By Roxane Gay
Jean-Richard and Elsie Moreau had lived in Palmetto Landing for nearly seven years when they heard the news, by way of Ellen Katz, that another Haitian family was moving into the community—doctors, three children, two still at home, new money and a lot of it. Ellen was giddy as she delivered the news. She saw it as something of a personal responsibility to keep her neighbors abreast of such developments.
They sat on the lanai drinking wine, sweating quietly.
Ellen pointed at Elsie. “I imagine you’ll want to invite the new family over, perhaps dinner, something from home.”
Elsie took a careful sip of her wine then twisted the heavy diamond on her finger as she sank into her seat. “Why would you imagine that?” she murmured.
A few weeks later, Elsie was driving her golf cart to the clubhouse for Ladies Golf, slowly bouncing along the cobbled street, when she saw a light-skinned brown woman standing at the edge of her driveway, one hand shielding her eyes from the sun. Elsie immediately knew the woman was one of the new Haitian doctors. Elsie could recognize her people anywhere—it was a point of pride. She stared straight ahead, the electric motor of her golf cart humming softly as she drove past.
Jean-Richard was the more sociable one, willing to do more than his fair share of maintaining their position within the community, always gregarious at the various functions, so many functions—barbecues and theme nights and bridge and the like. If he had his way, they would spend every night with their friends at the clubhouse. Elsie preferred more control over the boundaries of her world. She was in her late forties; she had no need for new friends.
At dinner, Elsie mentioned she had seen the Haitian doctor wife, standing in her driveway.
“We should have them over, welcome them,” Jean-Richard said, rubbing his heavy hands together.
Elsie frowned, tried to swallow her sigh. “We left that island for a reason. And you know what the neighbors would think.”
Jean-Richard leaned forward, but thought better of what he was about to say. Instead he smiled, said, “Oui, ma chère.”
It had been twenty-five years since Elsie immigrated to the United States. What she remembered of home was the promiscuity—always people, everywhere, hot and clamoring. Elsie did not often think of the towering palm trees or the bright blue water or trips to the country to visit her grandmother or how much she loved her blue school uniform or watching her parents dance in the small courtyard behind their home. Her sharpest memories were of her eight brothers and sisters always crowding any space she tried to make for herself. She remembered small rooms and heavy air and warm concrete walls and slick skin and limbs, stretching desperately for a cooler, dry place.
Roxane Gay’s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, The New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, The Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK. She is also the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and Hunger, forthcoming from Harper in 2016.