Writing the Distance: Jessica Shepherd

The Covid 19 pandemic is isolating Alaskan writers. We can no longer attend workshops or public readings. The coffee bars where we met with other writers are closed. To bridge these physical gaps, 49 Writers is providing this on-line forum for Alaskans writing the distance. Today, Jessica Shepherd shares a corvid reflection and photograph.

Jessica Shepherd

She sobs in her garage where she thinks we cannot hear. All she wants is to leave this place and go home. Home to her parents now that her marriage has collapsed. Home to Europe where she has life-long friends and a chance for a new beginning. At night she sleeps alone, while he – well, he’s social-distancing with someone new. That’s the most punishing part.

My husband and I, tiptoeing and exchanging miserable looks, pass by along the muddy dirt road. I want to knock and offer her a tissue, or a shoulder to cry on. But she works so the rest of us can hunker down at home and she’s already waved me away. She’s trapped by this virus that spreads like a wildfire, sparking new blazes on a fast-moving wind. Inflaming lungs, lives, relationships.

The next morning, in a sudden flair up, we smash plates, glasses, a mug on the floor. Normally mild-mannered, flinging dishes while we roar at each other is extreme for us. I accuse him of being controlling and he accuses me of being OCD. He storms from the room and I am left to clean up the mess and empty the shards into the trashcan. He would leave them there all day, as if to prove his point.

We give each other the silent treatment, eating lunch at different times, claiming different areas in our small cabin. I know I should say I’m sorry but I want to see if he’ll come around first.

He does. In a reasonable tone he asks me, “So, do you want to talk about this morning?” We tug at the underlying issue, which is nothing more than our desire to be equals in this marriage. He asks me if I’m stressed from my (obsessive compulsive) intake of coronavirus news. I vow to reduce my online media binges.

We’ve never spent this much time together and all those “pet peeves” are starting to accumulate. He says all couples fight, that it’s just one way to adjust to each other’s likes and dislikes. I say that we will be stronger as a couple at the end of this. The bigger truth is, he shelters me and I’d be broken without him. God knows, I don’t want to find myself crying in the garage, confronted by boxes and furniture from what was once a good life.


Jessica Shepherd is a writer, naturalist, and master gardener in Homer, Alaska. She holds an MA in Creative Writing, nonfiction, from the University of Alaska, Anchorage.

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