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This report is taken from PN Review 256, Volume 47 Number 2, November - December 2020.

Letter from Quarantine, and an Erasure Commentary Vahni Capildeo
To cross the rightfully closed borders of Trinidad and Tobago, I needed a place in one of the tiny private jets that were becoming legendary. The weight allowance meant I could take one light-ish suitcase, leaving behind most books and clothing. It is uncertain whether or when I shall return. Apart from anything else, such as death, non-commercial flights are expensive. Pilots and crew rack up costs, doing their best to keep passengers happy, negotiate with the Ministry of National Security for departure exemptions, and deep-clean the aircraft.

A negative Covid-19 test within seventy-two hours of departure was required. While the drive-thru swab was taken in the driveway of a clinic converted from a private house, I looked at a gorgeous rose-pink hibiscus bush. A young, courteous nurse twizzled far up my nostril, like someone cleaning a dirty highball glass. From Trinidad’s terminal to Barbados’s transit area, I had my temperature checked five times by security and medical officials, and by machines. My cuticles bled from the number of compulsory supervised sanitisation stations.

There was no distancing on the transatlantic flight to the UK, and little evidence of sanitisation. Heathrow was the busiest and filthiest I have seen. What was the point of clearance to leave the Caribbean? Any exposure to the plague will have happened on landing in England. That is why I should be in quarantine, not because of my other country’s status.

Quarantine, and thinking in isolation, made me dream up a strange form: erasure commentary. Erasure commentary would follow the course of a text that had ...

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