Mickey and Sylvia (did they even have last names?) said it all in their big '50s chartbuster, "Love Is Strange."
That's it, right there: Love is Strange.
It's blind, but it will find a way to make the world go around, and at first sight, too. Stange.
It supports an entire industry composed of fortune-tellers, bartenders, desk clerks, Las Vegas ministers of the non-denominational faith, psychiatrists and piano players sitting behind brandy snifters stuffed with dollar bills.
Puppy love. Calf love. We love not wisely but too well and all is fair . . . and leave 'em. . . .
Researchers at Johns Hopkins and the Universities of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Bridgeport have recently published scholarly dissertations on love. Previous researchers include Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Verdi . . . why even bother to finish the list?
Except to say, as these tales prove, that it might as well end with Mickey and Sylvia, whose names will live forever -- unlike some of the following, which have been changed, along with certain identifying details. To protect whatever remmants of privacy love leaves behind. Love is strange.
I write this marooned on Deck C in the Library of Congress. All around me, at desks heaped with books, each book slivered with bookmarks, sit scholar-researchers of the Library of Congress. Every morning they come, toodling along in berets, lugging avocados and clunky briefcases, to do definitive research on black ants, aborigines, atom bombs. There are 236 study desks here and maybe 400 scholars.
The elderly gentlemen next to me has been here since '59. He's a little vague on his subject, but I think it has to do with Woodrow Wilson being a blunderer and a cad. He has a Sherlock Holmes reading glass and a portable alarm clock and a jaunty smile. He shows up like sunrise.
So who would guess love could blossom here, amid these dim corridors and painted-over heating ducts? Well, it has and it does. There is a history of romance among readers at the Library of Congress, not all of it licit. Who knows: Maybe it has to do with the snug, sensuous feel of all that knowledge everywhere about.
They tell here of a woman descended of Puritan pioneers, who came to Washington to work on a doctoral dissertation, found herself next to a coppery hunk from the South Seas, swooned at his war chants and impromptu knife dances and ended up running off with him to Samoa. She's there now, reportedly, with six kids. She even wrote a book about it, "my Samoan Chief," not among the library's most requested tomes.
Sometimes, love in the stacks has gone awry. In 1907, two Marines from the Marine Barracks on Capitol Hill were ejected from the library for making time with high-school girls. A fragile, three-inch volume in the archives details this. You could look it up. I did. There are depositions from witnesses ("The corporal was persistent in following various girls from seat to seat, leering in their faces"), letters from the Secretary of the Navy, newspapers clippings ("Mashers in Public Buildings"). The matter went all the way to the president, Teddy Roosevelt, before it was closed.
The only similar case in modern times had to do with a local geologist who learned the hard way about a woman scorned. He occupied a desk near a lissome reader, fell for her like King Kong. His wife, or girlfriend (details are obscured), got wind and dumped a boiling cup of coffee on his baby-bald pate. He had to be taken to George Washington Hospital in a rush.
Me, I'm just here studying celibacy and the priesthood.