I should have known that it would happen, but there was no way I could have circumvented this. In the beginning, there was no reason to tell you. By the time you should have already known, I could never have withstood your disapproval or misunderstanding, so I didn't risk it. Where are the words? I still don't have them.
It was a long time ago. I was young. We were young. But it was not a mistake. Scully, you have to believe it was no mistake.
You found the Brooklyn University alumni letter in the office mail Friday. I don't know why they sent one now. Maybe they just finally found me. Then you used the office computer to look up my school records - didn't even bother to cover your tracks. Were you expecting what you found?
Now you're going to find out the rest on your own. I just hope you understand. If you can't forgive me I don't know if I can forgive you. it was not a mistake. It was four years of my life. Four really good years. It was love.
I remember we were on your couch, your soft little head WAS on my chest, my hands slipped comfortably under your shirt to feel your ribs rise and fall. You were focusing on some fashion horse-shit on the All-Estrogen-All-The-Time Channel.
It's only been two months. We've only been sleeping together two months.
Your words were an emotional sucker punch.
"Why aren't you attracted to black women Mulder?"
"Huh?" I floundered.
"Really, Mulder, I've always wondered. It's like they fly right under your radar "
It was all I could do not to go into cardiac arrest. "Don't go there, Scully."
I should have told you the whole pathetic story on the spot. At this very moment, you are finding it out for yourself.
I'm writing to fill any gaps in what you discover. It's better than telling you out loud; this way, if I stick my foot in my mouth, I can just hit the delete key. That is, if I can bear to reread this when it's finished.
This is the story of young geek love, so it begins, very appropriately, in a library. The Boston Public library, in fact. Young Fox Mulder, also known as The Thorn in Mrs. Mulder's Side, had been sent to spend the summer in the bosom of the Matheson family, not unlike the four previous summers. This time, however, The Boy had graduated from high school and inconveniently neglected to reach his majority, so he was slated to remain with the Mathesons until after the winter holidays, at which time he could be shipped out of the country to Oxford. It wasn't that inconvenient, actually - The Boy had mastered the art of not wearing out his welcome. He budgeted the funds his father had given him wisely, and divided his days between games of pick-up basketball in any one of a number of parks and the public library.
He met The Girl at the Library. She, being six feet tall, highly freckled, red-haired, and black, was pretty hard to miss.
I can hear you now, saying, "You mean African American, Mulder?" But she said 'black,' so I say 'black'; anyone else can be what ever they want, but light as she was, my wife was black.
You see, Scully, the geeky, sheltered, unloved boy married the geeky, sheltered, overloved girl.
Sheltered, oh god, that doesn't even begin to cover it. You'd think her parents were raising a veal, not a daughter. But I get ahead of myself.
It wasn't love at first sight; The Boy just noticed The Girl right away, because she was hard not to notice and because she was there every day. She didn't wear any make-up, but her hair was straightened and held captive in a prim bun at the back of her head. The unfreckled portions of her skin were about the same color as The Boy's. Her posture was excellent. For about three weeks, their interaction was restricted to furtive eye contact. See Scully, I've always been slow with girls I really like.
One rainy day, The Boy was forced to miss his basketball game and had a lot of time to think about The Girl. That same day, The Boy just happened to be wearing a shirt with a collar and, as luck would have it, when The Girl arrived, so was she. In his infinite brilliance, it occurred to The Boy that he might use this to his advantage. He turned his collar up - very James Dean, very cool - and if The Girl did not respond, he could pretend it had nothing to do with her. Imagine his joy, his overwhelming glee, when The Girl smiled and very deliberately turned up her collar as well. I think I tripped at least three times trying to get to her table.
For another month, we just talked passionately about everything. Before you, I think she was the smartest woman I'd ever met. We had a lot in common: her father was a professor of American History and my father had taught American history after Sam was taken; her mother, like my father, worried that her inheritance was more attractive than she was; we both went to private schools; we both had maids who were forbidden to clean our rooms; we both had been forced into ballroom dancing lessons.
If it hadn't been for the whole race thing, I think both our families would have been very pleased. They were, in most ways, what my mother referred to as 'our kind,' and she didn't mean Jewish. You, as a doctor, know that race is entirely a human construct, that it has no basis in biology, no basis in science. It's just an abstract concept, like the money that meant so much to both our parents.
She was beautiful. Really beautiful, like you. She had these long almond-shaped eyes, a high serious forehead, a small straight nose - 'my Cochise nose', she would say. She loved westerns and we watched a lot of reruns in four years. Her mouth. Oh god, her mouth. It was beautiful, perfect - full, without being too big, - and red, so red. Her cheeks, her chin, everything was very forward projected. She had this long neck. Everything about her looked proud. She was like you that way, too.
I enlisted Chrissy Matheson in my nefarious ploy. She wouldn't be allowed to talk to me if I called, so Chrissy would call for me, then hang up when her mother dropped the extension. I tried to out-and-out date her, but all the adults involved declared our interest in each other to be infatuation with the exotic. She was a lot of things to me, but never exotic - you're a lot more exotic than she ever thought about being. I was still a few weeks shy of 18 and while she was a whopping three months my senior, any claim of adulthood on her part would have been laughable.
We had never even done more than kiss. Jesus, I had never even gotten to second base. But I remember the day I knew I had to marry her.
It was September. Like a puppy, I had shifted the routine of my days to follow her as she started her freshman term at Boston University. I spent hours reading and dribbling on the Sidewalk so I could catch a few minutes with her in between classes.
She took ballet lessons and I went out of my way to go to her recital. She and a dozen other girls did a piece from 'Giselle'. I tried to hide in the crowd, but she spotted me. It was the collar-incident all over again - we made eye contact and her face lit up. No one has ever been so happy to see me in my entire life, Scully.
On the day after the ballet recital, September 29, I proposed. She accepted. We spent two weeks consolidating every penny we could scrape up - I even sold my car. You know it had to have been true love because only true love or atomic holocaust can separate a seventeen year old boy from his convertible. On my 18th birthday, we took the train to New York, applied for a marriage license, and lost our virginity. Yep - all that, and we couldn't wait two weeks and do it on our wedding night.
At first, our sex was pretty comedic. I, at least, had about a half dozen heavy petting sessions under my belt; I, at least, had spent more than my share of time studying my father's Playboys. On the other hand, mine was the first penis she'd ever seen that hadn't been marble.
We had a classical sexual education; we got it all from books. Henry Miller, D.H. Lawrence, Anais Nin, the various Japanese pillow books, Satyricon, The Carnal Prayer Mat. I'm willing to bet you didn't know the Kama Sutra has a chapter about teaching parrots to speak.
We'd read it, then we tried it all out. Well, not the parrot part. She always used the language she found in those books: fellatio, cunnilingus. She liked the classical Roman names for all the positions. 'The Racehorse' was her favorite, but then she liked the Chinese, too - 'The Wounded Tiger On The Willowy Path', 'An Iridescent Cloud Being Blown By A Westerly Wind.' Don't laugh, Scully; those really are the names.
In about six months, we were pretty far from comedic.
I remember fucking her. Her body was more like mine than yours. She had absolutely no tits, long legs and narrow hips. We used to wear the same jeans. Where was I?
I didn't get any taller but she commented when my shoulders grew broader. She said I didn't have a boy's body anymore, but she still did. You probably don't want to hear this, but I tried the homosexual thing once in England, but I couldn't go through with it because he reminded me too much of her.
We had an incredibly ratty apartment in Brooklyn. I was enrolled in Brooklyn University and had a job at a bookstore. It was not an enlightened marriage - I had forbidden her to work. I did, however, rescind my royal decree when the gas in our apartment was cut and there was a convenient opening at the book shop.
I was psychotically jealous in a manner peculiar to 18 year old husbands. I remember thinking every man who looked at her could see how much pure pleasure she was capable of giving. I remember wishing she needed glasses, thinking that she could use them like Superman to disguise her true nature and. . .oh shit! I just realized I never told you her name.
Her name was Angie. Angelina. Her maiden name was Schwann. Two 'n's like the ice cream truck. She wanted to be a writer. She was good, really good. She used write all these funny stories about the people we saw every day. There was one where a bear came and ate the apartment super, but everyone still demanded that their repairs be done, so the bear started fixing the plumbing, unsticking locks, and before you knew it, the bear was wearing Mr. Kolchak's glasses and smelling of Vick's Vap-o-Rub. They were fairy tales, really. Which makes sense, Scully, because those years were magic.
I know I'm no picnic, but we both grew up in families where Dad had veto power, so it only followed that The Boy got his way most of the time. Unless she cried - if she cried, I was instantly servile.
Case in point: our first Christmas.
I forbid her to get a tree. I had declared her Jewish on our wedding night and as the 'Man' a.k.a. 'petty tyrant' of the house, I gave her explicit orders not to put up an accursed tree on pain of being pronounced a shiksa for the next 11 months. (You know what a shiksa is, right Scully? You're a shiksa, and I mean that in the nicest way.) Our Jewish thing had nothing to do with religion and had everything to do with being a world unto ourselves: outside our door and our book shop was the rest of the world, the thick and graceless goyim.
But Angie loved holidays. All holidays. And she loved decorating for the holidays. I think she was a little homesick, though it would have taken thumb screws to get her to admit it. On Christmas Eve, she broke down and cried. She cried for a tree; she cried for all the dolls she had left at home when she ran off with me.
(Yes, Scully, I was having sex with a girl who still played with dolls. It was okay, though, as I still wet the bed from time to time, and sucked my thumb, but mostly in my sleep. We were made for each other.)
The next morning, she had a tree and a chocolate Santa, not to mention three dolls - two babies and a porcelain ballerina - and a new coat.
After that, we always had Christmas, and Hanukkah, not to mention Kwanzaa (which she said was too 'black' for her parents). We were silly. We'd have a Roman-style Valentine's Day - dress up in sheets and screw in the lliving room, surrounded by mirrors (a simulated orgy). Afterwards, she'd joke that it was time to eat until we puked.
Things were good.
So what if I got up and checked the locks twelve times on a good night? So what if neither one of us knew how to do anything practical?
Before we were married, she assured me she knew how to cook. She was, she maintained, very accomplished in the kitchen. Want to know what she knew how to make, Scully? Turkish Delight, twelve kinds of fudge, and pretty much every hors d'oeuvres imaginable. My little wife. My little six foot tall wife, with freckles spilled like the Milky Way across her thighs, could make choux pastry, but no entrees.
So I decided she would learn to cook all my favorite things - burgers, roast beef - and serve them exclusively until I got sick of them. She did.
Whenever we had any extra cash, we spent it on clothes. She was worse than I was, if such a thing was possible. Once she blew all our left-over student loan money on a single dress. It was white silk brocade, Chinese collar, mid thigh length. I was so pissed that I cut her off, sexually. My steely resolve lasted two whole days. She did look really good in the dress, after all.
I graduated in three years. If I had done more than show up on test days, I probably could have made it in two. I got a real job, sort of - I was a social worker, which at least paid more than the book shop.
Angie stayed at the store. She read a book a day, no matter what. She used to give me daily reports on what she'd read. I swear, half of everything I know I learned from dinner conversation with my wife. Angie had all the discipline in our marriage. I had all the guts.
We had formed a nervous truce with her parents around the time of our first anniversary. She was an only child and they loved her, unlike my parents, who seemed to be relieved to have an excuse to disown me. Angie never forbade me anything else, but she did forbid me to take so much as a dime from her father. On her parents' birthdays, we would take the train to Boston and have dinner at their house on Sugar Hill. I never got beyond calling them Dr. Schwann and Dr. Schwann (her mother was an MD). In retrospect, the only reason they let me in the door was because she wouldn't have forgiven them if they hadn't.
Despite everything, we were happy. Truly happy. My nightmares were slowly becoming less frequent, I stopped wetting the bed, and I took to nail biting and smoking as a substitute for the thumb thing. She learned to use the subway and assert herself with everyone but me. We were growing up.
She had been so sheltered, so over-protected that I was the first person who had ever needed her, the first person who ever depended on her. She was so kind that she taught me to be kind. Before I met you, Scully, everything good in me came from her. If you're my other half, then Angie is everything in me you love. Fox is nothing, nowhere, nobody - an over-confident boy who lucked out when a shy, gangly girl flipped up her collar.
One night, we were mugged coming home from the movies. She was so frightened that I lost it and wound up beating the shit out of the mugger. It was funny: I saw the fear on her face and my brain shut down. It was stupid; I could have gotten us both killed. She was so naive that she was impressed. When we got home, she practically fell down and worshiped me.
She wasn't you. She never could have done half the things that you do.
She loved my name. It was her father's name, sort of. He was Francis Marion Schwann, after the Revolutionary War hero a.k.a The Swamp Fox. (My mother just barely convinced Dad that Fox was preferable to Francis Marion. You know that's where 'Fox' comes from, right?) Anyway, she liked it. She said it was infinitely better than Francis. Honestly, 'Frank' would have been just fine by me.
Christmas of 1982, she wasn't going to be satisfied with a doll. I was growing up and she needed someone else to raise. My wife wanted a baby. I was twenty-one and the gift horse that was my trust fund had just opened its mouth. The timing seemed perfect. She got pregnant almost instantly.
The idea of a grandchild had thoroughly thawed my mother, though Bill Mulder was characteristically unmoved. I also think that Teena was relieved to see how light Angie was. You know, a grandchild she could show off to the bridge club without anyone thinking it looked like it belonged to the maid.
We bought so many baby clothes that, theoretically, Angie would never have had to go to the laundromat during our child's first year of life. If it was a girl, we were going to name the baby Samantha, Francis Marion after her father, if it was a boy - I think I have a thing for Daddy's girls. There was no way things could have gotten any better.
By the time she was edging up on five months we had a crib, a walker, a highchair, and one of those springy things that hangs in the doorway. And books - a lot of children's books. All the classics, like 'Black Beauty', 'Little Women', 'Ivanhoe', 'The Narnia Chronicles', 'Charlotte's Web' - I could go on, but the baby had three full bookcases of its own. The walls of our ratty apartment were books from floor to ceiling. In our nearly four years, we had recreated the place where we fell in love - Our Library.
I used to call her Smother. Her watch words had always been "Is it safe ?"
I took the subway to school - "Is it safe ?"
I went looking for a pick-up game at the park - "Is it safe?"
She made me wear my muffler in the winter, my galoshes when it rained.
She was courageous intellectually, culinarily, and sexually, but it ended there. When it came to anything else, she was downright timid. But even she assumed childbearing was safe; it was, after all, the 20th century.
Unlike you, she was a born complainer, and from the beginning of our marriage she had complained that too many orgasms made her stomach hurt. I didn't know what that meant, then. I know now. It meant that even in her normal, unpregnant state, orgasms had a tendency to produce strong uterine contractions.
It was the spring of '83 and an ultrasound was not standard procedure for a strong, healthy prima-para who was on the cusp of 22, so no one knew that the baby's placenta was directly over her cervix. Her ob/gyn had asked if sex made her uncomfortable, then delicately explained that we might need to be careful if I was especially big.
Angie had no idea. She had nothing to compare me to. She didn't say anything about it because she probably didn't want me to tease her. I liked to tease her.
It was nearly June, the city was glorious, I was fighting the good fight at my new job, and I would have a baby for my birthday. I was starting to believe I could become a whole person. That night, the sex was especially hot. I remember giggling together in bed.
Angie STARTED talking and groaning in her sleep, which was not uncommon, but. . . Shit, I hadn't pissed the bed in almost two years but, that wasn't it. We were covered in blood, her blood, and she wasn't even awake.
I called an ambulance. They let me ride along. She was dead before we reached the hospital. Bled to death. It was too soon for the baby. A boy.
I vaguely remember talking to her father, ordering the head stones. Francis Marion Mulder and the date on a little marble lamb; Angelina Touissant-Schwann Mulder, Beloved Daughter Wife Mother. I remember picking out her pink dress to bury her in, along with the pearl necklace and earrings she said she had gotten for her 16th birthday. Her mother must have told them to straighten her hair.
The next thing I was aware of was her mother blaming me at the funeral. It was nothing I hadn't said to myself, but somehow it had more of an impact than I imagined. I wound up like I did with Samantha. Catatonic FOR two weeks, but no hospital this time; according to my mother, she found me curled up on the bloody mattress in our ratty little apartment.
I started my graduate work at Oxford in the fall.
You said you were spending the weekend with your mom but I know you're in Boston bothering my mother-in-law, if she'll even talk to you.
I wore my wedding ring until Diana left me for her European assignment. It had been ten years.
Now it's twenty. Twenty years ago, I met a girl in the public library and flipped up my collar at her because I was bored and it was raining and she had a pretty face.
You know, he was the tallest swan in Giselle and for the first time since I lost my sister, felt like I belonged to someone, so I married her. For four years, I bullied and teased and adored her, and then she died. She died in an ambulance crying for me to stop the pain. As she bled out, she got quieter and quieter, like a dying echo. Her last words to me were a plea for relief.
Once she said that 25 was old. I guess it was for her.
I know how you feel when you see little girl who reminds you of Emily because every time I see a little black boy I think about my son. If he'd lived, I'd be sweating over college admission forms about now, but in my mind, he's usually seven or eight. If things had gone differently, I'd be well-entrenched in servitude, one of those happy people in the suburbs playing with his dog that you're always going on about, and you'd still have a career.
When I remember my wife, I think of her sticking out her tongue at me when I told her she had to let her hair go 'natural.'
I remember chasing her in the grocery store with a skinned calf's head wrapped in plastic.
She bought her first bra during her pregnancy. She was that flat. I remember getting thrilled over her growing breasts. Shit, you would have thought she was Chesty Morgan the way I obsessed over her tits. Honestly, Scully even pregnant, Tom Arnold fills out a sweater better than my wife did.
She used to close her eyes when I fucked her and get this look of perfect peace when she came, a look she didn't have in her coffin. It was shocking how plain and unbeautiful she was dead.
I loved to lock my hands in her hair. Her nubbly crinkly hair that she subjected completely to my stupid boyish whims, not unlike the rest of her. Before she died I had just seen those little dreadlocks on a woman on the subway and was about to recommend/demand them for her.
Jesus, didn't she know what an asshole I was? Am. Will probably continue to be until the day I die.
She didn't know how to handle me the way you do. For a long time, I was afraid of that, afraid of not being in charge with you. After that, I was afraid of loving you more than her, of betraying her with you. Then one day I realized it was too late. I loved you more. I love you more. I'm a shitty person, but I love you more.
Just don't tell me she and I were stupid. Don't tell me it wouldn't have lasted. Don't ask what kind of parents we would have made. Don't tell me it wasn't love.
I'm so afraid to talk to you about her. I want you to love her - it's crazy, I know, but I do. I want that. I want you to see her picture and say, "She was so pretty, Mulder." I want to show you her toe shoes and our marriage license and the rest of the safety deposit box full of marital mementoes and know you'll never ask me to get rid of them.
She'd love you. You know that, don't you? She'd think you were fascinating, and beautiful, and brave and exotic. She'd think you unreasonably good, and strong and fair. I can almost hear her - "Instead of changing in a phone booth, she does it in a rental car. She should have a cape."
You're the kind of woman she would have liked to grow up to be. Hell, I wouldn't mind growing up to be like you. She'd love you like I do.
Exercise Thumper's prerogative here Scully, and if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
Anything else about her I should tell you?
I'm going to print this out now and put it in the office in-box. I can't think of anything else to write. Don't dismiss her. Don't be jealous. She wouldn't even recognize the man I am today.
Scully leaned over his shoulder, rooted behind Mulder as he sat peering at the computer screen over the top of his glasses, the paper still clutched tightly in her fist.
"I spoke with Dr. Schwann. She said you were a nice boy."
"She was surprised you never remarried."
"She asked me to thank you for sending flowers when her husband passed away."
An expectant look.
"She said Angie was happy with you, that you were a good husband."
And his whole body sagged.
"Mulder, you still want to show me what's in that safe deposit box?"
He swallowed, then nodded, eyes closed.
"And Mulder. . . "
His body tensed again.
"That quote? The sky rolled up like a scroll? It's from the beginning of Revelations."