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This report is taken from PN Review 267, Volume 49 Number 1, September - October 2022.

Touch and Mourning
Part 1: See You at the Funeral
Anthony Vahni Capildeo
This essay was written in an unhugged state, indoors, in the tropical dry season. Revisiting it under trees, in Greyfriars kirkyard, in the Scottish summer, I am more hugged, but in a selective way. This is a summer of dodging and flinching. Pat, pat, pat. Variant clinches. Yet here is a coronavirus pandemic paradox. The closest I have been to any body, any bodies, was the proximity shimmering off the screen like a heatwave, during the Zoom funeral for Miss Rosalind Wilson, my former English teacher at St Joseph’s Convent, Port of Spain. Trinidad and Tobago’s government had made a serious attempt to contain the mutation of the virus and injury to the population. There were no more than six masked, distanced mourners physically present at the funeral. Those of us wanting to be present online were confronted with the swept, near-empty church – not the rainbow-glass school chapel – through a fixed camera, which showed the side of the coffin, and an angled view of the altar. However, there was an unexpected kind of presence.

In the Zoom squares, we saw a tessellation of each other’s faces: ‘Convent girls’ from across eight decades. Was this intimacy, or violation? At a funeral, especially a Trinidad funeral, I expect to be hyper-aware of living bodies. There would be scents of cocoa butter, coconut oil, talcum powder, French and American perfumes, ironed cotton, overly sunned nylon, lilies, chrysanthemums. We would hug and cry uncomfortably, consolingly; nobody a stranger. Jaws would press into shoulders; handbags would wallop hips. We would feel a trembling throughout the congregation; glimpse handkerchiefs in our ...

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