It was the summer of 1997. Newly graduated from high school, I was either at work or with my friends. At Meghan’s house the sun was glaring through the sliding doors that lead to the backyard with the old tree and trampoline. I leaned on the couch, asking her mom about the two, serious heads speaking on the screen. Trench-coated, intelligent, and there was a bad guy to be found. Fox Mulder and Dana Scully had lured me in when I should have been outside, being a teenager.
The obsession began immediately. FX aired episodes at eleven p.m., which is when the pizzeria closed. I would untie my red-specked apron, slide my manila employee card into the silver box, and rush to my 1989 Bonneville. Smelling like dough and bleach, revving after each curve of Somerset Boulevard. I ran up the steps, skipping every other one. I opened Apartment 201, turned on the television and the theme song blared into the warm night. Then, the trick was to finish a shower during the first set of commercials.
It was the paranormal instances, conspiracies, that remarkable dialogue between the F.B.I. agents that caught my attention. One was never sure of the informants or Assistant Director Skinner. In many ways my life was also up in the air. I was about to begin community college, had no idea what I wanted to do, there were new friends and a job at Shield’s. Many parts were not proven, messy, as was the case night after night with Mulder and Scully.
The following summer the movie was released. In between evenings of hacky sacking, coffee, homework, ska concerts, Detroit, Flint, Birmingham.
In February, 1999 my dad sat next to me as I was watching the Season Six episodes ‘Monday’ and ‘Agua Mala.’ A bank robbery conducted by a sad couple and an eel-like monster amidst a hurricane, slithering in the flooding light fixture. Enthusiastically, I began explaining the characters while he sat, content, on the white leather couch. I was surprised that he finished each episode. That summer would be my last at home.
After moving to the Windy City, the hobby continued to grow. The theme song became the answering machine message after using “My Kind of Town,” my email address began [email protected], I became a member of the official fan club, and I recorded the episodes on Sunday nights in my studio, on VHS tapes purchased by the set. FX continued to air the late-night episodes. That was one consistent between Michigan and Chicago.
In 2001, I opened an eBay account. X-Files t-shirts, key chains, watches, calendars, mouse pads, pillow cases, hats, posters, address labels. I bid and collected. When I switched to the night shift at Borders I would walk off the 151 bus on Michigan Avenue, carrying only my Fight the Future lunchbox. I loved how convenient it was that I could purchase each ‘TV Guide,’ with two different covers for the series finale, at work. I transferred the hard-to-find book, X Marks the Spot: On Location with the X-Files, from another store. At home, in the mornings, I began scribing poems about the agents, especially as I witnessed the despair Scully felt in Seasons Eight and Nine.
In July, 2003, after having met Christa, I would visit Vancouver for the first time. Ten days of hiking the hills and strolling those familiar streets from the previous decade. At Grouse Mountain I uncovered the blue sky trolley from the “Duane Barry” episode of Season Two. The employee told me that it was the same one that David Duchovny was on, that they no longer carry people to the top of the mountain, yet move storage items. They opened it up for me, I got in, and they snapped a couple of photographs. I stopped at Rogers Arena. The Season Five finale, “The End,” was filmed there. The chess match. The secretary happened to be married to Elder #1, actor Don S. Williams. The X-Files was very real here. By the last day I was picked up for the X-Tour. The gentleman owned the building where Scully lived during the second season. I was able to stand where Scully was abducted, in the living room. On the way back to the hostel, I passed her church.
A year later I returned with Christa. We walked all of Stanley Park. Chinatown, Gastown, Yaletown. Robson Street followed by an Italian dinner outside on Water Street. After two nights, we returned to Seattle. Our first vacation together.
In March, I returned for my first writing conference. Star struck in meeting a few favorite authors, while not accepting the passing of Pope John Paul II and Robert Creeley. I stayed at The Cambie again; a turquoise, wooden bunk bed, across the street from where the Lone Gunmen stood in “The Unusual Suspects.” At the corner was the closing scene of The Neverending Story, Falcor chasing bullies into alley dumpsters.
The day after the conference concluded, my adventure began with my first bowl of congee, in Chinatown. Seafood in a stew on a windy, overcast Sunday afternoon. Perfection. I visited the building from “Grotesque.” I sat in Mulder’s stool from “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space’” at the Ovaltine Café, reveling in lunch and pie. I stood in Krycek’s Russian work camp from ‘Terma.’ A gardener, who happened to be working while the show filmed in Stanley Park, took a few photos of me on the slope where Melissa Scully was buried in “Apocrypha.” A swift pose and picture at the restaurant from “Piper Maru” and “Hell Money.” I peered into the smudged windows of the closed 2 Jays Café, from “Sleepless.” Scully’s apartment from Season One, Mulder’s apartment from Season Five. Also, I stopped by at the overpass where Deep Throat was killed in “The Erlenmeyer Flask.”
One of my favorite locations was an afternoon trip to Lighthouse Park, in West Vancouver. I went on a long bus ride into an area of forest and cliffs overlooking small islands. The only vehicle parked in the lot was a white van without windows on the sides. At the time I always feared those because of the show. I quickly passed it and found the trail. Toward the end of the hike was the cabin from “Darkness Falls,” one of my favorite episodes. The place where luminescent bugs attack loggers and eventually the agents, running low on fuel for the generator in order to have these bugs stray from the light bulb. Millennium also used these cabins in the end of Season Two. It began to rain. I inked my girlfriend’s name and mine in a heart on the side of the cabin, and pocketed a loose piece of concrete from the chimney. When I returned to the parking lot and bus stop, the white van was gone.
As I was uncovering these places I was also looking for the perfect ring. I was beginning to arrange a July 3rd engagement to Christa. Once again The X-Files was succinct with what mattered in my life. What I was searching for.
Joris Soeding’s third chapbook, In Between the Places Where Night Falls, will be published by Lummox Press in 2015. His poems have recently appeared in publications such as Belle Rêve Literary Journal, Concho River Review, The Horror Zine Magazine, The Prompt Literary Magazine, and Thirteen Myna Birds. He is a 5th/6th grade Writing teacher in Chicago, where he resides with his wife, son, and daughter.