Teaser 201: An Explanation of Love and Desire


I called Serena as Esperanza returned from the bathroom, scooted on top of me to hold me. Esperanza thought nothing of it, except she expected it. “I know you very well, Gregory.” Indeed.

I told Serena about the day's events and I cooked dinner. “You cooked a meal for Esperanza? You didn't have to rush her to the hospital, did you?”

“Very funny. I see your woman change has no effect on your sense of humor.”

“It's the shock, Gregory. You don't fix meals, but now that I know you do, when are you going to fix a meal for me?”

“That would be the day when, heaven forbid, you come to visit me, because it will never happen at your place. Luisa would perceive it as a threat to her livelihood, for which I would never be forgiven. Why? She's a woman, Serena, and I have learned every woman has a little of you in them, and since I know you so well, know should I piss you off I now face a life-long vendetta, it holds for any woman. I intend to do everything in my power to keep each of you happy and content, so there will be no cooking at your place, not with Luisa there.”

Serena laughed briefly. “I would be happy and content if you were lying beside me now, Gregory. Are you risking a life-long vendetta?” I didn't answer. “You won't answer me, will you?”

“You're at least being honest with me, Serena. You're telling me you're not happy, making me think how I would feel if things were reversed. Right? How would it feel if the tables were turned, little boy? Would you be happy and content?”

“Would you?”

“No, because I would be lying in bed wanting you next to me like you do now.”

“We have been doing this for two years now, Gregory, and you have not made it any easier.”

“Do you know how long I have dreamed of doing what I am right on the verge of starting in Africa, Serena? Do you know how many years?”

Serena's response was much lower in tone through the phone. “No.”

“I first dreamed of going to Africa to do this about the time you were in the middle of two boyfriends before you and Ed, Serena, more than five years before your painter movie, long before you even dreamed of having a baby! Your life hasn't changed much since then, has it, little girl?”

“But I am not happy and content now, Gregory.”

“And my point, Serena, in telling you when I had my first dream of Africa was to put it in the context of your life. So, look at your life. Look at the relationship which crumbled, then the next, then the next, then you decided not to have any, but you got pregnant, then the promise with a marriage proposal, a promise which was later broken, your marriage and the implosion which came from it. All that time, Serena, did you ever stop looking for the man you dreamed about when you were a girl? No! Until one day, a day you never expected, he walked right into your life in flesh and blood, and everything which happened in your life until then, all the hurt and pain and disappointment and unhappiness and discontent, none of it mattered any more. Maybe there have been too many days when you are not happy and content, but I can't stay away from you, Serena. I keep coming back to you, because I am happy and content when I'm with you and you sure make it quite evident you are, too...In these two short, very short, years, against the decades since my first dream of Africa and the countless relationships from your bungled love life, we still come back to each other like it was the very first day. I can no longer count the times you have said to me, 'Don't quit on me.' You cannot count the number of times I have said to you, 'Don't quit on me.' And we don't, we don't quit. We will not quit and those many days of unhappiness and discontent fade away, because we waited and our patience was rewarded. Don't stop being patient with me, Serena. Wait a little longer. Give me the time to reach India. What has compelled me until then will be in the past and it won't be long. I will want you as my partner, my equal, then. I must have you like that then. I'll marry you if it's what you want. Don't give up on me, because you've waited decades, Serena, but it's not decades any more. You're right there, almost there, and so am I. We're right on the doorstep. Don't throw it away now!”

What followed was a long pause. Serena broke it. “Is Esperanza there?”

“Yes.”

“Right there, listening?”

“Yes.”

“What's on her face? What's the expression on Esperanza's face right now?”

I dropped the phone from the side of my head and looked to Esperanza. “Serena wants me to tell her what's on your face, the expression on your face right now.”

Esperanza had been listening intently but wasn't looking up to me, lying on her side, her right hand slowly, continually rolling over my stomach. She looked to me, smiling. “Tell her I'm smiling. I've known you most of those two years, too, and over this time I've known who the love of your life is, Gregory, and it hasn't really changed much. Lena has come into your life. You've told me about her, too. Serena and Lena. Your whole life, Gregory, revolves around those two. I don't know how you're going to do it. I don't know how they're going to do it, but if it doesn't turn out Serena and Gregory, if it doesn't turn out Lena and Gregory, if it doesn't turn out Serena and Lena and Gregory, well, one, two, or all three of you will suffer. I'm not smiling about that. I'm smiling, Serena, because I think all three of you are going to figure something out because what will drive all three of you is that each one of you knows how much you will suffer if you can't make it work. You'll find a way.”

I lifted the phone to the side of my head. “Esperanza is still smiling.”

“Will she speak with me, Gregory?”

I offered the phone to Esperanza. “Serena asked if you would speak with her.”

Esperanza took the phone. “I haven't spoken with you since you came to my house with Gregory, and I enjoyed very much meeting you, Serena. I've wanted to think of you as my friend, but I know you're a busy person and I certainly will not push myself on you. That would be wrong.”

I knew they would be in for a long conversation. I can't predict the future, but, remember, I have very good probability skills and I knew both well and knew what would probably happen. I was so certain, I rose from the bed, naked and unconcerned, grabbed both wine glasses, walked to the kitchen and refilled them and returned to sit with my back resting against a pillow propped against the headboard. For a few minutes I sipped wine while the two chatted amicably. Esperanza turned to me as she lowered the phone. “Serena asked me a question about Lena I can't answer. I don't know the answer.” She offered me the phone.

“Why don't we put her on speaker. We're all comfortable enough with each other we don't feel like we have to hide anything, aren't we? Ask her.”

Esperanza asked Serena if she would feel uncomfortable on speaker. Serena said no. Esperanza handed me the phone and I set it on speaker and placed it in a space between Esperanza and me. “Can you hear, Serena?”

“Yes.”

“What do you want to know about Lena?”

“Do you love Lena more than you love me?”

“No.”

“Do you love me more than you love Lena?”

“No.”

“How can you love us both the same, Gregory? It's not really possible.”

“Love is a quality, Serena. It's not something which can be easily measured, if it could actually be measured at all, and you didn't even ask about Esperanza. Ask me that question with Esperanza and you.”

“Do you love me more than Esperanza?”

“No.” I looked to Esperanza and noted the disbelieving expression. “Now, Esperanza is looking at me like she can't believe the answer, Serena, and I imagine right now, you probably don't believe it either. True?”

“I have almost reached the point with you, Gregory, where I have a hard time believing anything you tell me.”

“There you go, Serena,” Esperanza empathized.

“It's hard for you, too, isn't it, Esperanza?”

“Well, he does have this amazing ability to say things which are a bit difficult to believe.” Esperanza flashed me a teasing smile.

“Well, there's more, so both of you listen for a minute. I made you frame the question with Esperanza and I gave you the truthful answer. I do not love you more than Esperanza. I do not love Lena more than Esperanza. Love is not a quality to measure. If you try to measure it you have exposed a true lack of understanding about love.” I turned my head toward Esperanza. “You, Professor, once told me love is love, sex is sex, and fucking is fucking, but even you have a difficult time drawing the line where each ends and the other begins. I can tell because I saw the look on your face when Serena asked her question and I responded I love you all equally. You could not believe it, but it is completely true. I love you as much as I love Serena, as much as I love Lena. I love you all and I would welcome you all with me and all which comes with it. Should it be the case, though, I foresee eventual bickering between all of you, not about the love or attention you receive, it will be about sex and fucking. Should that happen, I will resolve it and make you face your erroneous perception, your conception, what you have come to conceive of as love, and proclaim there will be no more sex, no more fucking, and I will wait to see which of you stays and which of you leaves.”

“O Gregory!” Serena shouted through the phone. “You can tell the most outrageous stories and get me to believe them true. You have done it and I admit it, but no sex, no fucking? From you? I wouldn't buy it if you gave it away!”

Esperanza was laughing as I sat with my arms folded. “You couldn't live without sex, Gregory,” Esperanza claimed, adding in a particularly mocking voice, “your little buddy won't let you.” She laughed hysterically and Serena joined her through the phone. I didn't move and I didn't smile. Esperanza noted it and when she regained her composure, she gently pinched my cheek through my beard, wiggled it. “Cumon, little boy. It's a fantasy. You know it.”

“He is a man of fiction, isn't he, Esperanza?”

“You and I both know it!” Both laughed heartily again.

When they calmed I stared at Esperanza. “That's exactly what I would expect from the bunch of you who can't stop bickering because you do not understand what love truly is, until I announce when it's time to go to bed, I am sleeping alone and you all find somewhere else in the house to sleep, and this shall be the procedure every night. I do not want you around me at night. None of you shall ever share my bed with me again, and I go to my bedroom and lock the door. Now let's see who stays and who goes.”

“You would never do it, Gregory,” Esperanza insisted, but her expression lacked resolve.

I stared at Esperanza with a severity which made her lean back. “You wanna test me, little girl? You wanna test me, Serena? Is that it? You think you know me that well? You both know one thing about me. You know if you push me the wrong way, I'll throw you right out of my life and have one single regret. I'll regret I wasted all the time with you before, because I will consider it wasted and you will never be in my life again. You wanna test me, test my love? I'll cut you off if that's what it takes to make you understand the difference between love and sex and fucking. You will understand the difference or you will leave, to continue your vain search to find love twisted with sex and fucking, as though love always includes both. I'll always miss you and I'll always shake my head when I think about you, think that you're still out there in the world looking for something that never existed and know true happiness will elude you throughout your entire life, when it was right there in front of you once, but you couldn't even recognize it. You just walked away. I have to let you walk away, though, because I can't make you understand. You have to reach it on your own.”

Through the phone Serena exclaimed, “You think you-”

“I'm not done, Serena!” I cut her off. “You listen!” The phone went quiet. “All of you have a will. Each of you will do what you will and I encourage it. I want you to do what you will, always! You think of this only from what you can derive would be my position with each one of you, but that position can change and I know it. You have a will, Serena. You can meet someone, anyone, who makes you feel more whole, Serena, who makes you feel better than I do. Remember when I went over the wedding vows and I changed them? I said, 'You didn't promise to love, honor and cherish until somebody better comes along, did you?' Remember?”

“Yes, Gregory, I remember,” Serena said softly.

“You could meet the one, Serena. You could meet the one, Esperanza. Lena could meet the one, and I could not stop it, nor would I try. It is your will, but it would never change my love for you, and I would still welcome you into my life, my home, to share with you and the one. It would hurt me, hurt me to see you, Serena, with the one and know that I could never have you like I used to, to see you, Esperanza, with the one and know I could never have you like I used to, and the same would hold true with Lena. It's desire talking, causing the pain, the hurt, but it's not love. I would love you as I always do and I would love the one with you, love them as much as I love you. That is love. It's not attached to sex or fucking. Love stands by itself, high above everything else. It would hurt, that I can't have sex with you any more, that I can't fuck you any more, but that hurt comes from unfulfilled desire. That's not love!

I had finished and there was silence for a few moments. Serena ended it. “But I won't meet the one, Gregory. There won't be anyone better come along. There's no one like you...”

Esperanza saw the frown on my face. “He's frowning as you say that, Serena.”

“But it's true, Gregory. You know it's true, too, Esperanza. We talked about Gregory at your house when he was out on the porch drinking beer, giving us time to talk between ourselves, and we talked about that, too, that he went out on your porch to give us time to talk privately.”

Esperanza was nodding her head, smiling. “And I gave you your privacy because I knew if I stayed the conversation would not have been the same, you would not talk openly and freely if I was present. I had to give you privacy so you would talk openly and freely. I knew it. I know just the added presence of one person changes the dynamics of interactions between all others. I have to grant privacy, even if it turns against me. It is a matter of will.”

“I would have to share you, Gregory, and that hurts. It hurts now.”

“You know now what the hurt is, Serena, and it does not come from love, but I will know what to look for. I will look for resentment, from any one of you. You resent me because I don't have to share, I don't have to feel the same hurt and pain. Should I see it, feel that resentment, that's when I will take action to destroy it. There will be no more sex, no more fucking. The hurt, the pain will be equally distributed. Everyone feels it, but I will do it because I will not let desire destroy my love, and should this choice push you to leave me, I will not stop you. I will have love in my house, I will be surrounded by lovers.” I had to pause to let both of them laugh. “I will never allow someone to stay full of resentment caused by unfulfilled desire. My attitude concerning someone like this will always be, 'Go somewhere else.'”

There was another moment of long silence. Esperanza looked to me with a curious inquisitiveness, often dropping her head, only to raise it and stare back into my eyes.

“Esperanza, I love you. I truly do. You are a wonderful woman, really a wonderful human being, and the way I feel about all of this, especially about Gregory, is that I know I would never have met you without Gregory in the middle, and I want him to myself, and if I did have him to myself I never would have met you.”

“Serena-” Esperanza empathized.

“Please, dear, let me finish before I lose it, because I really want to say this.” Esperanza grew quiet and attentive. “I enjoyed meeting you. I do like you. I...I love you as a friend, Esperanza, and I would enjoy seeing you and talking with you again, the two of us. I really hope we could grow into a relationship we both would appreciate, separate from Gregory...Do you feel that way about me?”

“I do, Serena,” Esperanza replied warmly. She wore a big smile. “I think of you as an older sister and we have a lot in common, what we consider important.”

“I do, too. I think of you, too, like a sister, and sisters don't drift apart. We should stick together, especially when it comes to Gregory.” That brought a round of laughter, even from me. “But it's something we also share, Esperanza. We share Gregory...I know you're with him now, you can hold him, and touch him, do all those things I want, too, that I want...now...”

“Would it help, Serena, if I said, 'We're not having any more sex, Gregory, no more fucking?' Would that help?” Both of them laughed. “I mean, sister, any one of us can turn the same thing on him, you know. We can make him feel it any time, too!”

Serena laughed deep and full. She really enjoyed it. “That's not a bad idea, Esperanza. He can dish it out, but can he take it?” They were laughing together again. I was smiling. I was enjoying this. “But when I think about it, Esperanza, it's not what I want. It's not what you want either, and I'm sure it's not what Lena wants. We would be punishing Gregory for something he didn't do, because we did it to ourselves, don't you think?”

“Yes.”

“We didn't make Gregory force us to want him. We did it to ourselves, don't you agree?”

“Yes.” Esperanza began to swirl her hand over my stomach.

“I am hurt. I have pain right now because Gregory is not here with me. He's not beside me. He's beside you, Esperanza, but I don't resent you for that, and I'm beginning to think very seriously I can't resent Gregory for it either. In fact I shouldn't resent anyone, because what hurts me now is the desire for you, Gregory, but my love for you is the same, or maybe it's even grown, but it is strong, so I can't resent you, Gregory, because it would show you, it would show me, I have ignored my love for you and let my desire control my thoughts and feelings, and you've made me start to think this tonight...Did you plan this, old man?”

They both laughed heartily. “If I did, Serena, it would have blown up in my face, because it would have been inspired by a lesser factor, some defect of mine, and I have many. My only plan was to talk to you, my love, so you would know you are still in my thoughts, you will always be in my thoughts, but I did tell Esperanza I was, at least, apprehensive about calling you. I told her, I knew I would hear and feel some hurt, some pain from you, but to your enormous credit, Serena, you brought it right out in the open.”

“He did say it to me, Serena,” Esperanza confirmed, “that he didn't look forward to calling you because he would hear your hurt and pain, if not in your voice, then in your heart, but he had to call you so you would know you were on his mind, he hadn't forgotten you, he couldn't forget you.”

“I didn't say all that, Esperanza,” I advised.

“That's what you meant, Gregory,” Esperanza said, with a quick look of defiance, drawing her hands to her waist.

“Will you two lovebirds get back to loving, please?” Serena stated, and laughed. We all laughed with her.


- Just Desserts, Segment Twenty-FiveThe Journey Awaits” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021

contact me, as always: schussprose@gmail.com