Love and Lust are
sitting at the bar together. Lust’s elegant fingers are wrapped around a
tequila sunrise. Love sips lemonade. Lust has squeezed her body into a low-cut
leather number. Love wears a hand-knitted mohair jersey and comfortable jeans.
Lust’s eyes are rimmed with black kohl and her lips are the color of overripe
cherries. Love’s face shines with a natural, healthy glow.
“You know we’re
not really so different,” says Lust.
Love settles in for
the debate. They’ve had this one before.
“It’s all about
human contact,” continues Lust. “Bringing people together, cheating death
one more time. Together we keep the world moving, you and I. I provide drive;
you provide commitment.”
Love wriggles on her
barstool. “A lot of good you do for the world,” comes her retort. “Greed,
power, domination—that’s your legacy. I’m the one who delivers the
healing, the nurturing. It’s not passion but compassion that keeps the world
alive. What’s your gift to humanity? Five minutes’ fumbling in the back seat
of a car? A quick fuck with a stranger in a public toilet?”
“And what’s so
bad about that? People need a little fun in their lives. A brief connection with
another living adult to remind them that they’re part of humanity. It harms no
one else, brings a little pleasure. Don’t come the moralist with me.” And
Lust plucks the toothpick out of her glass, with the cherry and the slice of
orange, and slowly, slowly licks at the cherry, and ever-so-delicately grips it
between her teeth, sliding it off the end of the toothpick into her
For a moment, Love
is transfixed, but she recovers. “You’re all fun and no responsibility.
Because of you we’re plagued with unwanted pregnancies and sexually
“Now hold on a
minute!” Lust takes another sip from her cocktail, taps her painted nails on
the bar. “Those things are as much your responsibility as mine. Women are as
likely to get pregnant through love as through lust. Don’t blame me for a lack
of contraception and sex education. What about the woman who gets pregnant
because she hopes a child will cement a shaky relationship? That’s nothing to
do with me; that one’s all yours.” She takes a cigarette from the silver
case in her handbag and lights it with her Zippo. She waits for Love’s
“The problem there
is not love, but a lack of love.” Love looks around the bar. “See that man
over there with the sandy moustache? He’s here to meet his girlfriend, but
there’s another woman waiting at home for him, crying her eyes out. If he
loved her more and lusted less, there’d be no problem.”
Lust rolls her eyes.
“But you admit though, that the woman left at home is crying for love. If she
didn’t love so deeply, so misdirectedly, she wouldn’t be miserable.”
Love ignores her.
“Look,” she says. “There’s another example of the anguish you cause.”
She points at a young man in a suit who is drinking alone. “He’s had a
hopeless crush for years on a man who barely acknowledges his existence. Look at
how unhappy it’s left him. Sleepless nights filled with longing, and now he’s
trying to escape into a beer glass. All because he lusts after some pretty,
unattainable young thing. The poor man’s close to suicide.”
Lust is having none
of this. “And how many suicides have there been for love? How many lives
wasted, careers destroyed, families torn apart? How much human misery because
love given is not always returned? Or because love disintegrates and decays,
leaving a wake of grief. Are you forgetting the pain that follows you around?”
“So you think no
one ever suffered for Lust? Sexual infatuation can be stronger and more damaging
than love. You trap lives in bondage.” Here Lust smirks. “Slaves to their
“Oh please, Love.
Bondage, slavery? You’ll get me all excited, you naughty girl!”
“I won’t be
dragged down to your level. You don’t take anything seriously.”
I’m desperately serious about pleasure.”
“Do you think no
one ever died because of lust? Have you forgotten about syphilis? And AIDS?”
“Now that’s not
fair. That’s sheer misfortune, like any kind of disease. You can hardly hold
me accountable for accidents of nature. And you’re not as pure as you’d like
to think, Love. There are innumerable instances of love going wrong that you’d
prefer not to acknowledge. What about men who beat women they claim to love? Who
kill their families?”
possession, not love. More your line than mine. I give people warmth and
“And I don’t?”
“You give them sex
and materialism and addiction.”
importantly I give them desire. And it’s desire that pulls people out of the
ruts they sink into. It’s desire that frees them from their restrictive little
boxes. And don’t tell me no one was ever addicted to love. There are plenty of
people drifting from partner to partner, seeking to make themselves whole,
seeking a way out of their loneliness. Company is something you and I both
provide. I say it again, Love, we’re really not so different.”
Love grows quiet,
and Lust orders herself another cocktail.
frivolous,” says Love finally. “It’s all superficial with you; you don’t
give people what they really need.”
“Ah, but I give
them what they want. People want more than holding hands and drinking cocoa
together. They want ardor, fervor, carnality.”
Love is indignant.
“That’s not true. You have people flitting from one barren relationship to
the next, unsatisfied, yearning, searching for something real; searching for me.”
“Yearning has its
own special satisfaction. I leave people wanting more. That’s a gift. You just
fill people up with unrealistic expectations and watch them crumble when their
dreams are inevitably dashed. You see that woman who just walked in?”
Love swivels on her
stool to look towards the entrance. A tall woman with short dark hair and
sadness in her eyes stands looking around the bar.
“Same old story.”
Lust continues. “Her lover’s just left her for another woman.”
“Your fault, no
actually. Her partner fell in love with someone else. But what she needs now is
a little company, a little fire, some reassurance that she’s attractive and
“She needs love in
her life again. She needs affection, commitment.”
caused her problems in the first place. It’s the last thing she needs. She
needs a warm body, someone who isn’t going to make emotional demands on her.
She needs physical comfort.”
emotional comfort. The love of a good friend ...”
“She’s not ready
for further entanglements. She needs an uncomplicated affair.”
you, it’s me she needs.” Love sounds almost angry.
“No,” says Lust,
with some satisfaction at getting her friend rattled. “She needs a distraction
from the pain of loving. She needs a spark in her life. She needs to forget, if
only for a few pleasurable moments. I can give her respite from her pain. All
you can offer her now is more distress.”
Love responds with a
“In fact,” says
Lust with a glint in her wicked green eyes, “I think I’ll go over there
right now and get acquainted.”
make it worse.”
“Let her be the
judge of that.” And Lust slides off her bar-stool, licks her lipsticked lips
and saunters over to where the woman sits alone. Heads turn.
“Mind if I join
The woman glances up
from her beer, gestures to the vacant chair and goes back to gazing into the
glass in front of her.
Lust arranges her
long, shapely legs to their best advantage. She leans a little closer. “Nursing
a broken heart?”
“Is it that
“Let me see. You
haven’t slept for a week, you’re not eating properly, and you’ve been
living off beer and cigarettes.”
For the first time, the woman meets Lust’s black-rimmed eyes.
crying for days and you’ve wondered whether life’s worth living. You’ve
decided never to love again.”
The woman matches
better than that,” says Lust.
“Do I now?”
“I know what you
need,” says Lust. “You need to take your mind off things.”
“Really. And what
would you recommend?”
“As a matter of
But Lust is
interrupted by Love’s appearance at the table.
going to introduce me to your friend,” asks Love, ignoring Lust’s scowl. She
smiles at the woman and sets down her lemonade on the table.
The woman extends
her hand. “Alex,” she says.
Love presses her
hand warmly and looks directly into Alex’s eyes. “You look so sad. I know
what you’re going through. You need someone to take care of you.”
“Honey, I could
take care of her just fine,” says Lust, rising to the competition. “A few
hours with me and Alex will forget she was ever in love at all.”
“Leave her alone.
She needs looking after. I could make a home for her, give her a safe place to
hide until her heart mends.”
want to hide. She wants a bit of excitement, a thrill. I can help her to gather
the energy she needs to get past this unhappiness.”
Alex looks from one
to the other, bemused. “Just who exactly are you two?” she asks.
Love clasps her
hands together and gazes into middle distance. “I am all that is noble about
humanity,” she begins. “I am forgiveness and compassion. I am the hand that
reaches out to help another. I am the voice that soothes and comforts. I am
kindness. I have no boundaries. Not time, not distance, not difference can limit
me. I cannot be destroyed; I can only grow and deepen. I endure.”
“Oh, please. Spare
us the theatrics!” says Lust.
“As I was saying,
I endure. I am the bedrock of all human relationships, the foundation of
community. Whereas you, Lust—you deal only in appearances, fleeting moments of
empty indulgence. There is no purpose, nothing lasting in what you do.”
Lust has had enough.
“Life is meant to be lived. We live to feel, we live to act. Life should be
fun, it should be dynamic. Who but me gives the sweet joy of craving, the
gratification of bodily desires. I am stimulation, titillation, sensuality. I am
forbidden, I am danger. And I am as much an integral part of the human condition
as you are.” She runs sensual fingers through her glossy hair.
more than an hour in a spa pool with your neighbor’s wife. You’re a wet
dream, a fleeting fantasy. You’re just a poor imitation of me.”
“Me? Imitate you?”
Lust crosses her shapely legs. “Why on earth would I want to?”
And then Love
notices that Alex has left. “You’ve driven her away.”
“The lady wants to
be alone. Looks like we both missed out this time.” Lust smiles, teasing.
“I could have
helped her. Nothing means anything to you. You’re so shallow.”
Lust is unperturbed.
“Oh, really? I’m so base, and you’re so superior. Better shallow than
Love softens. “I
don’t really think I’m better than you. It’s just that you’re so ... so—”
Lecherous? Lewd? How about licentious? Libidinous?”
Lust looks down at
her empty cocktail glass. “It’s just you and me then,” she says. When she
looks up, her eyes are glistening. She reaches over and runs her finger down
Love’s cheek. “We need each other,” she says. “We’re more together
than we are apart.”
Love catches her
hand and presses it to her face. “We’re not really so different,” she
says. “I can heal you.”
Lust smiles her
wicked smile and slips an arm around Love’s yielding waist. “Of course you
can, my dear.”