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. Strange.
It supports an entire industry composed of fortune-tellers, bartenders, desk clerks, Las Vegas ministers of the non-demoninational 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, Tolstory, 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 remnants of privacy love leaves behind. Love is strange.
P. J. always seemed so happy. And well-dressed.
She lived with my friend David, even, and she was happy. She'd sit with him on the floor and get wrecked and listen to the Moody Blues and go out and march against the war in Vietnam.
But she never wore the clothes. David wandered around all ratty in field jacket and beard. P. J. went along in dress, stockings, her hair curled. As a college student in 1969, she was a one-woman best-dressed list -- earrings, the whole bit. David could've taken her home to mom without even dusting her off.
Except . . . there was a bit of an edge, a hint of swagger. Or maybe it was the way she narrowed her eyes and nodded so intensely while you talked to her, and then you realized she wasn't listening at all.
Then again, she always seemed to be saying: I know that you know that I know. She was lynx-eyed with blond hair, something comfortable about her, a kind of shared secret, as if you were backstage with her while the crowd was still applauding her performance.
When she broke up with my friend David, they stayed friends. Nobody stays friends when they break up, need we remind ourselves. But P. J. and David did. They'd see each other at parties, and she'd smile a smile that was maternal, almost patronizing.
After college, David would hear she was in cities like Dallas or Miami, slick, big-spender towns that no 22-year-old went to voluntarily in 1970. But she was modeling or being a fashion designer, David heard. David was driving a truck, a Euclid, one of those giant earthmovers. And he was still getting wrecked and dressing funky. He'd smile when he told me about P. J.
Which is not to say David wasn't surprised, the last time hew saw her. He was surprised, but he wasn't shocked. He just thought it was funny.
David answered the phone at a friend's house one night. The friend was selling a Jaguar, an XKE. "I didn't even recognize her voice till she left her name. I said: 'Hey, this is David!' She said far out, she'll meet me at my friend's house in an hour. She came over, she's looking fine, you remember the way she dressed. We're having a good old time. Then I hear this noise coming out of her purse, this beep-beep-beep. She says: 'I have to use the phone.'
"She makes her call, and grabs her coat. She says she's got an appointment downtown. I say: 'At 11 o'clock Saturday night?' She says, 'Outcall massage.'"
The clothes, Dallas, the swagger all those years: as David said, "That explains it all."