The Skeleton in Madame Simote’s Closet

Jacques Fleury
Spare Change News

It remains a mystery as to how and why Madame Simote’s husband actually died. Jean Herbie Simote was the handsome town doctor and was perceived to be a philanderer. He was rumored to have had affairs with a plethora of Madame Simote’s female friends and even some of her relatives. In Haiti, the men are expected to cheat and their behavior is tolerated by their wives, because of fear of losing their financial security. The Simotes’ lived in a rural part of Port-au-Prince, Haiti’s capital city. They never had any children.

During the early evening hours as the sun cooled and prepared to set, Madame Simote put out a number of rocking chairs on her front porch. She sat and fanned herself while enjoying the panoramic view of her neighborhood. Soon, she would be joined by some of the other women who lived near by, once they too were done with the day’s duties. She was surrounded by finely manicured lawns, rolling green hills, towering palm trees swaying and lavish homes with pious women constantly praying. In the near distance, Madame could see a large woman with an African head wrap and her hands on her hips, trudging up the hill with a gait analogous to a reluctant duck. She knew it was Madame Calamite, since she was usually the first to come.

“Oh, Madame Simote, bonjour. Hot day today, eh?,” she said, with a wide white grin as she plopped down next to Madame without waiting to be asked to sit. “Please excuse me, but I’ve been so tired lately. My maid has taken ill and I’ve had to do most of the chores myself. The maids these days are not what they used to be; now they’re all spoiled and lazy.”

“I know, Ti Cheri. They think they should get paid even when they’re laid up, too! So tell me, have you heard about Madame Madichon’s son?” Madame Simote leaned towards Madame Calamite with raised eyebrows.

“No…what that boy up to now?”

“Well, the word going around is that he is an insatiable homosexual! His mother finally found out why he’d been spending so much time with the gardener and it’s not because of his interest in horticulture.” Madame Simote punctuated her point by bobbing her head in one grand up-and-down motion.

“Whatever do you mean?” Madame Calamite leaned further forward in her chair.

“Well, one particularly hot afternoon, Madame Madichon was looking for that boy but couldn’t find him anywhere. So she ventured over to the gardener’s quarters, seeing how he’s always hanging ‘round him and all. Well, as she entered the house and approached the bedroom, all she could hear was the sound of a bed squeaking and what appeared to be two male voices grunting and moaning. And girl, wouldn’t you know it, she busted the door open and to her horror, there was her son sweaty and naked in bed with the gardener!”

“NO! Whatever did she do?” Madame Calamite asked, with her eyes wide open like she just saw a pig flying.

“Well, girl, her legs were knocked out right from under her. She fainted, girl! What would you do if you found out that your only kid was that way? That poor woman will never have any grandchildren. Hmmmm…” Madame Simote stared straight ahead as if looking at nothing in particular while Madame Calamite just sat there and shook her head in disbelief.

Soon, a younger woman with a slimmer build, her hair in a bun, climbed onto the porch, greeted the other ladies, and sat. “Madame Jeunes, where have you been keeping yourself?” Madam Simote asked with a polite grin.

“Well, you know, the usual, constantly spying on that cheating husband of mine. So what else is new?” The ladies shared the news about Madame Madichon’s son. “Oh sweet Jesus, that boy is goin’ straight ta hell. How could he do that to his poor mother? If I ever found out my son was … that way … I would tear up his birth certificate!” Madame Jeunes uttered, with fury in her eyes.

Soon, the ladies departed and Madame Simote was left to herself once again. The night’s darkness was mitigated by the swelling moonlight and all she heard were crickets chirping. That day had been the anniversary of her husband’s death.

She got up and headed back into the house. She walked over to the door of Mr. Simote’s study. She stood and stared at the door before taking a deep breath and walking in. The door squeaked as she opened it. There was a letter in a locked box on the desk, just as she had left it. She opened the box, tilted her head back and closed her eyes. A single tear slid down her face. She regained her composure and prepared to read the letter once again. The first time she had read it was shortly after her husband’s death. She sat at the desk and began:

My Dear Sweet Wife,

If you are reading this it means I am already dead. I could not go on with this charade any longer, nor would I allow you to continue to partake in it. We are living in a country burdened with social injustice, prejudice and small-mindedness. Because of this, I could not live my life just as I “really” am. You knew this before we got married, but being that we were childhood sweethearts and we genuinely love each other, I suppose that was enough reason to get married. But it killed me knowing that I could never be the man you deserve, it killed me to know that I could never give you any children and you would never experience being a grandmother. The only way I could keep living my secret other life and keep from being persecuted and possibly killed was to marry you, and for that I am truly sorry. Your devotion and loyalty ran deep, so deep that you deliberately spread rumors that I was a lothario, the biggest ladies’ man in town, but we both know that is not the case. So I felt like I needed to rid both you and myself of this unconventionality. You deserve to be happy, and so I have taken rat poison to rid you of my abnormality. I know this will devastate you, but soon enough, you will find someone who can be to you what I could not. Farewell, my dear, and I will see you in the heavens.

With love,

Herbie

Madame Simote remained still for quite some time while looking out into the night and noticing the moonlight looking down at her through the half-open window above the bureau. Then, with a sudden sense of purpose, she placed the letter back into the box and locked it. She walked over to the mini closet in the far corner and placed the box on the top shelf, right next to Jean Herbies’ ashes, before closing and locking up the closet door. She stuffed the key into her bra, looked around the room one last time, flicked off the light, and left.

JACQUES FLEURY’s book: “Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir” about life in Haiti & America was featured in the Boston Globe & available at www.lulu.com. His CD “A Lighter Shade of Blue” is available on iTunes. Contact Jacques at:haitianfirefly@gmail.com.

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