The Main Street ‘Don Juan’

Mark Sanchez – who recently received the Cultural Ambassador award at the 2nd Gibraltar Cultural Awards – has been writing about Gibraltar for the last fifteen years. In this period he has published novels, short stories, historical fiction, travelogues, family memoirs, books of essays, as well as shorter pieces for a range of different publications. He also been invited to speak about his books at different European universities and has seen his work discussed and lectured about by European and American academics.  Very soon he will be publishing Gooseman, his fourth full-length novel and thirteenth book on a Gibraltar-related subject. As part of the build-up to Gooseman’s release, we will be publishing a series of extracts from some of Mark’s fiction and non-fiction books.  Today we are publishing an extract from Solitude House, Sanchez’s second novel. Its protagonist and narrator is John Seracino, a sexist, womanising doctor who in the novel ends up getting a nasty comeuppance. In the passage below the devious and immoral Seracino explains the inspiration for his womanising methods:

The Main Street ‘Don Juan’

By M.G. Sanchez

For the first five or six weeks I got absolutely nowhere. I kept falling at the same old barriers, banging my head against the usual locked doors. Like a boxer who is persuaded against his better instincts to get back into the ring with an opponent who has previously thrashed him, I was being outclassed, outpointed, each and every one of my feeble attempts to land a punch being sidestepped by quick defensive footwork. Soon, however, by watching what was happening and taking mental notes, by analysing body language and trying to understand it in the light of what I already knew about womankind, I began to enjoy little trickles of success. Modest dribs and drabs of attention. A sloppy, vodka-flavoured kiss here. A cheeky, uncalled-for grope there. Meanwhile, I kept my eyes open and studiously observed those Gibraltarian guys who were, as the vulgar expression goes, raking the women in. What I learned during this period of observation was that there were essentially two types of Lothario operating in the Main Street bars. The first was what I call the ‘braggart maximus.’ Blunt and upfront, usually sporting a shirt open to his chest and a blow-dried bouffant, endowed, more often than not, with a deep-throated, stentorian voice à la Brian Blessed, the BM just talks about himself and his world, continually using hyperbole and deceit to transform the most mediocre and mundane of personal achievements into pinnacles of human ingenuity and endeavour. Most ladies stay away from him — indeed, they might even coin a derogatory nickname for him like ‘Mr Love Rat’ or ‘rompe cucos’ or some other such nonsense — but, humanity being what it is (i.e., a melting pot of infinite tastes and inclinations) there is also a percentage of women who, either because they can’t resist the sense of crackling energy which the guy exudes, or because they are too feeble-minded to see through his self-aggrandising embellishments, end up falling for his spiel. Jobless single mothers, wives who have just gone through a long and acrimonious divorce, women who have in the past (but not too recent past) suffered the trauma of bereavement. Vulnerable types, mainly. Lacking basic social and emotional confidence. The ‘braggart maximus’ casts around for these sorts of women and then launches himself on them, battering his targets with honeyed words, assaulting them with his verbal energy, knowing as he does that vulnerability is a type of human weakness that, once suitably worked upon, will open up a crack that will form into a tear that will turn into the gaping hole through which, all being well, he’ll worm his way into a woman’s bed.

The second type of Gibraltarian Lothario is a very different creature. I like to call him the ‘quiet transmitter of success’ or ‘QTS.’ Urbane and sophisticated, always dressed in the trendiest and most fashionable of clothes, bringing with him a powerful undertow of expensive Italian cologne, he walks around like some modern-day Buddha, dispensing charm and serenity to all those who come seeking his bounty. Unlike the ‘braggart maximus’, this man doesn’t need to talk about his achievements or his accomplishments. He doesn’t need to do this, of course, because in a small town like Gibraltar everybody is aware of how successful he is. Usually, he is a lawyer. Or an architect. Or the owner of a big successful company. He sits outside bars and cafes smiling and never saying much, revelling in his status as a small-town big shot. In his mind he sees himself as a lynchpin of Gibraltarian society, one of its principal working levers, an essential piece of machinery without which the whole sorry edifice would come tumbling down. Perhaps his opinion of himself is slightly overinflated, but he is surely right in believing that he is one of Gibraltar’s main players — there being very few people on the Rock who haven’t heard his name before. Because of this, he does not have to blow his own trumpet; he simply relaxes and sits back. Smiles beatifically. ‘Radiates’ his special QTS aura. Waits for the women to come to him. And what women generally approach our snazzily dressed QTS guy! Blue-eyed young secretaries, tender-thighed young lawyers, alluringly lipsticked primary school teachers, wayward and sexually liberated human resources managers….

After studying the two main types of Gibraltarian Don Juan, I knew what I was going to do. I was going to model myself on the second type. I think I had all the necessary attributes. I was relatively young, relatively good looking, could afford the trendiest and most fashionable clothes and, more important than all that, as a doctor I was quite well known in the local community. However, there were one or two things about the QTS that I didn’t particularly like. For a start, I hated all the smarminess. The sitting around acting like you were the Pope or the Queen Mother or some other permanently smiling celebrity who looks like they’re holding a melting suppository in their ass. That would definitely have to go. Also, I noticed that the ‘quiet transmitters of success’ were divided into two groups: those who remained quiet about their achievements until they were approached (and then started blathering on about themselves), and those who remained quiet even after their targets were standing there before them. Both sub-groups were very successful with the ladies, but I noticed that it was the second group, those who never ever bragged and remained tight-lipped about their achievements, who bagged the prettiest and most voluptuous lasses. Clearly, there was a moral to be learned from all this: it is good to be tight-lipped and unforthcoming in the run-up to a romantic conquest, but even better to remain so while performing the actual conquest itself. I think that’s the main tip, by the way, I’d give to any young would-be Lothario wanting to play the Gibraltarian dating field. Make sure you’re good at something, by all means. Take all the necessary steps to ensure that everybody in the community knows about you. It could be football, singing, tap-dancing, politics, stand-up comedy, God knows what — it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as you are in the public eye. But — and this is a big, big but — don’t ever succumb to the temptations of self-aggrandisement. Don’t go around boasting about that viciously curled free-kick you scored at the Victoria Stadium two nights ago, say, or the last speech you gave at the House of Assembly on Friday afternoon. No, keep all that to yourself. Hardly make reference to it. In fact, even when women approach you (for being the well-known personage that you are, they will approach you sooner or later), don’t talk about your field of expertise. Pretend that it is a matter of no consequence. Talk about sweet nothings instead. The beauty of the moon. The radiance of the stars. The pleasantly floral bouquet coming from your glass of South African chardonnay. The horribly depressing permanence of ‘el Levante.’ Take it from me: there is nothing a woman loves so much as a successful man who doesn’t take himself seriously. If you can turn yourself into that man — if you can at least pretend to be him for an hour or two — you will have the darling angels feeding from the palm of your hand.