David Duchovny, I Know You Could Love Me
“David Duchovny, I want you to love me /to kiss and to hug me, debrief and debug me / David Duchovny, I know you could love me / I’m sweet and I’m cuddly / I’m gonna kill Scully.”
– “David Duchovny,” Bree Sharp
It’s 2007, I’m interning in New York City, and I have been waiting for this moment my entire life. I elbow my way through the frantic crowd, walk right up to the love of my life, and confess: “I’ve loved you since my father let me watch you on TV.”
“Uuhh, thanks.” He looks at me like I’m an alien, expecting me to say more, but I have not rehearsed anything past this moment.
“Can we take a picture?” I hand someone my camera and put my arm around David Duchovny, Agent Fox(y) Mulder, FBI, and think, Wow. After all the years imagining this moment, after practicing with him at home, that is what you say? You’re supposed to charm him into loving you. This is your one chance…
BRIGHT FLASH. The picture is over and I should remove my hand from David’s back, but I don’t want to. Oh my god my arm is around David Duchovny, but my other arm is reaching into the herd for my camera, and I am elbowed out of the way just as I did to others mere moments before. I say nothing else, but watch, mesmerized, as the crowd engulfs him. When he finally leaves, he walks right by me. I panic and yell, “I love you!” while snapping one more photo of him, setting the flash off right in his eyes.
When I was seven and in the first grade, my mother was diagnosed with uterine and ovarian cancer. She was hospitalized for surgery and radiation treatment. I can’t remember how long she was in the hospital — days are bigger when you are smaller. I remember endless weeks of Dad rushing to the hospital after work, my brother and me alone at home, and family friends bringing dinner each night. If we visited Mom, we were forced to wave from across the hall, in a broom closet we made into a fort because her radiation could mutilate our young bodies, and our germs could destroy her already taxed immune system. My brother, Darren, and I held strong, but we felt separate and alone, despite how close the threat of losing Mom brought us.
In 1993, after much recuperation, Mom thankfully felt like herself again. She and Dad decided we needed an established “family time” to get the clan back in sync. Dad discovered a TV show called SeaQuest, perfect for our underwater-loving, snorkeling family. And so, a ritual began. When SeaQuest’s opening credits played, Dad yelled, and we all ran in from different areas of the house, piling together on the couches in the family room.
Our interest in SeaQuest lasted a season or two, but then Dad began to talk excitedly about a new show, a show he deemed inappropriate for his nine- and eleven-year-old children. When The X-Files premiered on September 10, 1993, it was unlike anything else on television and hooked my already-a-space-nut-Star-Trek-loving father. He became an instant X-Phile, yet required the family to keep watching SeaQuest. Naturally, the mystery and restriction around this new show increased our interest and expectation.
Soon, when we were a bit older, when SeaQuest tanked and was slated to be cancelled, Dad caved. Every Friday night at nine, Dad would turn up the famous eerie-whistling, aliens-are-coming theme song of The X-Files and we would pile on the couches. The premise: Special Agents Fox Mulder (David Duchovny) and Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) investigated unsolved FBI cases, called X-Files. These cases involved alien life, paranormal/unexplained phenomenon, monsters, mythological creatures, strange beings, and, of course, government conspiracies (including Mulder’s abducted/missing sister). Mulder believes that the truth is out there, but no one involved wants him to find it.
The moment I saw Fox Mulder’s puppy dog eyes and pouty lips, I fell in love for the first time.
Our X-Files ritual continued uninterrupted, yet my rapidly hormonal and maturing self was not satiated by the once-a-week dose of David. I sought out everything Duchovny. I rented all of the movies he acted in and watched all of the TV shows on which he appeared. I collected X-Files trading cards and purchased two replica action figures of Agent Mulder. I begged for every magazine that featured David and collaged my entire wall with pictures of his face. I stayed up late (and risked getting grounded) to watch HBO’s soft-core porn show, The Red Shoe Diaries. Each show starts with David as “host” in a romantic setting, reading solicited letters from women divulging their sexy stories of love and betrayal. After a few minutes, the show transitions into the re-enactment of the scene, with bed sheets between private parts. I had heard that David did more than just host in two of the episodes, and each night I desperately hoped for it to be true. I grew up on David Duchovny.
However, in 1997, when I was thirteen and Darren fifteen, our ritual was interrupted: My brother had a seizure; then he had another. A brain tumor required doctors to peel back the skull, scrape out the tumor, and bolt the skull back on. Suddenly my family was extremely close and intensely separate again. It felt like I had a vacuum hose suctioned to my mouth when they took him for surgery. I didn’t trust the bright lights and long corridor they wheeled him down. I prayed to the universe that I wouldn’t have to feel what Agent Mulder feels because he didn’t intervene as his one and only sibling was taken from him in a flurry of bright lights.
Darren’s skull was amenable to the surgery, the scraping, the bolts. He had a long recovery, but he laughed at my attempts to stick magnets on his bolts and at Dad’s jokes about how they will trigger airport security alarms. The threat of losing my brother slowly faded as his hair grew back, gently curling just long enough to hide the horseshoe-shaped scar. By the summer of 1998, Darren felt well enough to go to a movie. Lucky for us, the first X-Files feature film, Fight the Future, premiered in June. We wouldn’t have seen it unless we could all see it together.
When Darren left for college in 2001, he lived two hours away. There was, however, no stopping the Mackman Family Ritual now. Every Sunday at 8:55 PM, we called Darren, put him on speakerphone, and set him on the table in the middle of the family room. He would watch in Tucson, we would watch in Phoenix, but we could all laugh and scream together, yell comments, and wait for Darren to yell, “I don’t get it!” at the end. Our re-invented ritual only lasted one year, as The X-Files season finale aired on May 19, 2002, 2 months before I left Arizona for college.
I didn’t realize we had come to the end of an era. Darren was gone, and I was about relocate out of state. Our family was dispersing, and the sci-fi glue that bonded us was ending. Even worse, during the entire final two seasons, Agent Mulder was abducted, imprisoned or otherwise absent for all but a few episodes. In a way, the end had already come. I would have to seek out David Duchovny elsewhere because it would take 6 more years (ten years after the first film) for the movie sequel to hit theatres in 2008. By then, we lived in different states, yet we all met in Washington in July to see The X-Files: I Want to Believe, for Mom’s birthday.
“Hi, this is Ben from Harkins Theatres at Alderwood Mall. I was just throwing David Duchovny in the trash compactor…”
“Sooooomeboooody piiiiick uupppp the phooooooone,” I yelled as I tore out of my room and sprinted down the Mexican-tiled hall, dogs at my heels. I could not miss this.
“Hello? Are you there? I’m here!” I said, trying to catch my breath.
“Yeah, hi. I saw your name and number on David’s back and figured I’d give you a call.”
During his abduction hiatus from The X-Files, David starred in the science fiction comedy movie, Evolution, and I had the entire summer of 2001 to obsess over it. The manager at the theatre told me his employees got first pick of each movie’s life-size cardboard promotional cutouts, but I Sharpie-ed my name and number on David’s back anyway. I was in love.
“Yes! Oh my god, yes! Thank you so much! Can I have him?
“Sure, but you should come right now before something happens to him.”
“On my way,” I said, and slammed the phone down. I had figured my chances of this moment were slim and couldn’t believe not a single employee wanted to rush David home. I sure as hell wasn’t giving them time to change their minds while his handsome face stood waiting for me.
“MOM! I get David!” I screamed, running back down the hall. “I get David Duchovny! I gotta go right now! Can I please take the minivan? Please?”
“Fine. But don’t speed! He’s not going anywhere,” Mom said.
“He’s going straight my room, that’s where he’s going.” I ripped the keys from her hand and ran back down the hall to the garage.
When I got home from the theatre, I sliced Julianne Moore (the other star of Evolution) off of my man with a razor. Dad suggested leaving her connected and covering her face with a picture of my own, but I found that entirely too creepy. Instead, I kneed Julianne in the gut, bent her in half, and stuck her in the dumpster. I left her face halfway out to greet the trash collector. When I brought David inside his new home, I walked him in front of me, and the moving cardboard mass scared our dog, Zoe. She barked and growled and chased us all the way down the hall to my room.
I placed David, in all his glory, in the right corner of my room. He stood opposite my bedroom door off the main hallway. Every time any of us would walk down the hall, we’d catch David out of the corner of our eye and let out a little yelp…. The family, including Zoe, rioted: David had to go.
Never. David lived under my bed for awhile, until my cat’s hairball got disturbingly close to his face and I panicked. He then moved to the closet, where he remained when I left the state for college in August 2002. I would have taken him with me to Washington, but I feared for his safety in the dorms. Instead, I brought laminated collages made from my magazine cut-outs of him, both of the action figures, and my “I Want to Believe” UFO poster (a replica of the one Agent Mulder has up in his FBI office). After graduating college in May 2006, I packed all things Duchovny away in storage and went on the road as a tour manager.
In 2009, my parents began cleaning out my childhood home with the intent to sell it. Of course, Mom found David hiding in the back of the closet and called me.
“I’m throwing him away,” she threatened, “You’ve had him for long enough.”
“You wouldn’t dare!”
My parents intended to drive to their new home in Washington using the same minivan that brought me to David eight years ago. “Please let him hitch a ride. C’mon, he’s flat! Just slide him in there!”
“Fine,” Mom said, “but you’d better come get him.”
“I will, I will. You know I will. I miss him.”
“Oh, puke.” And it was settled, or so I thought.
After the minivan arrived in Washington, it sprang a leak. Cardboard was needed to protect the new garage floor from the oil. I don’t know if Mom did it for all of the times David scared her, or if Dad did it because David spoiled my innocence, but somebody broke him. Somebody split him in half and used his legs to catch car oil. Obviously, no one ran this by me.
I left the touring life and decided to move to New Orleans in 2010. As promised, I made a trip to my parent’s Washington home to retrieve David Duchovny so we could finally, once and for all, be together. Neither Mom nor Dad told me his fate. They just sat on the couch as I backed the minivan out of the garage to reveal familiar looking — Oh my god, those are David’s — legs sprawled across the garage floor, broken and black with oil. Mom and Dad just sat there as I jolted the car into park, bolted back in the house and up the stairs to the closet containing what remained of my childhood belongings. I opened the door and there was the top half of David peering up at me like I was the one who took his legs.
“Mooooooooooooooooom!” I yelled down the stairs, “What did you do to David?” All I heard was laughter. “What did you do with his legs?”
“Sorry, honey,” she said, “He broke during the road trip and we recycled his legs.”
“He broke?” I couldn’t have been more suspicious. “Recycled?”
“Yeah, he just broke.”
“I can’t believe you did this,” I whimpered, embracing what was left of David as I walked downstairs.
“Why? What were you going to do with his legs?” she asked.
“I would’ve put him back together!”
“Well, oops,” she smirked, “He’s a great oil catcher.”
“His legs?” my dad chimed in. “I thought you’d be more upset about losing his crotch.”
“Gross, Dad. This isn’t funny.” I clutched David and slunk out to the garage to put him in my car. No one would hurt David again.
I left my parent’s house and drove David from Seattle to New Orleans. Now he rests high on my mantle in a place of worship, where he should be, my sexy FBI man watching over me. In the next room, on the other mantle, sits my collection of all seasons of his Showtime success, Californication, his movie Evolution, his book Holy Cow, and, of course, all nine seasons of The X-Files and both X-Files movies. Written in bold, first and foremost on my “In Case of Hurricane Evacuation” list posted on the fridge: #1 David Duchovny.
It’s September 2015, I still live in New Orleans, and I have been waiting for this moment for 12 1/2 years. My good friend Josie is at my house when she receives a notification that The X-Files return-to-television trailer has been released. After she reads the message out loud, we both scream like the little girls we were when The X-Files started.
“Should we watch it right now?”Josie asks.
“YES!” I lunge towards my laptop and find the trailer. We are shoulder-to-shoulder, bent towards the screen, not breathing. David watches over us from his place atop the mantle. I hit play. The same iconic, aliens-are-coming whistling music leads us in and we grab each other in anticipation. David’s face flashes on the screen. Josie and I grab a bit tighter. We let out little squeals, but not loud enough so we can’t hear what’s happening. Mulder picks up his phone and calls…We pull each other closer when her face flashes on the screen…Scully! It’s Scully! We bat our hands at each other like we’re playing patty cake. There’s just something about the reality of it all, of seeing them back together on the screen. A knock on Mulder’s door ends patty cake, and Josie and I pull closer. Someone knocks again. Who could it be? Josie and I are cheek to cheek in full embrace. The door opens and it’s Skinner! Holy shit, it’s Skinner! We hold each other, jumping up excitedly as one. By the time Smoking Man’s cigarette flashes on the screen, Josie and I have thrown my desk chair back and are jumping and screaming.
As Josie and I watch the trailer one more time, my phone vibrates. I laugh when I see a text from Darren: “OMG. Did you hear The X-Files is back? Did you watch the trailer? They announced it will start January 2016! This is so awesome! I just texted Mom and Dad. We will all have to watch the first show together on speakerphone.”
On January 24, 2016, Mom, Dad, Darren and I watched The X-Files return together because it wasn’t just sci-fi glue that held our bond tight. It was also because we still believe that the truth is out there.
And because David Duchovny is still really hot.
Whitney Mackman teaches Creative Writing at Tulane University and sometimes at Xavier University of Louisiana. During the summer, she is a mountain bike coach for a nonprofit in Boulder, CO.
Her poems are published in Apalachee Review, Furious Season, Mutabilis Press, espresso ink, belle journal, The Gambler, and Sliver of Stone. She has nonfiction pieces published through Global Hobo, Writer Advice, airplanereading.org, and We Said Go Travel. She was one of the last to interview Dr. Maya Angelou, and the exchange is published on The Rumpus.
Writer’s note: When The X-Files ended, it earned the title of longest running science fiction series in US television broadcast history. Only two shows have since beaten their record: Stargate SG-1 in 2007 and Smallville in 2011; The X-Files paved the way for the future success of those science fictions shows. Fans of Lost, The Dead Zone, Dark Skies, Fringe, Supernatural, and Stranger Things owe Scully and Mulder a big thank you.