“Dispatch from a Pandemic: Indianapolis” by Debra Des Vignes

unlost hope, Alan Bern

I covered crime. He covered human interest. He offered me stability. I offered him adventure. We set out traveling the world and we settled in Indianapolis to be closer to his family. Our son was born.

He took care of me, cooking, rubbing my feet, listening, and he was patient as I founded my creative writing program for Indiana inmates.

A rough couple of years after our son’s accident on the horse farm:
A trauma. We handled it differently. I was distraught. He saw the positives in his recovery.

But then—
I looked at our credit card statement online—something I’d never done before, but a new full-time job had me eager to take ownership of our finances—and I noticed not one (like he had claimed) but ten off-site bar meetings with his co-worker E in three months.

I had never heard of E.

I told him I didn’t feel comfortable with her; something didn’t feel right. He told me that he’d planned to take a culinary class with her, and that our marriage was “great.” Still, I suggested marriage therapy and he, again, said our relationship was fine and there was no need.

I called him six times a day for three weeks to understand why he’d lie.

He was busy dealing with a work crisis: COVID-19. I grew inward. I screamed her name aloud in the wee hours of the night, in front of our son, and alone in my car as I pulled off on the side of the road, crawled in a fetal position in the back seat and bawled my eyes out.

Weight loss. Sleep deprivation. Feeling dead inside.

I contemplated ending my life, knowing damn well I wouldn’t do it because, for one, I want to see one of the inmates released in 2023. Instead, I watched the ceiling fan spin and counted my blessings.

He said that I railroaded him our entire marriage and did everything I wanted to do and took advantage of his kindness. In the same breath, he said he wanted more freedoms, to go out to the bars, and to find himself.

We told our son, eight, about our divorce and he said, in his soft, cute, kid voice: “I’d rather die than have you guys get divorced.”

I sent frantic texts to friends in the weeks that followed, to anyone who’d listen, and many dear friends did.

COVID-19 stalled the divorce and the sale of our house.

I had to be in lockdown with a soon-to-be-ex-husband for months with no end in sight.

I remembered that I can endure. I’m a boxer. I work with inmates who share their stories of endurance.
I felt invisible around his family, especially during the divorce. If he felt alone in the marriage, why didn’t he tell me during our fifteen years together? Or did he try, and I just didn’t see it?

I switched from whisky to tea after throwing ice cubes at the kitchen window.

On week six, I did the dishes and noticed his iPhone on the charger, a text from E. It was a heart emoji.

The dagger digging deeper.

So, I made small steps: getting out of bed, eating, kissing my son, and doing laundry, while my husband would laugh and dance downstairs in what appeared to be the most uplifting time of his life. Then, we sold the house and moved apart.

I moved into a duplex in a transitional neighborhood. He stayed in our old neighborhood.

One-hundred-fifty push-ups a day and surpassing my fitness goal, creating my own budget for the first time in fifteen years, gaining “happy” weight, and expanding my prison writing program to another state.

I imagine I can still hear his footsteps along the creaky floors in the house we once shared and the rhythm of his breath before he entered a room. I’m reminded of the sweet times. Maybe E was just a small part of it. Maybe when my husband started to like the new version of himself, that life didn’t include me.

I’m learning how to say, “He’s my ex-husband.”



As a former TV news reporter, Debra Des Vignes got her start at ABC-7 in Los Angeles, California before embarking on a decade-long career as a journalist. She was embedded with law enforcement covering crime and courts in various TV markets, including KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho and WVTM in Birmingham, Alabama. She is the author of two books: Sunday Sweet Sunday and The Green Balloon. Her work has appeared in Reflections: A Journal of Community Engaged and Writing Rhetoric, The Manifest-Station, and Black Horse Review.

IMG_0222.JPGAlan Bern is a recently retired children’s librarian from the Berkeley Public Library. His poetry books are No no the saddest and Waterwalking in Berkeley, Fithian Press; and greater distance, Lines & Faces, his broadside press with artist Robert Woods. Alan has published translations, poems, stories, and photos in a wide variety of online and print publications, from which his work has won awards and been nominated for Pushcart Prizes. Among his writing awards: runner-up for The Raw Art Review’s  John H. Kim Memorial Short Fiction Prize (2019); a medal from SouthWest Writers for a WWII short story (2019); and the 2015 Littoral Press Poetry Prize. Recent publications of photos are here and here. Alan performs with dancer/choreographer Lucinda Weaver as PACES and with musicians from Composing Together. His translation of poet Marco Rossi-Doria’s work was recently in ACM .