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NAKED MAN/Willa Rabinovitch WE ARE NOTHING ALIKE. If my mother had had a coffee-colored baby with nappy hair after she went off with Clay Dixon, that child would look more like her than I do. Now, of course, she has the sagging cheeks, the giving-way at the jaw line. At the airport, any of the old women getting off the plane could have convinced me they were her. Though when she herself came out, I knew her at once. She was dressed in slim black pedal pushers and a little black sweater, as though the Beats were still in their ascendancy. She wore no makeup; her gray hair was cut very short. Even with the years on her, she looks just like my sister, Amy. Seeing the resemblance drew the anger up out of me again, and it was all I could do to receive the fluttery embrace she offered, to take her heavy bag. Luckily she has a place to stay. For a woman who has been gone thirty years, my mother knows a lot of people in the Bay Area. She is Clay Dixon's widow; they all want to do her favors. I dropped her off at a house in Pacific Heights and watched her go up the walk between her hosts, an eager couple in expensive clothes. She kept turning around and waving at me, while I waited impatiently for a break in the traffic. I haven't offered to have her at the house, although we have room. Not room enough for all that has been left unsaid, though. I know my husband, Richard, thinks I should have offered, but Richard does not know how to carry a grudge. "Why has she come back here?" I hissed at him in bed that night. "She's alone now," he said. "She's getting old. You're her only family." Richard is right. I am her only family. Amy has been gone for three years, and my father went before her. It is just my mother and me now, and until last month I thought that made me an orphan. I know what that word,family, means to Richard. His parents live in Missouri, still married to each other. They call every week; they get on their extensions, and we get on ours, and although there is nothing much to say, the three of them make it seem like enough. When Richard is on the road, they call me anyway, and I try to reproduce the easy, interested manner Richard has with them. I know I have not quite got it because they are so careful with me, so polite. My mother came to visit us in a borrowed car, carrying presents of food. Already she has charmed the pants off Richard, who was predisposed because of Clay Dixon. For all that Dixon never returned 158 · The Missouri Review to the States after he went to live in Paris, taking my mother with him, he still has a name here. He has been dead for six weeks. She is in mourning, of course. She is quite thin, frail almost, her color that of old paper. Although she keeps up a cheerfulness that makes me think worse of her, her color makes her look as though she has been ill. She must once have been the same peaches-and-cream thatAmy was. I cannot avoid comparing them. It was unsettling to see her in my house. She sat in our kitchen smoothing her napkin with her small bony finger, while Richard made his slow, steady way through the coffee cake she brought and I pretended to be too busy with the cups and hot water to actually sit down at the table with her. My unease only increased when she told us that she has begun shopping for a condominium in San Francisco. She described a place she had viewed the day before—a wedge of a place with the kitchen just a strip of counter along one wall. "They call it a 'studio,'" she said. "I thought people made things in studios, music and art, but all I would have room to make in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 158-170
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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