One of your writers recently asked my opinion of the celebration of February the fourteenth, a holiday that uses the Christian superstition of “Saint” Valentine as a vehicle for the expression of our most despicable urges: doting upon those with whom we find ourselves in the pitiful waltz we call “love.”
Yet what is it, this sentimental swill, this love? What is this business — and I tell you with a sober mind that it is anything but — of surrendering one’s will to another? How wretched a man’s station that he should aspire to such things! No, love offers only the enslavement of the mind and the debasement of dignity. The melody she hums so sweetly in the ear is but the swan song of man’s freedom.
But do not think me a cold man — merely a rational one. Do not think me some weeping, forlorn creature wasting away in his solitude, for I have felt in my chest the sweet intoxication of the windswept heart. I too was once a young man, a weak man, seduced and entrapped by love. Yes, I had cavorted with many of the fairer sex, reducing them to a puddle with my witticisms and anecdotes as their men shot me angry scowls — inferior men, envious of those qualities they would never possess. For all my petty dalliances I found myself in want; no fawning damsel could whet my appetite — that is, until I met Doris. She had the intellect and ruthless ambition of a woman of business, complemented by her proud, distinguished face and supple curves that could tickle the senses of even the most frigid man. I decided that I would make her mine. I had laid waste to the industrial empires of lesser minds, my vast power had bent the will of trembling bureaucrats, but never had I truly dominated a woman; never had I felt an impulse so powerful, so primal and overwhelming. “Yes,” I thought, “This must be love!” You would have stood in awe at the skill with which I courted her, the effortless grace with which I slithered my way into her fluttering heart and made her my unwitting marionette. We spend long afternoons strolling the corridors of my majestic city, evenings enjoying the finest delicacies of the Kashmir Restaurant, and nights engaged in the most wondrous of earthly passions. I would speak endlessly of her immaculate beauty and my heart’s yearning to make her mine forever, listening to her breathless sighs and silently chuckling at the knowledge that with every empty romantic flourish — every poetic word or tender kiss — I was bringing her one step closer to my goal: binding her to a contract by which she would belong to me. Indeed, only a few weeks later we found ourselves standing before the altar. Never have you seen a man so enraptured by such a ridiculous ritual, ensuring with the simple words “I do” the realization of my greatest exploit — but in the end, it was a hollow victory. For all this most impressive of conquests, I found myself weary of her presence as the years wore on. Resentment grew in my heart at this woman, this parasite, with her so many dainty kisses and inane pillow talk — “Hold me, Andrew” and “Tell me you love me, dearest” — her appetite for the material sapping my vast fortune. This shameless little harpy chirping incessantly about the latest performance at Fort Frolic, or crowing about how I was too busy with my business ventures to shower her with the affection to which she felt so entitled.
It was Valentine’s Day that wore my last nerve: She had chided me for not getting her a gift. I pondered her words. “What have you done to earn it?” I asked. Her face beamed something painful, and her tone turned hard and caustic. “You agreed to this arrangement! You signed a contract!” I could scarcely contain the chuckle forming in my throat. “A contract? Yes, surely I did, however foolish I may have been to do so; but every contract is annulable. Let me ask you, my ‘dearest,’ does a contract not lie on the foundation of mutual benefit? Should a man find himself dissatisfied with the terms, is he forever bound to them? No! A man always has recourse; he has the freedom to choose — to realign the path of his endeavors with his own self-interest — and I have chosen to abandon this most fruitless enterprise.” Tears welled up in her eyes. “But Andrew,” She pleaded, “Am I of no worth? Does my mind not stimulate your own, my heart not spirit you to the transcendent, and my body not provide you with carnal pleasure? Have I nothing to offer you, Andrew?” I boomed a gale of laughter. “What benefit can you still provide me?” I hissed. “Complacency has left you a contemptible dullard, sloth has sapped your ambition, and your features, once vibrant and alluring, now droop lazily off your aged figure. No, my dear, I’m afraid your particular commodity finds its value rather less than the cost of its upkeep. Good day.” We filed for divorce soon thereafter. In the settlement she demanded half (I mean no jest, half!) of my fortune, the material accumulation of my life’s work! However she was not so clever, and in her girlish trance had forgotten that my painstakingly-conceived contract had included a clause denying her even the most paltry scrap of my empire. I tell you, I positively skipped from the courthouse like a man freed from the bondage of his sentence, liberating myself from the shackles of my obligation, my miserable condition; bidding adieu with one caustic “Ha!” to love and her trappings, choosing instead the path of the single man — the free man.