A Free Man by Susana Rosende,
copyright 1989

It was all over within 20 minutes. The lawyers had their say. The husband and the wife took their turns at the witness stand.

The judge read the judgment, which had been worked out and agreed upon between the husband and the wife and their lawyers. There were no surprises. He was a free man.

Afterward, the wife, now the "ex-wife," hugged him good-bye. Dramatic as usual, she was dressed all in black.

"It's all over," she said. "Just like that."

"Yeah," he commented, his mind on the exorbitant fees he now owed his counsel. "These last 8 months cost a fortune too, at $150.00 an hour each!"

At the house, the movers were packing their memories away. Remnants of their six years together lay in disarray, like puzzle pieces that were methodically put together in a quasi-logical notion of fairness:

He gets the microwave oven; she gets the color TV.

She gets the '85 Toyota and the car vac.

He gets the '80 Toyota and the Hoover vacuum cleaner.

She gets their son; he gets visitation.

She gets their son. She gets their son, and she's moving to Florida.

He gets visitation. For six whole weeks each year. Six whole weeks. The rest of the time was his own. No one to answer to. No responsibilities! He was a free man.

"Bye-bye, Daddy!" A strange gnawing sensation grew in the pit of his stomach as he held his son. Thoughts he had managed to brush aside and push into the recesses of his mind forced their way to the surface in a dizzying rush: "My son is moving to Florida...only two years old...won't see him for six months..."

She was standing by her Toyota, waiting to strap their son in his car seat and steal him away to the other end of the country. Seeming to sense his ambivalence, she walked over to them and gently removed their son from his arms. He watched, paralyzed, as she buckled the little boy in. Turning to him, she said, "Well, good-bye, my friend. Good luck. Be happy."

"Yeah, you too," he barely managed, as he hugged her good-bye for the last time.

When he returned to the now empty house, he noticed how clean the place looked without its usual clutter. His feelings of disgust for her lack of organization re-surfaced. He reminded himself of his plans for the evening. He was a free man! At the kitchen sink, he pried off his wedding band with soap.

"Free at last!" he thought with the final tug. Holding the ring, he devised a powerfully symbolic method of disposal..."Down the toilet?" He ran upstairs to the bathroom. On the landing he tripped over something soft, like a pillow. Cursing the movers, he reached down for whatever it was they'd neglected to pack.

It was his son's favorite teddy bear.

"That absent-minded bitch!" he breathed, as he realized it was SHE who had committed this oversight.

Teddy bear-in-tow, he entered the bathroom and flipped open the toilet. The wedding band dangled between his thumb and forefinger before it plunged to the waters beneath. He put his hand on the lever, then quickly changed his mind. "Why waste the gold?" he reasoned as he retrieved the ring.

Stuffing it in his shirt pocked, he quickly scanned the bedrooms before heading downstairs, purposely avoiding the baby's room. He'd refused to set foot in the nursery since the newborn's unexpected death the year before. Quickly, he bounded down the stairs, still holding the teddy bear tightly as he raced through the living room.

Yanking open the front door, he deeply inhaled the crisp New Jersey January air. "It smells like snow," he thought, realizing the house would soon be covered by a soft white blanket. Without a backward glance, he slammed the door shut, locking the memories behind him.

"It's all over," he thought as he let out a deep sigh of relief.

He was a free man.

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The Beginning of the End

In Memory of Sean

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