An Elegy to Plastic Slipcovers

A gentle indentation marks the spot where Rosa Peña sat enthralled, clutching the hand of her husband, Leo Sánchez, as they watched the melodrama of telenovelas on a plastic slipcovered loveseat in their New York City apartment.

A large rectangular etched mirror reflected them back against chalky white painted walls in their short living room that overlooks the street. A combative window shade lets in sunlight that reflects off the shiny plastic and forces Sánchez to squint. At 90, his sturdy frame and thick white hair make him look 30 years younger.

Sánchez once drove a truck delivering caskets to funeral homes not long after he arrived from Santiago in the Dominican Republic in 1962. His wife died in 2019. They sat cheek to cheek for 32 years on a couch embalmed in vinyl.

"Sometimes," Sánchez said, the plastic creaking as he showed her portrait. "I think she's still here next to me."

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