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  • Noah Sternchos

Free to Go

Updated: Dec 10, 2019


“License and registration,” he said. The words shook her awake: the open wounds of rejection, the signing of the divorce papers, the empty, silent house, the inevitable revelation to her family and friends, and the long arduous road to a new life without Tom.

Karin, with red eyes and smeared makeup, looked up at the officer. “Yes?”

“I need to see your license and registration, ma’am,” he said.

“Yes, of course,” she said. Her disheveled bag laid open among the strewn legal documents on the passenger seat. “My wallet is here somewhere.”

“Fow-er-nin-er-fife we have a ten-six-sev-en on Haverford, copy,” the police radio erupted.

The officer squeezed the handset clipped to his chest and pulled it to his mouth. “Fow-er-nin-er-fife. Ten-fow-er,” he said.

Karin unsnapped her wallet.

“Ma’am, you’re free to go,” the officer said.

“You’re free to go” was what the judge had said, just an hour ago, to Karin. Then Tom’s lawyer had handed her her copy of the signed divorce papers. She had responded, “Thank you.” “Thank you” for ending her eight years of marriage with a few flicks of a pen? Then she had searched the room for Tom, but he was gone.

Karin looked up to thank the police officer but he was gone. In the rearview mirror, she saw the red flashing lights move quickly away in the other direction before disappearing around a bend.

“Bent over,” Tom used to say whenever anyone asked how he and Karin had met. It had been a Saturday morning and Karin had had the mat in front of Tom’s at Ilene's Yoga Studio on Henderson. Tom had asked her out, and after a few months, they were engaged. In his account, Tom would say, “There was only a thin layer of lycra between me and a slice of heaven.” Early on she would blush and then mouth “Why?” to him when she was sure the others weren’t looking. After a while she learned to laugh along with Tom and the others. Tom loved to entertain people with stories and jokes, and, well, Karin loved Tom.

A police car pulled up behind her car. The officer walked up to her window and startled her. “Ma’am, are you having car trouble?”

“An officer pulled me over, but then he told me I was free to go,” she said.

“Then, I guess . . . you should be . . . going?” the officer said.

Karin took a deep breath. She turned back to the steering wheel, and turned on the ignition. She checked her rearview and sideview mirrors. She pushed herself back in the seat until she was sitting up straight. She put the car in drive and slowly edged it onto the roadway. She increased her speed and drove off.


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