There’s nothing better than a yard sale to purge yourself of the detritus your ex-husband left behind. I’d been avoiding the task for months, as he left enough boxes in the garage to house the possessions of a small town, so when the cleaning bug finally bit me this weekend I dove in with the fervor of one possessed. Finally, I would be rid of the last traces of him, not to mention the fact that I’d have a dry place to store the patio furniture in the fall.
While rifling though the contents of a still serviceable briefcase, I found a photograph of me and a valentine I had given him when our love was new and seemingly invincible. I had been hoping to find a stash of forgotten cash or even love notes from the other woman I never identified but who haunted our marriage like an apparition. (He swore fidelity to the end but I always felt the shiver of someone else.)
Instead I found something I really hadn’t expected: evidence of his love for me. My ex had never been particularly demonstrative when it came to expressing his feelings, had never kept a picture of me in his wallet or on his desk and I had come to accept this. But now I realized he had carried these things around with him on a daily basis and this discovery stopped me dead in my tracks.
For the first time in several years I felt something I never thought I’d feel again: tenderness for him. These mementos were the last things I’d expected to find but the fact that he’d kept them meant that he had cared. ‘He loved me, he really loved me,’ a little voice echoed faintly. ‘But I never knew he carried my picture around with him,’ the voice of reason answered.
He’d kept a lot of secrets during our marriage, most of which had come to light, but here was one more rising up out of the dark recesses of his abandoned possessions. Why didn’t I know he carried a picture of me? Was he trying to prove that he loved me in spite of himself? These questions raised a familiar ire in me which immediately pushed the tender feelings off their feet and all I could do was shake my head and sigh.
The world had stood still for just a moment because I’d found proof; he had loved me once and it wasn’t just my imagination working overtime. I continued to comb through his stuff, looking for another clue as to his feelings but I came up empty handed and I was back to square one. He had his moments, but they were only moments. And there weren’t enough of them to string together, to build a life, which is one of the reasons we fell apart.
In a couple of days the boxes will be sorted and the junk will be hauled off to the dump. And then I’ll spend a couple more selling off the last of his stuff, make a few bucks and breathe a sigh of relief because the final traces of him and what he may or may not have felt for me will be gone for good. But somewhere in the back of my mind, my imagination will still be working overtime.