Desperately Seeking Denise

He met her one night in a bar. He tattooed her name on his arm. He's never seen her again.

He had just moved his mother--the most important woman in his life, the woman he'd lived with his entire life--into a nursing home, and he'd recently had his heart broken by a woman he calls "a flirt who played a game with me." His dad died 20 years ago. He's "never been intimate with anybody," but when she kissed him on the night of February 28, 2004, he fell in love with her "on the spot."

The Minnesota Music Café, on the East Side. That's where 46-year-old St. Paul native Kevin Kupferschmidt met a woman he knows only as "Denise." She had brown hair and "a great shape." She wore slipper shoes. He remembers as much because he watched her feet as she danced in front of him. He thinks she looks a little like an actress from The Gilmore Girls, a photo of which he downloaded and looks at constantly on his cell phone.

She was celebrating her 44th birthday, but feeling bad about getting older. He is, he says, "a caring person" and he cheered her up by saying she has a pretty face and looks 10 years younger. She gave him "the sweetest kiss I've ever had in my life." She asked what he did for a living, which "showed she cared." She took him by the hand, led him out onto the dance floor, and taught him how to dance.

"It was the most fun I've ever had dancing," Kevin says, sitting in the office of the silent grade-school gymnasium where he works nights, surrounded by volleyballs, basketballs, gym equipment, and team schedules. He's wearing a shabby sweatshirt with "Roseville" on the front, tennis shoes, and turtle shell-frame glasses. His words come out of him slowly, lacquered by a nervous, protective laugh.

His ex-roommate Barry had something to do with that night. Barry told Denise that Kevin was lonely and that he needed someone. Kevin gave her a rose, on Barry's suggestion. He called her "a sweetheart," because she was so "caring and loving." Sweetheart. She liked that.

He talked to her for 15 minutes. She hugged him four times. She kissed him three more times. The third was the charm. She looked into his eyes "romantically," he says, and he knew "it was meant to be" and that "she was the love of my life."

He gave her his business card--he teaches tennis and works for the park and recreation system in Roseville--and she sprayed him with her perfume and said, "this is something to remember me by." As she left the bar, she told him she had a boyfriend. He touched her shoulder, "to thank her and let her know I had a good time."

Kevin told his mother about her, and gave his mother two of the hugs and kisses Denise gave him. He wanted his mother to feel the love that had transpired between them. His mother had always wanted him to get married and have kids, but that never happened. "She was a wonderful mom," he says. "She did a lot of great things for people. She was a great cook, too." His mother died the week after he met Denise.

He placed his first ad in the "I Saw You" section of the City Pages classified ads a few days later. "Hi, Denise. It's Kevin. Met at Minnesota Music on 2-28-04, great night! Gave you a rose, you taught me to dance. We had some romance. Please call to talk. Denise, you're sweet, can we again meet?"

He heard nothing. He has placed a version of his ad in every issue of City Pages every week ever since. Two years, over one hundred ads, to the tune of $1,500. Last week it ran in the "Message Center" category. "Denise: Miss you. Sweetheart...love you true, only took one tender kiss, touch, yeah, miss sweet kiss, company much, what's phone? Keep in touch, MMC 2-28-04, dance, talk, more? Kevin is lonely, need you only, much."

He thinks about her every day. He looks for her at bowling alleys, coffee shops, anywhere people gather. He thought he saw her at Pappy's in Stillwater one night, but it wasn't her. He saw a brunette at the Minnesota Music Café another night, approached her, and asked her what her name was. She wouldn't say. She was drunk and ran out the door.

He doesn't think he's "a stalker," because these days, the object of his obsession can only be found in his mind. Kevin doesn't talk to anybody about her anymore, because nobody understands. They don't understand how a love like that can happen, how he can't forget her, how she came into his heart that night to stay.

He used to talk to Barry about her, but not anymore, "because Barry thinks I've lost it--ever since after I got the tattoo." He got the tattoo on his upper arm a year ago in Lake City: an etching of two hearts, the names "Kevin" and "Denise," and the words, "You're a sweetheart."

Kevin knows that eventually he'll have to move on. Not yet, though. He's talked to regulars at the Minnesota Music Café and they think she was from out of town. They've never seen her before or since. He's canvassed all the bikers at the bar about her. No one knows who she is. He has sent e-mails to the KS95 DJs about his search. One of the DJs read one of his e-mails on the air. No reply.

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