The box is large and old. The cardboard has become dented and wrinkled in spots where the container has been dropped or smashed against the bed of one moving truck after another, and the tape that once held it together now hangs in tatters, the glue having dried and decayed. I recognized the box at once from the words that I had scribbled across it in all-caps with a black fat-tip permanent marker many years before:
FRAGILE: SARAH’S X-FILE COLLECTION, MESS WITH THIS BOX AND YOU MESS WITH ME!
I couldn’t help but laugh quietly to myself; I had always been so melodramatic.
The contents of this ragged old box represent an obsession that monopolized seven years of my life, and it would have been longer had the executive producer, Chris Carter, not decided to finally throw in the towel on the long-running hit series. I wasn’t too upset about the big finale, because the show had changed…and so had I. I knew it was the right time, but I couldn’t help but feel a sense of nostalgia for what the show used to be, and what it had meant to me. Some people don’t understand my obsession with The X-Files. They don’t understand how or why I would wrap so much of myself around a television show. Looking back, I honestly don’t fully understand the answer to that myself, but I cannot deny how important it has been to me. In this rusty backyard shed I have found a box with at least a thousand dollars worth of X-File memorabilia that once served as my adolescent security blanket.
Wearing a black jacket with leather sleeves, The Truth is Out There embroidered on the back with The X-Files logo on the front, I sit down, criss-cross my legs and drag the box toward me. I pull gently on the crackling tape and lift the flaps. Using a flashlight, I peer inside and feel a smile creep across my face.
“My t-shirts,” I whisper to some ghost from the past that I feel watching me. The very first X-File t-shirt I ever got has long faded from black to gray, and large holes prevent me from wearing it out in public. It was the first of seven XF t-shirts that I would eventually collect. The first three were bought in California and the other four in Arkansas.
Moving to a different state and going to a new school were torture for me. I had always been shy, and had only really formed a solid group of friends just a few years prior to being ripped out of California at the roots. My entire world felt upside down, or at least suspended at a very unpleasant angle. Nothing was familiar except for my mom and grandma, and I hated them for dragging me 2,000 miles away from my home. I had never felt so alone, and I looked forward to Friday nights more than ever before. Mulder, Scully and their investigations into the paranormal had become my only constant. My world had changed, but theirs hadn’t—it was familiar to me, and I escaped there as much as possible.
I remember the last episode of The X-Files that I saw while living in California. It aired the night before we moved. Most of the furniture had been packed. The house was dark and empty save for one bedroom, my old bedroom, in which I had asked that my bed and TV be left until morning. My mom, grandma and I piled into that bed that night between 9:00 and 10:00pm to watch my show for the last time in that house…a house that had been witness to our entire family for over 30 years. The episode was titled, “War of the Copophrages” and was about possible killer cockroaches. I’ll never forget the ingenuity of the writers when what looked like a real-live cockroach scuttled across the television screen—that was a such a great startling tactic! I love that episode, because it was at the center of such a great memory.
Inside the box, hidden beneath mounds of recorded videocassettes that have since been replaced by an enormous and expensive DVD collection, is a green felt jewelry box. Tucked inside is a simple gold-cross necklace. It’s almost identical to the one that Scully’s mother gave her for either her 15th birthday or Christmas—the show contradicts itself on that one. I told my mom that I wanted a necklace like Scully’s. It had become a recurring symbol on the show, a personal sentiment of a television character that I had become emotionally attached to in some way. The reason being something I wouldn’t figure out for years. My mom did buy the necklace for me, and she gave it to me for Christmas when I was 15. I wore it religiously, pardon the pun, and didn’t take it off for nearly five years until I had finished high school and was in college.
After I finished my first two years of college, I noticed a change in the role that The X-Files played in my life. I still feel a sense of loyalty—to a TV show if you can imagine that, but it doesn’t occupy my thoughts so much anymore. I have finally stopped comparing and correlating so much of my life with this fictitious world that I found haven in for so long, but there is a type of connection that remains. I am grateful to all the people who made the show possible and helped maintain this rock that I clung to so desperately through so many years of emotional turmoil.
No one could look into this box and see what I see, and I feel both satisfied by that and lonely as well. These comic books, novels and trading cards may increase in value, but in my opinion they are priceless. Magazines featuring the show or the actors, copies of scripts, autographed photos, posters, old TV Guides, games, guide books—the list goes on and on. My hand stops as something catches the light of the flashlight, reflecting it up into my eyes. I pull out a laminated 8×10 piece of cardboard to which I had attached my collection of movie ticket stubs from seeing The X-Files: Fight the Future film in the theater—an even dozen. Wiping the dust off with the hem of my shirt, I bend down to close the flaps on the box and turn to leave, taking my ticket collection with me. Some people don’t understand my obsession with The X-Files, and for the most part, neither do I. That’s okay, though, because it makes me happy…and no one needs to understand that but me.