We were both professors, he of anthropology and me of archeology. Overlapping interests propelled our life, our love, and our careers. Before we were profs, we spent many years in fieldwork and research. Our travels took us all over the world, and we brought bits and pieces of the world back with us. Urns. Jewelry. Bronze sculptures. Stone carvings. Shards of pottery. Fragments of textiles. Bone tools.
We constructed a house around these objects. We constructed our lives around them, as well.
When we began planning our retirement, we began planning our wills. Well. What to do with our collection? Tony had definite ideas—he wanted to start dealing off the more valuable objects to museums now, so we could get tax receipts. No way, I said. This collection took too long to build. I wanted to see it form the nucleus of a museum collection in our name.
Things began unravelling. The collection formed the core of our relationship, and that core was under threat. The fabric of our marriage disintegrated, and the only thing we could agree upon in the end was divorce.
Okay, fine. But, that still left us with the question of what to do with our collection. Now Tony seemed more interested in keeping it—all to himself. He grudgingly assigned me the objects of lesser value, trying to persuade me that those were the items I had more of a personal interest in.
By then I just wanted out. I was prepared to accept his uneven division of the collection. Except for Achilles. This marble sculpture wasn’t ancient, but it was old. It was I who found it at the back of a dealer’s stall in a souk in Rabat. Sure, Ancient Greece was more Tony’s particular interest. But, finders’ keepers, I say.
Tony knew I wanted Achilles. That made him want it more. In the end it was the one thing we couldn’t agree on, even though agreement would mean we could finally walk away from each other. He threatened to throw the sculpture in the river, rather than let me have it. I began hiding it, first in the basement then later in the garden shed.
In the end, neither of us got Achilles. Our shed was broken into and Achilles was one of the only two items taken—the other being a wheelbarrow to cart it away in.
Two days later, we finally went to the lawyer’s office to sign the divorce papers. Afterwards, we went out for champagne to celebrate not having to spend one more day in each other’s company. Cheers to that.
While we were out, an unmarked moving van backed up to our house and stole much of the rest of the collection.
As we divvied up what was left behind by the thieves, I pondered the irony that the objects we collaborated to collect so carefully turned out to be the biggest source of friction between us.
And that our downfall became the catalyst for the collection’s downfall.