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OBSERVATIONS

The Physics of Love

Quantum leap of fate: Here’s one happy couple that beat the odds

This is a true story. The names have been changed so I won’t get punched by my friends. And don’t worry … this is a love story, perfect for Valentine’s Day.

But it starts with a short burst of quantum physics, a nutty world in which they talk about something called quantum entanglement. What that means is basically something can happen over here, and something else will happen over there, simultaneously with no real reason or explanation.

Physicists discovered this by separating twin photons and isolating them from each other.

Whatever they did to one of the twins happened simultaneously to the other without regard to space or time. (This is officially known as Bell’s Theorem, named for the scientist who first performed the experiment.)

So those of you who think that the universe is a chaotic mess, and we just stumble around until we die, you’d better listen up.

After a bad divorce, my friend Chris had been single for two years. Like a lot of middle-aged singles, she was getting bored. Not to say desperate. She’s not a bar person. She doesn’t join clubs. And all the men she flirted with at the grocery store turned out to be married.

Chris spends a lot of time on the Internet. So I guess it was inevitable that she’d eventually get up the nerve to try one of those online dating services.

Here’s how the story goes: She chooses just about the safest one she can find. She posts her inquiry with her description and then screens all the replies from potential suitors. Then she writes back, still anonymously, to anyone who strikes a spark.

If you’re single and computer savvy, you probably already know what I’m talking about. If you’re married, like me, you make fun of people like Chris who think they can find true love from a cyberspace search. I’m her biggest critic:

“It’s dangerous! Anyway, people lie! Go back to the grocery store and hang out next to the magazine rack! You’ll meet somebody eventually!”

But Chris is stubbornly committed to giving it a shot. She lists her interests and attributes. To me, it sounds like every other personal ad you’ve ever read: “Looking for someone with a sense of humor who likes to take long walks in the park and doesn’t smoke. I like classical music and Lonesome Dove …” etc., etc.

As an afterthought she adds that she plays golf. Well, evidently “golf” is the magic word out there where middle-aged, single manhood roams wild and free. Chris receives over 200 responses. And almost all of them mention golf.

I guess a single woman golfer is a pretty desirable commodity for a certain kind of male. I’m talking about Golf Guy. I know Golf Guy. I am Golf Guy. I’m the married kind of Golf Guy, but the breed runs true.

Golf Guy would rather play golf than eat. Nothing can inflame his passions as much as the obsessive pursuit of the little white widow-maker.

The idea that somewhere out there is a woman who might understand and accept his compulsions excites him enough to turn off the Golf Channel and write an email to this mysterious Internet creature.

So there’s Chris trying to sort through 200 emails for somebody interesting enough to write back to. All of her friends, me included, are laughing at her: “Tell ’em what your handicap is Chris! Then maybe they’ll leave you alone!”

Actually, most of the letters are pretty lame. (There’s a reason these guys are single.) Chris only finds a handful that intrigue her at all.

But she screws her courage to the sticking place and writes back to the most promising Golf Guy, a divorced engineer who works for the city and is a bird-watcher. (Believe it or not, this is exactly the kind of guy that makes Chris’ heart go pitty-pat.) The guy’s name is Kerry, and he and Chris strike up a kind of shy and tentative email exchange that finally leads to the moment of truth: The First Date.

We all cluck around her like hens and tell her to choose a crowded, well-lit place. Poor Chris escapes our overweening clutches and goes out to meet the enemy.

Kerry turns out to be a quiet, earnest kind of guy with glasses and a sense of humor. He was the city amateur golf champion a few years ago. So the golf conversation gets them through the first half hour, and then they go on to Golden-cheeked Warblers for a while. He’s read Lonesome Dove.

Then Chris says, “I used to know a guy named Kerry in grade school. I had a big crush on him.”

“That’s funny,” Kerry says. “I had a crush on a girl named Chris. Where did you go to grade school?”

“Mathews Elementary over in Clarksville,” she replies.

“Wait a minute,” he says. “That’s where I went …”

What are the odds? Tell me again how everything is random?

Chris and Kerry have been together several years now. They go birding. They watch Lonesome Dove. And sometimes the Golf Channel. He gives her golf lessons, and her game has really improved. I think they’re truly in love.

So you might call it luck. Or coincidence. Or you could get all new age and call it synchronicity. But me, I call it physics. Sometimes the twin photons will just do their thing.

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Actor and writer Marco Perella lives in Austin.