Doug Paul Case

Five years ago Kate Mulgrew's lawyers slapped me with a restraining order, but that hasn't stopped me from attending every Star Trek convention in the tri-state area wearing full Klingon regalia, from waiting in line to get her autograph, from trying to take her back to my apartment. I realized I had to have her, couldn't possibly live without her, a few years into my marriage, the first time she stared down a Kazon warship in the Delta Quadrant and said, "Fire."

Let's get this out of the way: I know Kate Mulgrew isn't actually Captain Kathryn Janeway from Star Trek: Voyager. I know she's an actor. That's not the point. The point is she's the only woman to ever sit in the captain's chair, she was the classiest woman on any sci-fi show from the 90s, she had a three-episode guest role on Cheers, and when she gets that stern look on her face, like right before she's going to destroy your little ship because you're nothing but a complete pain in her ass, her eyes narrow and her nose flares and her tone gets low and even then she remembers to enunciate all her syllables, so "fire" become "fi-er" and that gives the enemy just enough time to realize he's toast before the boom, before even his mother wouldn't recognize him. Imagine what you'd think about.

I'd think about the two cardboard cutouts of Kate I keep in my kitchen, one from the first season and one from the last, and how they've kept me company since Marla left, how they've kept me sane. About the complete VHS box set sitting on top of my television, that Kate signed before I had to dress up to see her. About that day seven years ago when my wife left me just hours before I had to leave for the airport, to fly to the convention in Topeka where Kate was scheduled to appear and give a talk on the philosophy of the Borg hive mind. I had the perfect question to ask her, about how America is just another hive and what that means when you consider her legions of adoring fans. Aren't we just like the Borg unimatrices? These are the kinds of theories Marla and I used to stay up all night debating. The kinds of theories that helped me fall in love.

I'd basically finished packing—picked out my uniform and was searching for my rank pips, which I'm always losing even though they're supposed to stay on top of my dresser—when my wife tells me she can't take my "silly little hobby" anymore, that it's "ruined her life" and "prevented us from having a family," and that I had to choose between the conventions and her. I didn't understand; we never would have met without Star Trek and she couldn't just start blaming all our problems on it like that. And really that's not a choice anyone should have to make, so I asked her for some time to think, which I guess was the wrong answer, because she stormed from the room, then from the house, and I was basically ready, so I went to the convention anyway.

I waited in line to ask Kate my question, but when the first four were finished and I stepped to the microphone, I lost it. I broke down in front of the hundred or so people dressed up like Andorians and Romulans and their favorite Starfleet officers. I broke down in front of Kate; I told her everything. How I'd been collecting Star Trek memorabilia since my father and I watched it when I was little, how I met my wife at the premier of the fourth movie, The Voyage Home, how she didn't mind my obsession because she had one, too, how we tried having kids but kept failing and failing, how that of course takes a toll on a relationship, how she stopped thinking about anything else, how she stopped coming to conventions with me, and how—finally, after fifteen years—Marla decided she'd had enough and left me. She left everything but her clothes: the cardboard cutouts, the to-scale starship models, the action figures, the collectible plates we used at our wedding. All of it. She severed ties with the universe and left me floating there.

Kate didn't try to stop me once; she listened to it all, and when I finished she just said, "I'm sorry," in that soft voice she only used when she was trapped with Chakotay on that uninhabited planet for what they thought would be the rest of their lives, and she came down from the stage and hugged me.

The logical thing to do after that, of course, would have been to go after my wife and apologize, but Kate had just shown me the most kindness I'd seen in who knows how long—more than my family, at least, who could only seem to blame me for the divorce—so I followed her around the country for the next two years. She talked at a convention, I was there. She made a guest appearance on set, I was there. She went out for McDonald's, I was there. All I wanted was to talk, to take her out a few times, to bring her home and cuddle under a blanket fort while watching reruns of shows that could never compare to hers, but she misunderstood my attempts to reach out and got her lawyers involved and now I have to dress in costume if I want to see her and not get myself arrested. It's all hot and sweaty under the Klingon face mask, but it's what I've got to wear to get through security. And one day, Kate will see how much she means to me. One day she'll be more than just a piece of cardboard standing in my kitchen.

Doug Paul Case's debut chapbook of poems, Something to Hide My Face In, won the Robin Becker Prize and is forthcoming from Seven Kitchens Press.

Read more of his work in the archive.

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