By Donald Denoon
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Extra resources for Afterlife: A Divine Comedy
Then we recognised that one of the few values our families shared was a belief in the sacrament. For them a civil ceremony was scarcely better than criminal. We need not have been anxious. Sitting across the aisle from each other, and at separate tables in the reception, ‘his’ family and guests had limited contacts and mingled guardedly with ‘hers’. During this truce in the class war, everyone was carefully polite. I overheard one of ‘hers’ exclaim how wonderful it was that Australia was such a classless society.
I still couldn’t say if the voice was male or female and, although my sight was returning, afterLIFE 41 I couldn’t focus. The name could be Gabrielle. Or Gabriel. The only bell it rang was Father Weedes’s account of the Annunciation. Surely this was not the Gabriel? But if I could suspend disbelief and accept for the moment that this was some sort of Afterlife, then an Archangel wasn’t inconceivable at all. And who but an Archangel would expect a single name to be a sufficient introduction? If Father and Mum could make an ethereal appearance, then — no matter how improbable, how portentous — why not an Archangel?
That avoids the usual problem of remembering an assumed identity. Milan — the president of the recently independent republic — offers a simple family name that is easy to remember. Only once was I pressed on the subject of Slovenia — by a young woman who said that she had also been born there — but I saw through her pretence long before she could see through mine. ‘Angel’ had the advantage (or so I thought) of being gender neutral. However, no such condition is accepted here. Even the notion of gender neutrality creates unease and even anxiety.