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This report is taken from PN Review 254, Volume 46 Number 6, July - August 2020.

Letter from Trinidad
on Lockdown before the Plague
Vahni Capildeo
The most intense period of lockdown which I experienced occurred before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Similar experiences will hold good for many who are not publishing commentaries on the pandemic. The lockdowns which have been their everyday remain unvoiced. In my case, I had decided to return to Trinidad for five months, as it had become clear that my mother was unwell. She has many family and friends who look out for her. None of them lives with her. They know her through her online presence and very occasional appearances, a wiser and persevering version of a nineteen-fifties or nineteen-sixties girl, daisy-voiced and coral-lipsticked, beating them at WordBlitz, bright and brushing off pain.

A few years ago, she had not brushed off the pain when a mysterious skin reaction raised itself on her limbs for some weeks. She had asked around – family and medics, family medics – and been fobbed off with talk of allergies. Allergies are the new elves. They commonly yet mysteriously sour the body, the way the Fair Folk used to turn the milk. My mother was some weeks into this light layer of suffering when I visited that time. I asked her whether she was putting anything different on her skin. Yes, a lovely gift of body cream from a kind friend. I looked at it. Unable to read the lettering on the bottle, she had been moisturizing with body wash, rubbing a harsh perfumed cleanser into her skin. The chemicals were meant to be rinsed off. Instead, they were soaking in. She ...

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