Mulder sat on the floor, the fated book in his hand. His finger traced the length of the crumbling spine, softly cracked and weakened form years of reading. He felt the pages crinkle as he turned them again, seeing in his mind's eye the tears fall from her cheeks, captured in the paper sat in her lap.
Verse after verse, stanza after stanza, he read them all for the millionth time, wondering how far back in time the roots of these thoughts were buried. They seemed endless, not bound by time, fitting to every instance of their relationship he could recall, even to a time when they had only been friends. Had she always felt so alone? Is that still how she feels? A dozen and more thoughts and notes littered the pages, some so tightly bound in metaphor, he was hopeless to decipher them. He wondered if she had felt scared to write them at all.
What kind of man must he have been all those years ago? He remembered feeling so alone, pushing her so far to see if she would return for him. He wanted her to return, to save him; he wanted to be wanted. The pattern continued as a routine until he forgot that he was someone who needed saving, who wanted her, instead, pushing the boat farther out to sea. So raptured was he in his own melancholic pattern, he missed her signs of a similar, insufferable illness. Not only did he need and want her; he was needed, wanted and he didn't return for her. Then it became too painful for her to row out after him, where the waves were rolling higher and seas fairing rougher. He had pushed her too far, himself out of reach.
Standing after what felt like hours, aching and stiff, he scouted out a pen of his own. Walking towards his office, so loved and so loathed, he left the little book on a cabinet outside. It felt wrong to take her with him into his hiding place, even as a small symbolic piece of bound paper. He felt embarrassed, guilty, to show her the extent of his tortured mind, worried of what it would do to her a second time. It was a place he had locked up and pushed away. The scattered parchments and clippings were eerily still, like piles of dead bodies, lifeless under three years of dust.
Retreating to the sanctity of the living room with a pen and picking up the book, he sat on the floor with his back to the couch. He turned to the back cover, the very last page and then turned the book upside down. Now facing him was a blank space with so many possibilities, untainted with tears and ink, thoughts scratched through and soaked. The freshness was a novelty he almost didn't want to ruin, but here on the new first page, he wrote:
I think I shall write as if am truly speaking to you. We never really did that, did we? We thought we could understand each other without a single utterance but that has only left me here on this last page.
This last-first page feels fresh even though it is recycled, still carrying old memories I think we'd both rather forget. It still pains me to this day to think that you could not confide in me, that I was even the reason for your solitude so that the only ears that would listen were the deaf ones made of paper.
At the time, when I first read this, I was lost to myself and from you. I hate the man I was, but I hate more that I couldn't see it.
When I first fell in love with you, and I did, let there be no mistake of that, your smile was the only life I needed. It seems rosy when I write it like that, don't you think? You are my oxygen, my water, my food, my shelter. Maslow got it wrong; at the base of his pyramid, there should have been an inscription saying 'Scully'. It hurts to love you because I love you so much, I need you and I can never get enough of you.
He hesitated, unsure if it was too much; if he would push her away further with something she didn't want to hear. Ink splattered the page in tiny forms as he tapped his pen on the paper, thinking. He decided to continue in his honesty– if only to get it off his chest. She didn't have to see it anyway.
As each day passed, we grew as people and as a partnership and I found myself staring over the edge of the cliff, willing to fall over and over again, head over heels, just that little bit further in love with you.
Making you laugh was my favourite thing to do in the world, not only to see you happy but on some selfish level, to know that I did it– I put that grin there. I was of some value in your life, because I made you laugh.
My biggest downfall was trying to protect you. I thought that by not telling you the truth I could save your smile. I am sorry, Scully. I think that was the base of the problem, everything else afterwards is a mess of things that I can't remember because my heart hurts too much and my brain won't give me access to psychoanalyse everything all over again.
He squeezed his eyes shut, holding back the flood, and remembered what Sveta had made him realise: his whole reason for starting this conversation, to tell Scully the truth, especially about the lies.
I do realise now though that you may think I blame you for giving William up for adoption: I don't. I could never.
Writing his name, saying it aloud, felt so alien when his son had only existed in his memories. Painful as it was, William deserved a life not locked in the past never to be uttered, he deserved to be called by name.
I have said things in the past that were blatant lies because I was angry and hurt and I didn't know how to handle it. I regret everything about that night– was instantly regretful of everything at the time– but I was too stubborn to seek you out and tell you so. I hurt you in many ways, all of which make me nauseous and I don't ever expect you to forgive. And I don't think you should.
I have let you believe the worst. I am sorry. But I need to tell you in no way were the things I said ever truthful. Knowing how much he meant to me, I can only imagine the pain you had to endure to keep our child safe. I regret that I wasn't there when you needed it most. Then and now.
I don't know if it is wisdom or tiredness in old age that tells me I don't have the strength to hold on. I feel that to survive I must let go, but I don't want to. Survival is nothing if I forget the life I have lived. I don't want to let go of William, nor of you.
Loving you, it feels like the purest, most saturated thing I have ever known. When I said it hurts me, that's not entirely true. Every moment in your presence, I am alive and in contrast, I think you can work out the rest. But that doesn't mean I stop loving you when you leave. Perhaps it's worse than that. I think I love you more because I am reminded of what I don't have. And maybe I latched onto that strong feeling in my time of darkness. Maybe that's why I pushed you away when we both needed each other.
He stopped, sighing. Wallowing in his own self-pity had not been his intention.
What I am saying is, I have spent years trying to work out what I did wrong and I don't know if it has helped at all. I have read the notes you left for me in here a million times over and I am sorry, truly. I didn't notice the love you wrote about, how desperately you were trying to reach out to me when I pushed you away. I didn't notice that the pages you had written on are the only ones crinkled. I think that is the saddest, deepest truth I have ever known.
And now I am writing a note for you. All I know is that I love you and I will make sure that every day both you and I don't forget that.
Mulder sat still for a while, not wishing to hang up the pen and sign off the conversation. It was cathartic seeing the pen inscribe each letter, each of them crawling across the page like a symbol of progress. But now that it was over and the pen had stopped scribbling, there was something that made his stomach churn. Facing his daemons made his head spin, his guts climb up his throat. He wanted to simultaneously crawl inside himself and hide whilst running away.
He was second-guessing himself, poised to rip out his confession. Wasn't it pathetic to write a message with no intention of sending it? Wouldn't it just sit and fester at the back of the book and in the corner of his mind? Should he even be trying to reach out to Scully? She had left for better or for worse. Wasn't that what she wanted?
Was this how she felt when she wrote these things to him?
A droplet fell onto the page, soaking into its fabric and taking his words with it. The ink bled through, misting the sentiment and letting rivers trickle down the paper.
Mulder turned the crying page, looking back over Scully's written hand, slow drops falling on every other page. He realised the first entry had been amended, written in tears of ink and covered in strokes of biro. He flicked back through, the familiar shapes reappearing with new meaning as the same mistake was not made twice. The warmth of her flowing cursive was offset by the callous nature of hard biro lines, no fluctuation or emotion to the shapes. They are as they are. Nothing special. But they are learned– learned not to spoil meaning with lamenting tears.
He closed the book, sandwiching his thoughts between the pages, and hid it back under the coffee table where it belonged. He sat back against the couch, wondering, as she had done, if there was ever going to be light at the end of the tunnel.