360° Still Frame:

by Natalie De Paz

The Room with the Birds of Paradise Bedspread,
Lunchtime, 234 East 7th Street


An old Zenith TV sits bloated in the wall unit. Not baseball season, only
local channels can be caught with the glow-in-the-dark remote control buttons.
In the next cube over, from Left to Right: Erika, 18, prima ballerina, not yet
third-grade teacher; Andy, 8, kneeling with a soccer ball instead of an army rifle.
Next cubby down, Natalie, 3, sits on a white stepladder in her Minnie Mouse overalls, laughing like it is the only thing she knows how to do.


A vertical triptych. From Top to Bottom: Raquel, 6, ever flower-stem thin; Celita, 10, with cheeks like lychees, still deserving the diminutive suffixed to her
name; Natalie, 14, looking far off and not thinking about running anywhere.


Natalie again. Above a sharp-cornered nightstand, pressed with her preschool diploma onto a plate whose gold paint is chipping; beside this artifact, the loose headboard leans against Abuela’s tremolo, mid-push through the wall: ¡Se enfría la comida!


A trove of golf tournament polo shirts shines in the closet. The door
to the little room is framed in moldings older than the middle
grandchild. Abuelo stands just outside, saying, Esta es tu casa, the third
of this sort of reminder today. He has kicked off one brown leather
sandal and is about to slide out of the other to cross the threshold, to twist
open the blinds’ sleepy eyes, and make the bedspread bloom soft in the window-light.