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The little orange lights blink against the dark blue background, resembling the twinkling of stars at dusk. As the black rings of rubber rapidly revolving around the orbits of metal hubcaps come to a halt, a screech of protest is heard. The driver jerks on a lever. The motor lets out an exhale of relief and the double plexiglass doors open, folding like an accordion.
Stepping up the stairs with three quarters in hand, I encounter the wrinkled face atop the driver’s seat, a face that looks at me listlessly and croaks, “Student?” I nod, deposit the change with three satisfying clinks and proceed to board. My eyes and nostrils are uneasily yet familiarly welcomed by jumbling sights and scents. I pass the woman who emanates the smell of cigarettes. Her mustard yellow hair and tawny teeth will later make an appearance in one of my paintings. I pass the man whose body odor stings my eyes and burns my nose. I imagine the brush strokes needed to depict the brownish strings strewn on the ground from his terribly tattered blue jeans. I advance to the back of the bus. I sit next to the career woman wearing a suit jacket a couple sizes too large and department store perfume. I will later paint the look of complete uneasiness combined with the fading purple bruises on her face. Leaning my head against the cool window, I gaze up and see the letters “WRTA”: “Western Reserve Transit Authority.”
Riding the Western Reserve bus results from growing up in America’s lower class. In the suburban life of Youngstown, Ohio it is a necessity to own a car: the bus was founded to help those who could not afford transportation. With every ride I am further alerted to the harsh realities of life with a low income. What many would view as America’s dark side, however, has fueled my creativity in an infinite number of ways. I find myself bittersweetly inspired by all these juxtaposed aspects of human life. I paint hope in the men with deferred dreams. I paint vibrancy in the women who bear the sorrow of regret. I paint innocence in the children whose faces show corruption. In this place of impossibility I have found opportunity.
Looking left, the man with the tattered blue jeans makes eye contact with me. For a split second, I see a glimmer of hope in his face as he believes my beautiful lie. Every lost ambition and deferred dream is forgotten. Quickly, I turn away in sadness. The truth sits in my throat like a knife, impossible to dislodge, possible to put into art.
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