The day I learned my girlfriend's penpal was a Duchovny lookalike, by John Christopher
My girlfriend has had a penpal since she was in her early teens. That's okay, most of us go through that phase in our pubescent years. I myself exchanged poetic, soul-drenched letters with Shana in Charlottesville and Tracy in Basildon, right up till I went to university and I found my time taken up by more immediate interpersonal communications. But my girlfriend is more committed than I. Or she's just a better friend. Or maybe her little penpal, half a world away in Canada, is somehow more special to her . They used to be involved in writing fanzines for bands like Stickleback and the CheesePlanters in the late Eighties. Bands whose members have since gone on to successful careers in the civil service and accountancy.

Now they have grown up and put away childish things. She is a successful journalist. He is six foot two. Tall, dark and handsome. I am not. Six foot two, that is. Or dark for that matter. And the handsome bit is debatable. I know his physical characteristics because my girlfriend has, on several occasions, talked of him with a warmth in her voice that concerned me. Slightly. And she knows those things because he visited her several years ago. He was passing through on his way to Israel and stopped by just to visit. When, upon meeting him, my girlfriend's mother was so impressed she said at the time she wished he would marry her daughter. This was before I came along, of course. And my girlfriend's mother has always been very nice to me. If a bit reserved.

So anyway. What do we know of the man? Twenty seven, he live in Vancouver - so he's an exotic foreigner. Tall, dark and handsome, we've already mentioned. He plays ice hockey with a fanaticism - so he's obviously sporty and buff. Oh, and we mustn't forget that he's an academic - he's an ethnic archaeologist, so he's not only fantastically intelligent and interesting, but very PC to boot.

Oh, and people say he looks like David Duchovny from The X-Files. So much so that my girlfriend came squealing towards me the other week, with a letter from him clutched in her hand.

"You won't believe it!"

"What?"

"Eddie!"

"Oh, him."

"You know he looks like David Duchovny?"

"I'm aware of the similarity."

"Well, he's been acting as his body double in The X-Files."

"Oh."

"He met someone from the show - it's filmed in Vancouver - and then he got a call. Isn't it brilliant?"

"Smashing."

"I thought you'd find it funny."

"Ha and ha."

"But you love The X-Files."

"It's all right."

"And another thing," said my girlfriend, slightly stung by my dull reactions. "He's coming to live in London for three years to do his PhD."

Marvellous. Bloody marvellous. Mr Perfect was on his way. I might as well just start packing my bags now. The final indignity came when she said that Eddie had asked if he could stay at our flat for several nights while be found himself a home. And you can't say no to someone on first- name terms with Fox Mulder. In the week prior to the big man's arrival I pondered the potentials long and hard. I was jealous - that was obvious. But did I have any reason to be jealous?Of course I did. How could my pasty, sagging form compare to the lithe torso of Eddie? Here, after all, was a man who shaved his legs for aerodynamic reasons (not only is he an ice hockey player, he's a prize-winning cyclist). I might as well start looking for flats for one right now.

As the day of his arrival rolled around with crushing inevitability, I dawdled through my day at work. He'd probably turn up fresh from discovering some new race of indigenous peoples somewhere. And I'd spent the day investigating leisure facilities in Grimsby. The previous night my girlfriend, no fool, had tried to ease my ill-concealed anxiety. "Why are you worried about him?" "Worried?" I'd smirked, unconvincingly. "Yes," she said, "he's good looking and interesting and intelligent and lithe -" "I get the picture." "But it's you I love. And you I'm with."

And now as I entered the front room feeling like a child, I beheld the full magnitude of my nemesis. Tall, yes. Dark, yes. Handsome, yes. Shaved legs, I couldn't tell, but there was a hint of shiny ankle. "Hi, I'm Eddie," he said. "And this is my fiancee, Sarah." I mumbled something welcoming, and shook both their hands. "Sarah's come over with Eddie. She's got a job in PR," said my girlfriend, smiling widely. "That's...fantastic," I said, as a weight of almost paranormal proportions was lifted from my brain. Eddie, it turns out, is an excellent bloke. He has some fascinating stories about the Canadian Indians. He makes being David Duchovny's body- double sound quite boring. And best of all, he's utterly devoted to his own girlfriend.

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