The Rays of the Sun

March 2, 2008
By Kavisha Khanuja, Rutherford, NJ

The rays of the sun beat against my skin, leaving drops of sweat to form and trickle down my back as I took another step. I carefully placed one foot in front of the other, making sure I would not fall, and looked down at my once-white and much worn-in Keds. I continued down my path, setting each foot in the center of the train track’s metal bar. A slight wind came in from the north and whooshed past me, instantly cooling my back. I closed my eyes and stood still on the track, waiting for another gust of wind to comfort me. Other than the small movements of the tiny creatures out in the field, there was absolute silence. After several minutes, I slowly opened my eyelids and took in the scenery before me. For once, I was able to appreciate the beauty of living in the countryside. Squirrels and other small animals were scattered around the fields full of tall greenish-brown grasses that wavered as air passed by them. Day had begun to end, and the pink light in the horizon greatly contrasted against the yellow sun as they came together. The white feather-like clouds seemed to be moving out of my sight, reminding me why I came where.

I felt a chill run down my spine as I hopped of the tracks and crouched down to where I placed my black Adidas duffel bag. I quickly unzipped it and pulled out a navy blue sweatshirt to put on. I took out my cell phone from my pocket and looked down at the time. 5:58. “Great, just another four hours until the train arrives,” I sighed to myself. I sat down on the pile of sandy-colored dirt and placed my elbows on knees as I buried my chin in my hands. “Just four more hours and I’m out of here. Out to the city, where I can be free. I can do what I want, I can study what I want, and I can be myself. I will be free one I get on that train. Just four more hours.” I recited this mantra continuously for the next few minutes. I needed to keep my head held up high and feel encouraged to continue with my journey and start a new life. I looked again across the field and spied a bird perched on a small round top. Suddenly two more birds flew in and stood right next the other one. A wave of loneliness swept through me, reminding me that beauty surrounding me was not enough to get rid of the thoughts and memories that constantly played in my mind like a reel tape.

I opened the lid of the mailbox and peered inside. There is was! A large fat manila envelope. I quickly pulled it out and looked at the return address. Rhode Island School of Design. “Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh my god.” I placed the rest of the mail under my arm and ran inside my house with the giant envelope in my hand. I threw the mail on the coffee table and plopped down on the couch. “Breathe…Breathe…Deep breaths…In Out…In Out.” I gently ripped opened the flap of the envelope and pulled out its contents.

“Dear Miss Johnson:
We are please to inform you that you have been accepted into…”

“Yes!” I jumped up and down while screaming loudly.

“Valerie! Is everything alright? Are you okay?” worriedly asked my mom as she walked in the room.

“Yes, Mom! Everything is alright! But guess what. I GOT IN. I. got. in. To Rhode Island School of Design. Me. Valerie Johnson. Ahhh! Mom, I’m so excited!” I yelled joyously to my mom.

“Oh honey!” She places her right hand over her mouth and sinks onto the near couch. “That’s…that’s…that’s umm gggreat. I’m so proud of you.”

“Umm, mom. You seem a bit unsure. I mean, aren’t you happy for me? This has been my dream for years. I’ve been wanting to be an artist. Now I get the chance.” I exclaim with my voice becoming louder and louder.

“Oh, no Val. I’m happy, of course I’m happy. I just…I’m just a bit…a bit wary. I mean, is art a profitable profession?”

“Mom!” I raise my voice as I stand up. “DOES it matter, whether or not I make money? Isn’t it important that I’m in a career doing something I LOVE.”

“Valerie! Don’t raise your voice at me!” She too stands up and stares me down. “I’m just concerned about your future. Do you know how difficult it was for your father and me to earn money so we can live a comfortable life? It’s so ha—”

“Mom” I cut her off, my voice angry. “I’ve heard this story so many times. I know! I know you lived a crappy life and you don’t want mine to be just as crappy and miserable. I KNOW! But seriously, I want to do this! Why can’t you just let me.”

“Listen! It’s just painting and art! It’s a good hobby…just not a career! Why don’t you understand Valerie!” She sat back on the couch, as she pleaded with me.

“I don’t understand. You and Dad have been taking me to art classes, exhibitions, and shows. And now. NOW, you tell me that I shouldn’t do this? I don’t understand. Why?”, I questioned.

“We just thought this was something you were interested. I mean, not in a career. We thought you would head towards the business career. That’s why we were so happy when you applied to Carnegie Mellon. It’s a good bus—”

“Oh my god!. I cannot believe this. I cannot believe you. I can’t believe Dad. You guys never expected me to get in. Did you? Did you mom? You never did.” I yelled at her. Silence. Then I saw it. A slight head shake. “I can’t believe this. This is crazy.” I said in a shaky voice, and turned around to head to my room, leaving my mom sitting there with tears in her eyes.

I pushed opened my door and ran to the corner to search through my belongings. I pulled out my black duffel bag and rummaged through my drawers for clothes. I took the clothing and placed them in the bag and did the same with my art supplies. I looked around my room, and started packing my MACbook and other electronics along with it. After another quick look around my room, I stepped outside my room and closed the door. I headed towards the backdoor and ran outside towards the path. I then started running and didn’t stop until…

Here. Now. Present.

I once again roamed my eyes around the fields, taking in the serene landscape of the countryside. Dusk had approached, warning me of the time. In about two and half hours I will have to start walking towards the train station, so I can get on the train that arrives in three hours. A half –an-hour walk. Oh joy. I turned my head towards the bag beside and decided to unzip it. As I rummaged through the contents, I realized that I had packed my first artwork portfolio. I pulled out the heavy blue book, along with a flashlight, and flipped to the first piece of artwork. It was a painting of a horse and her foal beside a brown wooden fence. My first painting. It was my worst technicality wise and yet, one of my best. I gently laid my index finger on the painting and began to trace the outline of each figure. This painting, took me months to complete. I remember the faces of how proud my parents were. I thought they supported my decision to major in the visual arts in college. I thought they would be happy for me, happy that I am accomplishing my dreams. “No”, I said out loud, shaking my head. “No, I am not going to think. No. I will not think about it.” I once again looked down at portfolio and almost instantly another rush of emotion overtook me, reminding me off…

“Mom! Dad! Guess what!” I shouted as I ran in the kitchen, to where my parents were.

“Valerie! Calm down. Is everything all right?” asked my dad.

“Dad! It’s great! It’s more than great! They’re offering art classes at school! I can finally take art lessons! Isn’t that awesome.” I exclaimed while bouncing up and down.

“Val, that’s great! But, where are the classes…” started off my mom

“Oh, it’s after school! In Mrs.Marshall’s room. You know her! Right? My art teacher last year? In the forth grade!”

“Oh! Her! I remember her. She was very nice and always told us to let you take art classes. I didn’t think you were that interested in taking classes though Val,” said my dad with a confused look on his face.

“Well…I always wanted to take it. I just thought, you wouldn’t want me to,” I replied shyly, with my voice trailing off at the end.

“Sweetie! If you wanted to do it, of course we’ll let you!” exclaimed my father, “How’s this? I will call Mrs. Marshall tomorrow and talk to her about the lessons. If your mother and I agree that these lessons will be fun – ”

“And if I get to be a really cool and famous artist! Like…like Van Gogh!” I shouted with excitement, cutting him off.

“Yes!” said my mom smiling, “and if these lessons will make you a cool and famous artist, we’ll let you take them! How does that sound?”

“Really?” I paused and looked up at their smiling faces. “Thanks mom! Thanks Dad! I’m so happy now!” I flashed them a big smile, showing them all my teeth.

That night, my parents called Mrs. Marshall and agreed in letting my take art lessons. The next day after school, I went to her room and sat down at the nearest desk. I looked around the classroom, taking in the bright colors and unique designs. Throughout the room, paintings of Degas, Van Gogh, Monet, Michelangelo, Picasso, Warhol, da Vinci, Warhol, Matisse, and many others were displayed. “Wow!” I thought to myself. “This is what I want to do. I want my paintings to be put in classrooms. I want other students, years from now, to like my art. I wanna be just like those people.” It was at that moment, I realized how important art was going to be in my life. I knew it then that this would be my career, my future, my everything. Mrs. Marshall walked into the room and I turned my head in her direction and looked up.

“Hi!” she exclaimed brightly to the four other children in the classroom and me. “I know that you are all excited and I am so glad you took a step into the world of art. I see that you guys have already looked around the room and noticed the paintings displayed. These artists are world renown and even today are looked upon as the greatest. They used their passion and skill to create beautiful pieces of art. That is what I want each of you guys to do. Use your passion, use your skill, and make art. That is why, I want you guys to have fun and enjoy what you are doing.” She looked around the room again. Silence. “Okay guys! So, today we are going to start off the day with…”

Another gust of wind swept by and I was once again brought back to the present. I looked up from the painting and stared ahead. The sky had darkened considerably and the only natural source of light was the stars above. I looked back down at the painting, and felt a stinging sensation in my eyes as tears filled them up. I quickly wiped away the tears with my forefinger and tried to focus again on my portfolio. However, the tears continuously appeared. I could not believe that my parents didn’t want me live my life. For years, I thought they supported my ambition to become an artist and actually wanted me to succeed. I placed my palms over my eyes, as my fingers grasped onto my hair. The tears subsided and I tried calming down my heavy breathing. I removed my hands from my face and look back at the paintings. I carefully flip through the pages, remembering the significance of each painting. The painting of the lilies on lake, was completed during my Monet obsession, while the cubistic impression of my face was done while I was fascinated with Picasso. I finally get through the entire album when I notice a small rectangle shape paper sticking out in one of the folds of the portfolio. I gently slide it out and flip it over. Another rush of feelings come upon me, jogging my memory of the time when…

“Mom! Dad!” I shouted with excitement as I entered the house.

“Upstairs.” Yelled out my dad.
I climbed up the steps and rushed into their bedroom. I sat on the couch and looked straight at them. “So what’s up?” inquired my mom.

“There is this amazing art gallery this Friday at the Allen Gallery in Chelsea NY. I know, I know its 3 hours away, but it’s the American Exposure gallery.”

“Well, when is it? Will it interfere with your school work?” asked my dad.

“Oh, well it opens next Friday and ends the following Monday. So, there won’t be much work. I mean, we can go on Saturday to the gallery. On Friday, I can finish all my school work and on Sunday if needed. I can reschedule my art lessons to Sunday and take a double shift volunteering at the Hospital this weekend.” I state quickly in one breath.

“Wow!” said my dad in an impressed voice. “Looks like you’ve got it all planned out.”

“Yeah. Well, I really, really, really wanna go! It’s going to be amazing. The artists that are displayed here are like the new and upcoming ones. There paintings display the different qualities of life in the US.”

“Well, it looks like you know a lot about this. And since you planned it out…” My mom dragged on.

“Oh please, please, please!” I begged as I got down to my knees and folded my hand together. “Please. I won’t ask for anything ever again. I’ll work really hard. I’ll do all the chores. Please!”

“Okay. Okay. Get up!” said my mom laughingly. “You can go. You can go. We both know how much this means to you. So you can go.”

“Oh my god! Thank you so very much! You’re the best parents ever.” I exclaimed happily as I ran over to hug my parents.

“It’s fine!” laughed my dad. “Come on, let’s begin planning this out.”

The days leading up the gallery were some of the longest ever. However, it was finally the day of the gallery. We left in the afternoon, at around noon and took the train, as we didn’t want to take our car and suffer through the infamous NYC traffic. We arrived in the city at around 3:30 and headed towards a restaurant to have early dinner. After we ate, my parents and I traveled towards the gallery. The gallery itself was absolutely spectacular. Saying that the art was amazing was an understatement. The feelings and vibes given off by each piece was one the provoked much emotion and passion. The colors and techniques used by each artist inspired me to use them in my own work. I actually met several of the artists including William Eggleston, Helen Brough. Meeting these people, who shared the same zeal and excitement for art as me, was something truly powerful. As the end of the gallery approached, I began searching for my parents. I finally spotted them, looking back at me with pride and happiness in their eyes. That day I knew, my parents would support me and always be there for me. ______________________________________________________________________________

These memories both past and present truly confused me. My parents had always been there to support my interest in art, but the incident today proved that they would prefer it to be a hobby. I was deeply confused. Should I continue with my art or please my parents? I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket and looked at the time. One hour until the train arrives. I now had two choices. I could either begin making my way towards the train station or walk back home. I was either risking my ambition or my family. Which was more important? If I went back, could I make my parents see reason? What if they didn’t? I looked back above at the sky and saw a flock of birds flying across. Suddenly, I had an epiphany and finally realized the right decision. I stood up and placed my portfolio and flashlight back into the duffel bag. I zipped the bag closed and swung it over my shoulder. I took a step towards the left and looked to the fields where I had spent my night. And then, I began running. Running back to my home.

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