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 round, and at first sight, too. Strange.

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 remnants of privacy love leaves behind. Love is strange.

The salt water lapped close to her beach towel as the afternoon tide came higher. Eyes barely open, she stood up, and dragged the towel closer to the other sunbathers clustered in the late afternoon sun. Without her glasses, she had only a hazy view of the bemused man grinning at her escape from the approaching water. She smiled sheepishly, squinting for a better look, and he began talking -- in French.

Tired, she politely tried to answer quickly in English, but he spoke again in French -- do you speak English?

"Non," he answered cheerfully, shaking his head.

Who needs this? she thought. But then, it would be fun to practice a little French.

They talked. If he was from Paris, she asked, why wasn't he on the Riviera instead of in Acapulco?

The water, he said, at the Riviera was dirty -- you came out covered with, well, dirt.

They talked -- about his travels, and about her beleaguered bus trip from Mexico City to Acapulco -- and then it was time for her to leave. He said he would be at the same spot on the beach the next morning. She said she would look for him.

The next day, they walked up and down the beach and talked more. Her years of high-school French came flooding back. The talked of every thing they could put into words that each could understand -- their jobs, their suntan lotion, the water, the waves, Iran. ("C'est une situation tres complique . . .," they agreed. Movies, food. 'Hamburgers," he liked, especially with "Le check-up" . . .

She frowned and thought hard. Ketchup, she corrected.

They went dancing her last night there, and he looked awkward under the garish disco lights. She cut the dancing short.

The next day, they sat on the beach all morning -- in the water. Then with half an hour to go, she ran up to her room and packed everything to leave. She met him by the pool to say goodbye. He promised to write.

And he did.

Which gives this Valentine's Day story a much happier ending than the one I wrote for Style last year -- in which the boy promised to call the girl but, alas, never did. It also means that all the people who read last year's story (also in the third person) will no longer have to come up to me and ask, "Still waiting for that guy to call?"