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,
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
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,
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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