An Incredible Unexciting Tale of Two People in Love
Disclaimer: Owned by Chris Carter and Company.
Summary: Two unemployed workaholics try to survive the rest of their lives as dead-eyed suburbanites, complete with suburban sprog.
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“I have your hands, your holes
In me, in me, it shows–” -Sleater-Kinney, “Dig Me Out”
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“So this is life, hmm?” he asks me as we leave the
hospital and I waddle to the passenger door of the
car. “Two unemployed workaholics try to survive the
rest of their life as dead-eyed suburbanites, complete with suburban sprog. Sounds like a sitcom.”
I don’t mention that it sounds like a very unfunny
“Except if you’re actually a dead-eyed suburbanite,
you’re usually married to the father of your sprog.
And usually, said father doesn’t have an outside
chance of being–”
I raise my eyes skyward.
“God?” he asks disingenously. I refuse to rise to the bait.
“If you want to put it that way, sure. God. It sounds nicer than saying the unexplained.”
He grins rakishly. “Well, you could do like in Latin American and actually say it’s Jesus’ baby or however it’s done. I mean, who doesn’t want to name their baby after their savior?”
“Oh, I would, except that naming the baby John or Joanna would certainly embarrass Agent Doggett.”
I wink at him. Score a point for me. Mr. “I Work More Now that I’m Fired” Mulder looks sulky and stares at the ground.
“Do you want me to go to the supermarket with you?” he asks curtly.
“Do you have anything better to do?” I reply sharply, not about to be guilt-tripped for his current anchorless state. His life is all about his choices, poor and otherwise.
“I have all of those old magazines that kept coming
while I was gone. That could be a good afternoon right there.”
He looks over to see if I’m going to dignify him with a response. I tilt my head and smile a patronizing Mona Lisa smile. He sticks his lower lip out further and unlocks his car door. We slide into the front seat and the air inside the sedan is warm from all of the late-spring sunlight that’s filtered in.
I roll down the window. He starts the car. We don’t
speak until three red lights later.
“What are we going to do without work?” he finally
asks. “Do we have anything to say to each other?”
“We have plenty to say to each other,” I reply.
“Say one thing to me that’s not work-related.”
He makes a left turn onto the Beltway. I put my hands on my stomach and breathe in and out slowly. The radio plays mostly static with fuzzy classic rock–it may be the Police– filtering in underneath. We don’t speak for three exits.
“I want you to come to the supermarket with me,” I
“Does everything I say to you have to drip with hidden significance?”
“You tell me.”
“Why am I the one on the spot?” I ask petulantly. “You and I are equally guilty of filling quality time with silence and our little misunderstood understandings. Why don’t you tell me something that’s not work-related. Or baby-related.”
He glowers into the rear-view mirror. Then he switches lanes without using the turn signal and cuts off a silver Mazda Miata. We go another exit and a half without talking.
“I like beans,” he says finally.
“What does that have to do with anything?” I ask
“It doesn’t. I’m just filling quality time with
something other than silence or significance. And I’m not supposed to talk the sprog, after all,” he replies.
“Do you have something to say?”
He shrugs. “No–at least, nothing surprising. I’m freaked out. Being fired and being Uncle Dad in some strange existential drama I didn’t sign up for is–well, pretty jarring.”
“Because my life isn’t a thousand strange existential dramas?” I ask. “I know you’re freaked out. What do you think I am? Serene and radiant?”
More silence. We know how to maintain beautiful
“I just wanted to chase flying saucers and find my
sister, you know.”
I snort. “And I just wanted to help people and make
the world a better place. And possibly marry a
nice Irish Catholic boy.”
“So this is life?” he asks again.
I’m the one shrugging now. “Well, you know what John
Lennon says. Life is what happens to you when you’re
busy making other plans.”
“That and I am the walrus.”
“That was Paul. The walrus was Paul.”
“I hate the Beatles,” he says melodramatically. “So
what are we going to do without a job as a common
“Together?” he counterpoints.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, I go with you to the grocery store. I visit
every day, or nearly that. I enjoy your company. I
think you enjoy mine. We no longer have the taboo of
being co-workers. We could do the thing where I could just be Dad and not Uncle Dad.”
This is something I was not expecting in the least. I don’t know what to say. I have a cluster of strange feelings that aren’t all pleasant. In fact, a significant part of the cluster are pissed-off
feelings about the sudden trap that’s been sprung on
“Who said anything about–oh, don’t–I like beans,
too!” I exclaim. “Oh, hell.”
“You look like a beet.”
“I’m surprised, that’s why. And mad. And surprised.
And many other strange and conflicting emotions.
Living together implies many things that have been
left very silent and unconfirmed in our many private
agreements. Give me a minute,” I say.
As I try to find a cogent way to express myself, I
think of this character in a movie I just saw the
other week–I can’t remember who or what movie it was. She was my age, a married woman, and she was having an affair with Michael Douglas. She got pregnant. She had to decide what to do.
The plot filters through my mind with a load of angry thoughts. She decided to leave her husband and marry Michael Douglas. But only at the end. This has some sort of significance when it comes to my situation. Not in any way that I can express, but
this could be a metaphor for what I’m feeling.
What’s the movie’s name?
“Been five minutes,” he says calmly. I look up and
decide to go with the analogy. I don’t have anything
“It was in a movie,” I reply. “Our life is this movie, except that we aren’t married English professors having an affair. I can’t remember the name, but there was that woman from Fargo, and she was sleeping with Michael Douglas even though she was married to someone else. Do you remember?”
“Fatal Attraction? I don’t know. I hate Michael
“No,” I say, feeling growly. “I’m serious. My life is like this movie. I should have dealt with this eight months ago, except that you were off getting probed and it was bad and I had to find you and it wasn’t about the us part of us, then.”
“Sorry that I wrecked your timeline.”
I’m getting extremely frustrated. Why are we having
such a hard time saying what we want to say?
“I don’t mean like that. I’m trying to explain why my first half-expressed thought was angry,” I say. “It’s this movie, this movie I liked, it’s you and me and this whole ridiculous situation. We’re too old for this.”
“Are you joking? You’re going to be a sexy young mom.”
I snort again. “You’re dodging the subject. My God, we have a fiercely dysfunctional relationship. But I kind of liked fiercely dysfunctional.”
“So did I.”
“It was less awkward when we were less personal.”
“Yeah,” he agrees. “Are you mad at me? Do you not–are we friends still?”
He’s trying to elicit some answer from me that I’m not sure I can give. Am I mad at him? No. Not really. I don’t blame any of my problems on him anymore. They were all my choices at heart. I used to be angrier about a lot of things, including him.
Are we still friends? I have no other friends except
for him. He knows that. He wants me to say something
else. So I say it.
“Why are we so afraid to be happy?” I ask. “We keep
dancing around the same issue. What will we do now
that we don’t have professional boundaries? And does
it mean we become homey and domestic and not the
people we are?”
He opens his mouth, gulps, and shuts it.
Then he moves across two lanes and onto the offramp,
all without using the turn signal. His eyes are fixed on the windshield and his spine has no curve left in it.
The silence is deafening. I suppose that baring your
heart on the Beltway in a despicably bourgeois blue
Oldsmobile is difficult and unusual. But I can’t make my hand move to turn up the radio. I think I recognize the song, which sounds like beeps from outer space with a wail overlaying the outer space noise. It’s an awful song.
We are not going to turn out like the movie. There
will be no sepia-toned ending. I’m not sure if
domestication is him or me.
“I want to do the right thing,” he says. My mouth is
dry. “I think we’ve got to be honest with each other. Totally honest. Not afraid of hurting each other’s feelings.”
“Be brutal, be fair, be truthful,” I agree, sounding
like a parrot. “Right.”
He turns into the parking lot of the supermarket and
parks the car crookedly. We turn our heads and stare
at each other. The only sound now is the hissing of
our breathing. I pat my stomach for confidence.
“Stay with me,” he says, just as I say, “I don’t want you to stay if you don’t want to–”
Fuck. Now it is just like a movie.
“Stay with me,” he repeats. “No, don’t stay with me. Not like that. I don’t want this to be all on my terms. It’s always on my terms–”
“No, I have brutal, truthful things to say.”
“I want to be with you. I don’t know what I mean when I say that. I don’t know if I’m offering to be your brother, your friend, your partner, your husband, your lover, or your baby’s father. I don’t know if I can be what you need. I want to be, but I don’t know if I can be.”
“Please,” he says, looking at me with raw emotion in his eyes. “You know who I am. You know what I’m offering you when I ask you to stay with me. But everything that I can give you, I will. Stay with me.”
He’s not offering heaven and earth. But I’m not a romantic anymore. Well, maybe in the dark corners of my soul, but I can survive the honeymoon and not be unhappy.
I take my hand off my stomach and hold it out to him. He takes it. I smile. This time it’s a real smile.
“I couldn’t imagine a world without you, Mulder. Remember? I looked for you until I found you. I’m not going anywhere.”
He squeezes my hand. Then he lets it go.
“Do you want to get Twix or Milky Way ice cream this time?” he asks.
“Let’s be unpredictable. Snickers,” I reply.
“Okay,” he says. He unlocks his car door and hurries around to open
I slide out of the car. We walk into the store.
Soon we will buy ice cream.