It wasn’t exact, there would be a thicker collection of trees behind the house, sloping upwards towards the Three Sisters, rising into the Oregon sky. The tree in front of the barn would be slightly bent from wind and there would be a pile of cut wood next to it. It wasn’t exact, but Tara was shaken with familiarity as she took in the painting. It reminded her of home, of the house where she grew up. And she couldn’t move.
Later, she would be grateful for the dimmed lights as slides of 19th Century American Artists flipped through most of the 55 minute class. This particular image sat in front of her for maybe seven minutes as the professor rattled on excitedly about the artist’s slight deviation from traditional landscape work.
Tara heard none of it. For seven minutes, her heart pounded as her mind’s eye flashed scenes from her childhood. Her mother making supper, her brother stabbing his fork into the kitchen table, her father’s smoky brown truck making its way to the front door. Tara looking up, wide-eyed, at the sound. Her mother quirking her lips to try and hide the small, forming frown. The scene played over and over in Tara’s mind and remained as an imprint until the last slide clicked off and the lights clicked on.
She slowly stood on numbed legs and picked up her bag. Her open notebook showed a still empty page as she dropped it inside. She felt… removed. As if the world was moving around her as she floated, like a phantom, amongst the people passing her by. The brown truck turned left, stopping just feet from the northern side of the house. She saw it in a loop, over and over. She saw it with more clarity than the faces she knew were here with her now but seemed so far away.
Ducking into the bathroom near the exit, Tara set her back on the sink, and turned faucet on. Filling her hand, she let the icy water shock her, then repeated the action twice more. Finally, she felt her awareness return and she blinked her eyes several times. With a quick glance at the mirror, she pulled a few paper towels from the dispenser, wiping the dripping water from her face and neck. The collar of her t-shirt was soaked, it helped keep Tara grounded. With a deep breath she turned, tossed the paper towels, and headed out toward her next class.