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Self-Portrait in the Time of Disaster | Federico Escobar

By noon I am done. I take the picture to her, up the stairs, past the living room, through the sleeping alligators, and she shakes her head again. “Not yet,” she says, “not quite.”


Undone, I come back to the studio, to the dark womb it is. I smash the palette against the wall, dim the lights. I fetch new oil paints, eat most of the green until I realize it’s not red, and squeeze the paints onto a bone palette until the metal tubes slice my fingers.


I paint.


I paint.


I paint over the piece of canvas that was, for a few minutes, exactly what I wanted. I coat over it, with thick brushstrokes that add half an inch of oblivion. I close my eyes as the camel-hair brush swirls, and dances, sliding forward and back and back.


When the sun is done with people, I stare at the canvas and say, Yes, this is her, this is finally her. Most of the paint has dried tight between my fingers, wrinkled as if ages had passed.


By evening I am done. I take the picture to her, up the stairs, the living room draped in darkness, the snapping mouths of alligators imposing on my thoughts. She looks at a mirror, scans the painting, shakes her head. “Not quite,” she says. “Still not me.”


Federico Escobar, originally from Cali, Colombia, has lived in New Orleans, Jerusalem, Oxford, and Puerto Rico. He has lived through a hurricane, a couple of earthquakes, and lots of rainbows. He writes stories and poems in Spanish and English, with work appearing in Cabinet of Heed, The Phare, Revista Eñe, Typishly, Tulane Review, and Bending Genres. His interests include angels and ancient personalities like Sulla and Alcibiades. He works in educational technology. He began the new millennium in Jerusalem’s Zion Square and hasn’t decided where he will see it off.


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