How I Found “The One”

I went to college at the University of Iowa, and I wanted a girlfriend, but not just a beauty. I wanted one with a special kind of heart, someone who was less about self and more about love.

I recall sussing out women. First see them, observe—oh, she’s pretty—get around, chat with them, and then—nope, not her. Blather. Finger-nail speak. Eyes on the mirror, cosmetic mentality. Sure I like pretty, but not pretty self-obsessed.

This happened so many, many times. I thought I’d never find ‘the one.’

Beautiful, but with heart. Those two almost seemed separate

But then I found Susie. Oddly enough—in juxtaposition to the above—it was her beauty that first drew me, but more than a draw—an explosion. Standing with my friend Gary in the granite doorstep of a University building, I saw her walking by. I stopped, stared, stunned, heart-struck. I turned to Gary, referenced towards her with a nod of the head and said, ‘That one’s mine”

He said “Actually, I know her, and no, she won’t be yours—she has a boyfriend.”

I was instantly enamored. Beautiful face, crystal blue eyes, thin lips, cheerful open smile that hinted of a lovely heart—blue jeans walking in a way that wouldn’t quit…

I couldn’t get her off my mind—but I was too shy to call her. Isn’t that sad? Fortunately, word got out, someone told her I liked her—and she called me!

The first real time we spent together was a party that led to a long weekend, a very long weekend, during which we spoke non-stop for like 48 hours. I don’t recall specifically what we talked, but it was a meeting of the hearts, a melding of the minds.

At the end of the long weekend, we were inseparable. This was sophomore year. Memories so spotty. I do recall writing all night on my old clackety typewriter while she slept. Dawn’s twilight, the chirping of the birds was my call to go to bed.


I loved her. And yet…we fought a lot that first year. There was friction. We were at odds. There was jealousy. I don’t recall what about. But at year’s end, it was time for me to go, to spend my junior year abroad in Paris. I was ready to go, happy to go, glad to get away, ready to adventure, to plunge.

I remember the long dark flight overnight, the red dawn sky as we approached Charles de Gaulle airport. Soldiers in the airport holding machine guns! What?? A shuttle van to 61 Rue Madame. The woman who hosted us saying, in English: this is the last time you will hear me speak english. From here forward, we only speak french. I bought in.

For September, October, November, December I studied Paris—attended classes at the Sorbonne, walked the streets of Paris, through the formal Luxembourg gardens with trees lined in symmetry like rows of corn in Iowa; statues in the paths, fountains. The clouds and rains of winter cast gray streets scratchy with sand. Cafes on the corners, porches enclosed by glass windows, steamed up and humming. In the cafes, artists next to businessmen next to lovers next to singles sipping espressos, served by waiters, bent at the hip, ‘monsieur?’

I was a kind of lonely but I loved it. Art museums, church of Notre Dame on Tuesdays when the organist practiced, long walks, classes at the Sorbonne, playing guitar, busking in the metro subways earning francs. Bohemian.

I didn’t really miss her until she came for Christmas to visit. Or maybe it was I didn’t realize I’d missed her…but when I saw her, those china blue eyes, heartfelt smile, light-hearted joy, adventurous beauty—wow! my missing piece arrived and slotted into place.

We had a wonderful time, so much fun, adventures yes, but the joy was not the tourism, the joy was in each other. Just being together, enjoying each other, deeply fulfilling. The absence I hadn’t noticed was fulfilled in her presence.

When she left to go back home, depression set in. I collapsed. My God, I love her. I do not want to exist without her. Now the city ached with loneliness, isolation and gray despair. Each person an outcast, separate and uncaring, stone cold alabaster women stared icily without expression. I stared back, not caring. The statues were dead, the garden barren. Each day a morose, long drawn obligation.

Springtime came, but it seemed distant, disconnected. It bloomed for others. My heart was wounded still, and felt incomplete, until finally, returning home, back in the US, we reunited.

We’ve been together ever since. We’re a couple of old geese now, we know our ways, we share jokes and looks that convey secrets of mysteries & experiences long shared. And we laugh a lot. I love her now more than ever, a deeper love, more deeply rooted and inter-woven. God please don’t let her die before me. I hope we live a long, long time, and then die quietly together in our sleep. If she dies before me, I’ll collapse in a corner, smoke cigarettes and drink myself to death. Which is not good.

Life without Susie would be like that winter in Paris. I never want to do that again.

Dirk Mullenger

Raised in NY, college at University of Iowa, year abroad in Paris. Tight with my wife and 4 children. Business, writer, guitarist, skier, drives a convertible. One person’s hindsight is another person’s foresight.

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6 Discussion to this post

  1. Anonymous says:

    One of the best ways I’ve read describing love

  2. Wife, lover, friend says:

    You made me cry….thank you for the love letter.
    And yes, you would collapse into cigarettes and bad food. So I’ll just have to grow old with you!

  3. Anonymous says:

    Beautifully written-Describing love in its simplicity and seemingly obscure details makes it all the more powerful.

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