The following is a story from Kathleen Alcott's Emergency . Alcott is the author of the novels America Was Hard to Find, Infinite Home and The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets Home . She has taught at Columbia University and Bennington College, and her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, Harper's Magazine, and elsewhere. I won't tell you what my mother was doing in the photograph—or rather, what was being done to her—just that when I saw it for the first time, in the museum crowded with tourists, she'd been dead five years. It broke an explicit promise, the only one we keep with the deceased, which is that there will be no more contact, no new information. In fact, my mother, who was generally kind and reliable in the time she was living, had already broken this promise. Her two email accounts were frequently in touch. The comfort I took in seeing her name appear, anew in bold, almost outweighed the embarrassment of the messages that followed. She wanted me to know that a small penis size was not an indictment against my future happiness. She hoped I would reconsider a restaurant I might have believed to be out of my budget, given a deal it made her pleased to share. She needed some money for an emergency that had unfolded, totally beyond her control, somewhere at an airport in Nigeria. Though these transmissions alarmed me, it was nice to be able to say what I did, when an acquaintance or administrator at the college where I teach saw my eyes on my phone and asked, Something important? It was nice to be able to say, Oh, it's just an email from my mother. Given how frequently we had written while she lived—the minute logistics of a renovation, my cheerful taxonomies of backyard weeds—she avoided the spam filter after her death, and I could not bring myself to flag her. She had not died as she lived. Does anyone? Though my mother had not been vain in a daily sense, she often made me, […]
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