Mulder’s hand is clasped in mine as we wander the farmer’s market, but it’s only out of habit. His fingers are still and loose, having long ago stopped finding it necessary to map every crease and plane of my hand, to stop squeezing just to remind ourselves that we are together and that in itself is a miracle.
He’s stopped tugging on my arm and setting off in a run whenever he spots his favorite stand and buying styrofoam cups of hot cider and drinking them on the hood of the car with almost childlike glee. He’s stopped anchoring himself when I try to wander, tugging me back to him and pulling me into a slow dance to the sound of live bluegrass music.
If I let go now, I’m not sure he’d notice, especially not as much as he’d notice me reaching over and grabbing his phone from his other hand. The weather is crisp, the leaves are falling and painting Virginia in brilliant yellows and golds, and his eyes are glued to the blue light, refreshing and refreshing and reading and typing, forgetting the Earth for the mysteries above. Forgetting us for uf0l0vr24 and aliens_r_real.
“Mulder,” I prompt, and he responds only with a grunt of acknowledgement, finger still scrolling and scrolling. He looks up only as I jerk him to the side to avoid a vendor and then returns to his phone.
“What’s up, Scully?” He eventually mumbles when I don’t continue.
“It’s such a gorgeous day outside. Have you ever entertained the idea of trying to find life on this planet?” I tease, hoping he’ll understand, hoping to prompt even the slightest memory of the days where we used to talk, used to spend time together and actually concentrate on the other, used to hunt monsters and play baseball late at night in a move more romantic than anything he’s tried in years.
As always he knows his line, easily throwing back, “I have seen the life on this planet, Scully, and that is exactly why I am looking elsewhere,” without realizing that it’s a punch to the gut, that I thought he had found something worth staying here for. We are lost and I am trying and Mulder’s head is off in Mars.
I hand a vendor a five dollar bill in exchange for two cups of cider and Mulder takes his happily, dropping my hand instead of pocketing his phone.
“Mulder, can you please put that down for two minutes?” I groan, feeling more like I’m talking to a teenage patient than my husband.
“You’re the one that pulled me away from work, I need to keep up on this.”
I almost scoff at the mention of work, his obsessive delving into conspiracy theories and UFO sightings that never lead anywhere, as if everything we had learned meant nothing and it all boiled down to this simple pastime. As if we didn’t wake up each day wondering why it’s 2015 and they’ve yet to come, if maybe today will be the day. If maybe we should still be in the field fighting.
I huff and he finally looks at me. “Scully, this one is good. There was a sighting in Oregon, about fifty miles from Bellefleur, and within minutes the area was surrounded by what appeared to be government vehicles.”
“Are you going to go?” I ask, because he never goes anymore. He’s barely left the house in years, getting pulled further and further into a void and doing less and less
I could handle this if he was still moving forward, if he still clung to the truth like it was something he could find, if he still had fire in his eyes and believed he could save the world, if he would talk to me about why he longer does. Instead, he’s become just another anonymous has-been on a message board.
He doesn’t respond, only hands me his cup so he can use both hands to type a message.
If this was three years ago, he’d have told me how much he hated this song and insisted we stay another ten minutes to listen, he would have picked through barrels of apples to find the one that was perfect for lunch, he would have pet the chickens and pouted at me until I let him bring one home. He would have held me close, kissed me for probably a minute too long to be considered socially acceptable and said how happy he was that we’d found a home.
I place the cups down on the vendor’s table and sling my arms around his side, low on his waist, my head tucked under his neck. “Mulder,” I almost whine, because he doesn’t get that this isn’t working, that there is something here that is wrong. That it’s him and it’s us, and if he would be willing to remember us, we could help him.
“Scully, just give me a minute,” he sighs, exasperated.
I pull the keys out of his pocket and walk back to the car, sitting alone in the driver’s seat for ten minutes before he appears.
“When did you leave?” He asks, sliding into the passenger’s seat, sounding genuinely hurt.
Seventeen years ago, this man flew to Antarctica on a moment’s notice to find me, to carry me through what may or may not have been a spaceship into the tundra, and gave me half his clothes for warmth. For a moment, the idea is absurd, because I haven’t seen that Mulder in so long.
He disappears into his office the second we get home and I wander into the basement, to the corner where our suitcases have lain dormant for years. I start clearing away the pile of boxes surrounding them, brush off a layer of dust and pull them closer to the stairs. Easy access for when I can’t do this anymore. Maybe next weekend. That thought alone makes me want to vomit.
That night he curls himself behind me in bed, slipping a thigh between my knees, pulling my hand into his and kissing me just behind my ear, his beard scratching against my neck. “I love you,” he whispers, and kisses me again. It’s just enough for me draw out my other hand and cover his, to press his palm to my lips, to relax into his touch. It’s enough for me to think he may know we have to fix this too.