The first thing that fell out was a letter from my ex-husband before we were married. When we didn't even live in the same state.
At the end of a letter, he would write: "I'll love you till the day I die."
That was 1997, and lots of things happened between 1997 and 2011. We got married in 1998. We were divorced in late 2011.
I trusted him more than I had ever trusted a soul. He knew all my secrets.
But I did not know his, I would learn years down the road.
You see I looked at him and thought he hung the moon.
I never saw him as an ordinary man. And I don't think for a minute that he was ever truly ordinary. He was exceptionally talented as a physician. He had a very high IQ.
I think of him now, and still can't see him as one man. I see him as my doctor all those years before when I was in my twenties. And I see another man who became my husband when I was 41.
There is an imbalance in such a relationship. And now I understand that that imbalance doomed the marriage before it ever began.
I believed him to be above reproach, because he had saved me during a time when depression had all but defeated me.
I was walking with my feet scarcely touching the ground and I had stars in my eyes. Thus I was devastated when I realized that he couldn't be who I wanted him to be.
I won't lie. I hurt him too. I was angry when I realized that he wasn't my knight in shining armor after all.
My disappointment came because he had, ultimately, turned out to be merely human.
I came crashing down to earth like a meteorite.
When I think about him now, I still, unfortunately, see two different men. The one who led me out of the fog of lifelong depression. And the one I married and divorced.
So when this letter fell out of the duffel bag and I read those words, I cried a little.
Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder "what could have been?"
I suppose we all do. And of course it is a futile thing to do.
Lots of things happened between us, and I doubt very much that he still believes he will love me till the day he dies.
But I do think that, deep down, till the day I die, there will be a special little place in my heart for a man who I was convinced could reach up and hang the moon for me.
The man I once believed was strong enough to hold it so high so that it would light a path for me and keep me safe.
I last saw him in a courtroom on the day we ended our 13 year marriage.
I remember thinking there was such a big space between us as we faced one another and followed the judge's instructions.
I knew at that moment that the space between us had actually been getting wider with every year that passed during the time we were husband and wife.
And then, for two people who had been an integral part of one another's lives off and on for decades, after that short court hearing it was simply over.
I walked out of that courthouse into the bright August sunshine. I took a deep breath, and felt like a weight had been lifted, finally, from my shoulders.
I walked to my car in the parking lot. I told myself I had a life to live, though I was by no means a young woman any longer. And I knew that I would be living it on my own terms.
It has been five years now since that day in the courtroom. The pain and anger has faded as all things do with time.
I did what I thought I could never do, and I am stronger for having done so.
I have come a long way.
But I no longer have stars in my eyes for anyone.