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QU Montage

By Julia Perkins

You’re in Taylor’s basement, sitting 
on the couch covered in cat hair
when the shouting carries down
the stairs and she looks down 
at her fingers, picks at the fabric
of the couch and softly says
in a shaking, even voice,
“Yeah, that happens all the time,”
and you think you are going
to burst like a water balloon
because you had nearly forgotten:

five years old, sitting in the corner
of your bedroom on the itchy rug 
playing Barbies, with Sophia, 
when the shouts carried through 
the hallway to your bedroom. 
The Barbie fumbles in her hand 
and she looks at you, like a scared 
fawn, so, face hot, you look down 
at your beaming Barbie, softly say
in a shaking even voice,
“Yeah, that happens all the time.”

Again you see how the golden dark
shapes of the trees looked from
your half-closed eyelids as you
lean against the scratchy cushion
of the backseat at ten years old,
on a late-night ride home after 
another broken vacation, remembered
only because of the argument 
over the windows they wanted
to put in the bedroom you share
with your little sister. Kim’s asleep,
but the bickering keeps you
from falling into your dreams. 

Putting together that night
when you were eleven is like
trying to fit puzzle pieces
with worn and chewed edges
together. You can’t tell
the difference between the
stories and the blurry memories, 
but you and Kim were watching
your favorite Sunday night show
Extreme Makeover Home Edition
when the shouts carried through
into the room with the fireplace
and round green rug. You don’t 
know if someone turned the TV
off, but you think you were there
when he growled, ripped off part 
of their bedroom door and you think
you cried, but you’re not sure
if someone drugged your mind 
with poisoned memories because
you don’t remember what he
looked like when he splintered 
the frame or what happened for
the next few… days? Weeks? 
You just know December 1
was the day he left and it was as
if you were taking your first breath
out of water because you would 
never have to tell your friends, 
“Yeah that happens all the time.”

But you have never watched
Extreme Makeover Home Edition
again and the wood on the side
of your mother’s door frame
is still frayed and the windows
they fought over installing
in your bedroom now have
chipped paint, mold grows
on the edges, and when you
put your finger against the side
of the glass you can feel the
faintest breeze brush your skin. 

They say there are no sides,
that you shouldn’t choose
between mom and dad,
that they both love you, 
that they don’t want you
stuck in the middle, but
they don’t see they are
chasing each other around
a pool of water, which keeps
spinning, spinning, spinning
you into the center of everything
and you’re screaming “I’m dizzy!”
but they can’t hear you because
they’re shouting louder than you,
so you drown deeper, deeper, underwater.