They had been secret lovers for years. They were supposed to drink a special bottle of wine together when they both left their spouses, but they never did.
After their relationship petered out, all she had left was the wine. She asked for it back.
“He gave it reluctantly, together with the bits of my heart he still held,” wrote the woman in the relationship.
We don’t know her name but now we know her pain because she sent that bottle of wine to the Museum of Broken Relationships, which opened over the weekend in Hollywood.
Finally, there is a place for the remains of our relations to go - not to die but to live on.
The crowd-sourced museum put out the call on its website, Brokenships.la.
“If you’ve wished to unburden the emotional load by erasing everything that reminds you of that painful experience by throwing it all away - don’t. Give it to us.”
The detritus of doomed devotion came flooding in from all over the country and as far away as Russia and Australia.
Teddy bears. Love letters. Jeans. Playboy magazines. A dinosaur pinata. Cologne bottles sent by a widow still attached to the smell of her late husband who died of cancer.
A vintage University of Nebraska cheerleader outfit that one woman bought to wear for her former boyfriend, a big Huskers football fan.
People submitted digital “remains,” too - text messages and Tinder stories.
Then there’s belly button lint and bodily fluids, only one of which can be displayed.
“I never thought we’d get more than one submission of belly button lint, but we have,” museum director Alexis Hyde, told Newsweek. “These things have emotional value.”
Next to each item is a description written by the donor, some of which, according to one reviewer, are a “a punch to the gut.”
One woman sent the museum her wedding dress, wadded up and stuffed inside a jar.
“After seven years together, five of them married, my husband told me that he felt stuck and the ‘probably’ didn’t love me anymore,” she wrote.
“He’s been gone a year and I haven’t really known what to do with the dress. Every option felt wrong. I hate throwing perfectly functional items in landfills but would hate to see someone walking around in my once beautiful but now sadness infused dress. I don’t particularly enjoy looking at it, either.
“So I have crammed it in this old dill pickle jar. Mostly for space reasons but any sort of appropriate pickle metaphors can also be invoked.”
The museum, which will display about 100 items at a time, is “a unique opportunity to let go and to overcome emotional collapse through creation,” assistant director Amanda Vandenberg told Forbes.
“Nearly everyone knows the sensation of holding onto physical mementos. Our memories have been invested into these objects,” long after the relationship has ended, she said.
LA Weekly dubbed some of the exhibits “bizarre, like the rubber apron with enormous, bulbous breasts affixed to the front, which a woman says her boyfriend used to make her wear during sex.
“Some were tragic, like the red blinking light meant for a dog's collar that was sent to a man by his ex following their difficult breakup, so he wouldn't get lost in the dark (metaphorically). His ex, he went on to explain, eventually committed suicide, alone in a hotel room. He requested that the light be turned on when it’s exhibited because the blinking reminds him of a pulsing heart.”
Hollywood is the second location for a Museum of Broken Relationships. The original is in Zagreb, Croatia.
It was created as a temporary exhibit by co-founders Olkina Vistica and Drazen Grubisic, who used to date but broke up. But the collection got so big the museum took the show on the road, hosting exhibitions in dozens of cities around the world and asking for people to contribute items along the way, according to LA Weekly.
After visiting the museum in Zagreb, American lawyer John Quinn reached an agreement with the founders to build a second permanent location in Hollywood - fittingly the land of dreams, broken and otherwise.
Curators hope that visitors don’t find the museum too depressing because that’s not the point.
“I want people to leave and know they are not alone,” said Hyde.