My own name, Veronica – an ugly enough thing I had always thought, it sounded like either the ointment or the disease – was one of her [Sister Benedict] great favourites. St Veronica wiped the face of Christ on the road to Calvary and He left His face on her tea towel. Or the picture of His face. It was the first-ever photograph, she said.
I became quite fond of her; a figure leaning out of the crowd, both supplicatory and tender. I still think of her wherever wet towels are offered in Chinese restaurants and on old-fashioned airlines. We have lost the art of public tenderness, these small gestures of wiping and washing; we have forgotten how abjectly the body welcomes a formal touch. I knew my fate must be linked to Veronica’s, in some way. Perhaps I would be a photographer. Perhaps there would come a moment when I would step out of the crowd, and then return – nothing more. I thought I might become a wiper of things when I grew up: blood, tears, all of that.
Anne Enright, The Gathering. Vintage, London 2007, pp. 128-129
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