with Patrice where he lost interest in the bedroom, preferring to watch the gardening channel and create his own victory garden.
Go back, Patrice finally said.
Some of his more popular techniques as listed in his best-selling book, You Too Can Be The Great Lover, available at Consortium Publishing for $24.99 in its fifth printing:
- The Grab and Tuck
- The Airplane
- Spaghetti and Meatballs
- Odd Man Out
- Ducking Nancy
- Holy Roller
In December the Lions Club of Columbus, Ohio, sent the great lover a wooden shoe horn shaped like a duck. They also invited him to a �Thank You� dinner which he graciously declined. But he used the shoe horn the next morning.
But all must be used, he emphasized to his class, with maximum passion.
A student raised his hand. The great lover pointed to him.
So how can I score with women? he asked.
The great lover walked over to the student and, being of solid stature of 6�2� and 205 pounds, the great lover hoisted the questioning student into the air and tossed him out the door.
This is art, not a pickup class, he replied.
The class applauded.
Touched, the great lover bowed respectfully.
During a business seminar at the Mutual Trust Investment Bank, the great lover had the bank employees enraptured. This was no slide show on debt-to-equity ratios. No overhead projector of the new marketing plan. The men leaned forward on the polished oak conference table, their reflections mirroring them from below, the clouds outside behind them, as the great lover ran seminar #4: �How do you do?�
The lone woman raised her hand.
Yes? the great lover smiled at her.
Isn�t this just some rationalization for you to encourage men, married men, if I may add, to go engage in affairs so that they may elevate a low self-esteem and perhaps a self-hatred at their pathetic lives in thinking that if they have sex with a woman, other than their wife, fianc�e, or girlfriend, that they will somehow be a better man, a conqueror? Isn�t this just a rationalization for extra-marital affairs? To justify the fact that you guys don�t want to have to make an ethical decision by choosing not to?
She glanced around the room, suddenly nervous.
The great lover was thinking this through. But before he could answer, she stood up and walked out of the conference room without looking at anyone.
Let�s take fifteen, the great lover said.
When his book went into a 6th printing, the Consortium threw a party at a local Chinese restaurant. The great lover had the spicy chicken. About 30 employees of The Consortium gathered around the big banquet table. The President raised his glass in a toast to the great lover, who realized that there were only men here and, in fact, only men worked at The Consortium.
Reflecting back on his life, he wondered, What have I done? But further reflection was stopped when his 3:00 shows up, a short perky woman.
Hello, she said.
Just a second, he replied, a sour feeling occurring in his stomach. He closed his door and sat at his desk.
The woman outside knocked on his door.
What have I done? he asked himself.
BIO: Ron Burch currently has work in Juked, Eleven Eleven, Pank, and others. He was recently nominated for a Pushcart.