Walking Across Plasma Fire
A bunch of years ago -- eight
or seven or nine years ago, to be technically imprecise: I was drinking
heavily then, and I wasn't journaling regularly, and a lot of the stuff
that happened during those years sort of blurs together in my memory --
I accidentally ended up watching an episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space
I say "accidentally," not
because I have anything against Star Trek -- I like Star Trek just
fine, as a matter of fact, although to tell you the truth I've always been more
of a Jean luc Picard fan than a Benjamin Sisko fan or a James T. Kirk
fan or a whatever-Kate-Mulgrew's-character's-name-was fan -- but
"accidentally" because watching television was something I didn't do a
lot of, in those days. Mostly what I did in those days was sit in front
of the computer, night after night, and wait for Mr. Right to show up
in the Baby Boomer Chat Room. (And if Mr. Right didn't show up, then
I'd uncork another box of cheap chablis and make do with Mr.
OK-For-Now.) So it was unusual for me to be unplugged from the computer
long enough to be watching TV at all, let alone an entire episode of
Deep Space Nine. To this day, I have no idea how I ended up watching
the show that night. Maybe I saw a commercial for that particular
episode and thought it looked intriguing. Maybe I read about it in TV
Guide. Maybe I was boycotting The Boom Room until they
stopped using those goddamn balloon macros.
For whatever the reasons,
though ... I watched.
premise of the episode, as
I remembered it, was this: the Joined Trill character, Jadzia Dax
(played by Terry Farrell), is unexpectedly reunited with a fellow
Joined Trill, Lenara Kahn. Many incarnations previously,
Dax and Kahn had been husband and wife. Their marriage had ended under
tragic circumstances, and even after multiple subsequent lifetimes, the
symbiont entities residing within the Jadzia and Lenara hosts still
loved each other as husband and wife. The kicker, of course -- besides
the fact that they're both currently female -- is that Trill society
strictly forbids Joined Trills to associate with loved ones from their
past lives ... even/especially former spouses. The penalty for such
reassociation is permanent exile from the planet, and the death of the
Dax and Lenara fight their feelings of love and attraction
for most of the episode -- I'm sure that the big girl-on-girl kissing scene probably
created quite a *stir* when it first aired -- but near the end of the
episode there is this huge, calamitous shipboard accident, and the
Lenara character is nearly killed. Dax risks life and limb and perfect
Maybelline to cross a field of plasma fire to save Lenara. When the two
of them are safe, Dax takes Lenara in her/his arms and vows never to
leave his/her beloved wife, ever again.
Dax says, holding Lenara's face and looking into her eyes. "I
will never leave you again!"
It was the expression on the Dax
character's face -- the passion and conviction in her/his voice, the
willingness to give up everything to be with this person -- that pushed
all of those buttons in me, I think. In that moment, I completely
forgot that I was watching a female actress playing a female Star Fleet
officer hosting a male symbiont.
All I heard/saw/felt was this
guy who was crazy in love with his wife.
When the show was over, I just
sat there on the living room floor for a few minutes, devastated ...
unable to move or speak or think or do much of anything besides blubber
uselessly into my lukewarm chablis. I wasn't crying because Dax and
Lenara do, in fact, end up parting from each other again -- this is
Star Trek, after all, and characters are contracturally obligated do
The Right Thing. (Plus at that point Terry Farrell still had another
four or five seasons to go before her character was killed off the
show.) It was terribly sad, but I saw it coming from light-years away.
I was crying primarily because of the sudden,
depressing realization that nobody was ever, ever, ever in a bazillion
years going to feel that way about me.
Even/especially the person I
was married to.
was a pretty thorny issue
for me at the time. It was either just before or just after the Great
Online Affair That Went Kablooey (And Took My Marriage With It) --
(see: drinking heavily/no regular journal/everything blurs together) --
and at that time there seemed to me no greater tragedy than going
through the rest of my life without knowing true love. It wasn't just
regular garden-variety marital love that I craved, either -- although
that would have been a vast improvement over what I'd lived with for
the last fifteen years -- but Big Romantic Love. Forever Love. True
Love. Love that endures wars and centuries and tragedies and walking
across plasma fire to save the symbiont spouse you'll love until the
end of time.
I wasn't going to be having any
of that, apparently.
And that's why I was crying ...
and why I continued to cry, every time I thought about that stoopid TV
program, for days and weeks afterward.
I never saw that episode of
Deep Space Nine again, although for years I passively looked for it,
whenever I was checking out late-night TV listings or flipping through
sale videos at Blockbuster. After a while, the details of the episode
faded a little around the edges. Some of the pain receded, and it
eventually became in my memory nothing more than a sad, sweet,
interesting little TV show that I watched once and never forgot. And of
course eventually my life spun off in a wholly unexpected direction --
I got divorced, I got sober, I got married again -- and I forgot all
about the Star Trek episode that had so thoroughly unravelled me, years
earlier. Until a couple of weeks ago, that is, when I was browsing
for old ABC Movies-of-the-Week on Half.com, and all of a sudden I
remembered the Star Trek episode. I didn't know how to search for it,
exactly, so I just typed the words Terry Farrell Star Trek
reunited former wife into the search engine ... and boom.
There it was.
Episode #78, "Rejoined."
Original air date: 10/30/95.
I ordered it right on the spot.
I didn't even stop to think about it. It wasn't until the order had
been placed, and my credit card numbers sucked up into the great
yawning nonrefundable maw of Half.com, that I started to feel
ever-so-slightly oogly about the whole thing. Some things are better in
memory, after all, than they are upon subsequent viewings. (Ever run
into your sophomore Prom date at the hardware store, twenty years after
the fact?) What if the episode sucked? What if it turned out to be the
stoopidest, suckiest, most ridiculous Star Trek episode in the history
of Star Trek episodes? Worse still: what if it stirred up all kinds of
weird complicated longings and feelings and memories that I'd long
I would never know, of course
... unless I watched it.
The video arrived at my office
earlier in the week, wrapped in the clichéd plain brown
wrapper. While I was signing for the delivery, the UPS guy kept giving
me this fishy look. (Trying to spice up the ol' marriage, are
ya, Lady?) Or at least I imagined that he
was giving me a fishy look: the truth is that he probably gave my plain
brown package no more thought than he gives to the 43,897,621
OTHER plain brown packages he delivers every single day, to people a lot
fishier-looking than *me.* Still, I felt sort of guilty and weird and
nervous about the whole thing, and as soon as I'd signed for the video
I immediately dropped the package into my bottom desk drawer,
unwrapped, where nobody would see it and ask about it and offer to plug
it into the conference room VCR for our lunch hour entertainment. At
the end of the day I slipped it into my computer bag and smuggled it
into the apartment and hid it under a pile of magazines on the floor,
next to my side of the bed. I didn't tell David that it had arrived. I
think I wanted to watch it once or twice or eleven times, by myself,
before I forced him to sit through it.
Every once in a while I would pull the video out from under the pile of
magazines and look at it longingly ... but I just couldn't bring myself
to watch it.
Finally, one night while David was safely out of the
apartment for an hour running a family errand, I said "Whut the hell"
and popped the video into the VCR. The longer I postponed this, the
Bigger A Deal I was making it into. At first I told myself I was only
going to watch the first ten minutes -- just long enough to make sure
that it was the right episode, and to watch the previews of coming
attractions, and to remind myself what everybody looked like -- but
once it started, of course, I couldn't stop. I gulped down the whole
episode in one big, eager, ravenous swallow -- without commercials, it
only ran about 41 minutes -- and when it was over, I just sat there on
the bed for a few minutes, unable to move or speak or think or do much
of anything besides blubber uselessly into my lukewarm Diet Squirt. I
was still sitting there when David came home.
He took one look at my face --
all wet and crumpled and shell-shocked -- and he knew. "You watched
your video, didn't you?" he said.
I hadn't expected to react to
the show so viscerally, after all this time. I'm older now.
I'm smarter. I'm sober. I'm more emotionally evolved. But in spite of
all that -- in spite of all the progress I've made in the past eight or
seven or nine years -- I think it hit me even harder
this time. Maybe because I eventually found that Big Romantic True
Forever Love I always craved, but only after I'd finally stopped
looking for it ... or because somewhere along the way I figured out
that True Love isn't something that's just handed to you because you
'crave' it: it's something you have to earn and nurture and cherish and
struggle to protect, every single day you're alive ... or because now I
understand precisely how devastating it would be to be separated from
"I'm sorry," I said. "I
couldn't wait." And then I just sort of fell apart.
If this were any other marriage
-- if David were any other husband -- he might have seen this as the
perfect opportunity to poke fun at me: at my tears, at my sappy
sentimental streak, at my complete lack of self-control, at my
hideously bad taste in TV shows. He could have yelled at me for
watching the video without him ... or *reminded* me that I can't afford
to rack up any more credit card debt, buying dumb unnecessary stuff
like Star Trek videos ... or scolded me for buying VHS when we're
considering the leap to DVD. There are any number of ways that he could
have used this situation to make me feel bad. That's the way it's gone
in previous lifetimes, after all.
Instead, he sat down on the bed
next to me, picked up the remote control and hit the rewind button.
"You don't mind watching it again, do you?" he said. And then he leaned
over and kissed my wet crumply stoopid face.
I swear, on everything I hold
dear and precious and true in this life, that I would walk across a
field of plasma fire for this man. I would risk life and limb and
perfect Maybelline to save him from wormhole collapse or parallel
flange indicator failure. And if, god forbid, we are parted by war or
centuries or unforeseen tragedy, now or at any time in the future, and
are reunited five or ten or a thousand incarnations from now ... I
swear I will recognize him in a heartbeat, and do anything to be with
him, and love him just as much as I love him today.
Even if he comes back looking
like Terry Farrell.