The first International Widows’ Day was formally honored in 2005. It’s acknowledged on the same day every year, June 23rd, the significance of which is meant to pay homage to the day that Shrimati Pushpa Wati Loomba, the mother of the day’s founder, Lord Loomba, lost her husband in 1954. The first International Widows’ Day for Sophie Galante–formerly Sophie Jones before reverting back to her maiden name of Galante–was formally honored in 2016, when she lost her husband of four years. Well, he didn’t die. Not technically. Not yet.
But Sophie had decided that, while it might be deemed just another way in which white women disrespectfully graft something relating to “true strife,” she was going to look at the loss of her husband in a less literal way as part of the blanket term that applied to being a widow. At the age of thirty-six and after a sum total of being with Sophie for six years including their “courtship,” as Jane Austen would like to refer to it, Harrison Jones did not abandon Sophie for another, much younger woman–as is the usual and expected cliche. Strangely, and instead, he abandoned her for a pursuit rather than a person. Somewhat mimicking Fred MacMurray’s character, Dr. Corey T. McBain, in The Lady Is Willing, it had long been Harrison’s latent desire to commit to a scientific study that would prove a certain theory he had been mulling over for much of the past decade: that females react more severely to emotional trauma than men. While, of course, this theory has been proffered many a time by what some would call sexist males, Harrison believed that if, like Dr. McBain, he could sequester enough subjects–ideally rabbits–to be studied over time and with enough trauma of varying degrees inflicted, he would officially be able to prove the long-held belief that women are, in short, not sociopaths in the same way men are. Considering his profession as a behavioral psychiatrist, this fixation wasn’t totally out of left field, and because of the high-profile clients he had garnered over the years, he possessed in his bank account enough resources to take on the no longer suppressed aspiration.
Though Sophie had always been aware of this dream of his of achieving scientific glory, she never knew the extent to which just how much it plagued him. Had she known, she reflected, maybe she could have better encouraged it, made herself a part of it so that Harrison didn’t feel like he needed to separate from her in order to pursue it. She thought of this and so many other ways that she might have made herself more bendable, more worth sticking around for in the months that followed their divorce, the official paperwork of which was signed on March 16, 2016. He urged her to pack her things and remove herself from “his” home as soon as possible so that he could get started on his work, make as much room as was necessary for all the rabbits. Sophie respected his wishes, surrendering most of their assets to him as he was the one who had all of them to begin with, and she wasn’t the type to take what wasn’t hers. Thought that the sort of ex-wife who did make outrageous and unwarranted demands after being rejected only perpetuated the embittered, washed up hag stereotype.
So she left quietly, taking one final look at the house she had decorated almost entirely herself, hoping that if she put all the exact right branches in their proverbial nest he would never want to leave it. Or at least not force her to leave it. Located in Beverly Hills, on the prime N. Canon Drive block, Sophie admittedly had some trouble downgrading to a small studio in Venice Beach, where, in spite of gentrification, she still felt impossibly old amid all the skater and surfer ilk.
She maintained her active social life, volunteering at the Santa Monica Public Library and spearheading various meet-ups for topics ranging from The Effect of Twin Peaks on Every Detective Show Following It to The Ruination of Pop Music Post-1980s. And yet, no amount of distraction could keep her mind from wandering toward thoughts of Harrison. The specifics of him. That freckle just above his groin, the way one nostril was bigger than the other. All of these details colliding to create a cocktail of yearning for someone she could never have again. And yes, she had already prostrated herself to him enough times in the short time since their divorce to know that he would never take her back.
It was through this suffering and lack of form through which to release it that Sophie found herself wandering into a support group that beckoned to her from nearby the United States Fund for UNICEF building. It was near Century City, which she only decided to go to so as to walk through that strange outdoor mall that was a shining example of L.A. at its height of “L.A.-ness” in the 90s. It reminded her of when she was still unjaded by meeting Harrison, still single and carefree: in short, immune to love. Walking through this time portal now, however, Sophie could only feel as though she was nothing more than a cipher, a hollow shell of her former vibrant self. The self that didn’t imbue Harrison with all his current lifeblood.
She knew nothing of International Widows’ Day in those minutes leading up to her chance encounter. Was unaware that it was intended to recognize “245 million widows worldwide, 115 million of whom live in poverty and suffer from social stigmatization and economic deprivation purely because they have lost their husbands.” So when she saw a group of mostly African women gathered in a storefront she happened to amble past, she opted to walk in, something in their moroseness familiar enough to her to make her feel welcome. They invited her in warmly, asking if she was here to share a story about losing her husband for International Widows’ Day.
“Yes. I am. I want to talk to you about… Harrison.” It was then that she told them the story of losing him to a terrible accident. “He was eaten by rabbits, a bombardment of them. They were subjects in a scientific experiment he was conducting.”
The African women surrounding her nodded along intently, perhaps maybe even briefly convinced that Sophie had it worse than them in terms of how her husband faced his mortality. “I found him in the library, his body decimated beyond recognition.” One of the women offered her a tissue which Sophie promptly used to wipe away the tears that were starting to shed. “I didn’t know what to do. I picked up some of his pieces of flesh and clutched them to my chest. I can still feel the texture in my hands. As though he was never human, nothing more than sinews and ectoplasm. The rabbits were quiet, some of them still chewing on what was left of him contentedly.”
The woman who had handed her the tissue, presumably the ringleader of the group, rubbed her shoulder affectionately and as a means to urge her to finish her tale. “They never found out what set the rabbits off that way,” Sophie concluded abruptly.
The truth of the matter was, the story wasn’t a lie. Sophie was, as of now, a bona fide black widow. The only lie in the narrative Sophie couldn’t confess to them all was that she was the one who had clandestinely conditioned the rabbits to lash out over time at the sight of a human silhouette, infiltrating the N. Canon Drive residence every night since Harrison cast her out–like one of Charles Manson’s creepy crawlers–to inflict her own little side experiment on them. After enough months, their aggression reached a zenith in the attack of Harrison.
International Widows’ Day, she discovered, was meant to honor not just the death of her love, but the death of the person she should have loved most of all, the person she should have protected from Harrison’s lies and claims of eternal devotion. That person being, of course, herself–dead and gone the second Harrison ripped her heart out with the same ferocity the rabbits ripped out his.