Chapter 9 - Even Flow (Pearl Jam ; 1991)

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"I don't want anyone to be afraid to show me their work," Mr. Iero said as he walked around the room. "I'm not going to be like some pompous asshole and tell you to give up pursuing art. I want to give you ideas to help you expand your creativity, so I'll have to see everything you've got."

I stared at the sketches and portraits that I had laid out in front of me, my hands beginning to sweat and my heart still hammering in my chest. I sorted my works out by groups to make it easier for him to see how I differentiate all of my ideas. I had my charcoal sketches together, my geometric projects together, and, most importantly, my portraits.

All of my portraits, except for one, were all of Brendon. I began to grow even more nervous as I continued to stare down my works, feeling my heart knot inside my chest as they became uglier before my very eyes. I felt tears of anxiety begin to well up just as a hand was placed on my shoulder. I looked up to see Mr. Way and Mr. Iero peeking over my shoulders with soft smiles on their faces.

"Frank," Mr. Way said softly, "this is Mr. Ryan Ross. He's the student of mine that I've been telling you about for a while now."

My attention directed toward Mr. Iero, whose eyes seemed to light up at the mention of me. "Pleasure to meet you, Ryan," he said as he extended a hand towards me. "Gerard has told me so much about you, how much promise you hold and how talented you are."

I took his firm hand in my jittery one, shaking lightly as I just nodded at him. Mr. Way cleared his throat at me and nudged his head softly toward my works and I was suddenly brought back to reality. "O-Oh, right," I stuttered as I looked back towards my works. "M-Mr. Iero, these are my s-sketches that I've completed w-while in Mr. Way's class."

He nodded softly before stepping a bit closer and crouching down beside me, reaching his hand out to further inspect my sketches. My heart was absolutely hammering inside my chest, and I felt like I could pass out any moment.

"Ryan," Mr. Iero said softly, "the penmanship on these is absolutely amazing. You didn't leave any gap lines between pencil strokes, and each detail seems to be perfectly intricate. Did you teach yourself to do these? Come up with your own techniques?"

I nodded softly at him as I brushed my hair from my forehead. "I've been d-drawing for as long as I can remember," I said softly as I looked at my sketches. "I-It just always seemed to come n-naturally to me."

He smiled softly as he looked back to the sketches. He directed his attention to the portraits, and his eyes lingered on my many sketches of Brendon before he picked one up, examining it closely. I watched him with perplexed eyes as his face softened upon looking at the sketch.

"I'm going to assess the boy in this picture," he started softly, "and you're going to tell me if I'm wrong."

I blinked a couple times out of confusion before nodding softly.

He bit his lip in thought before setting the sketch down and looking to me. "He's a dreamer," he deadpanned. "He has his future idealistically planned out, hoping to one day mean something to people. He's outspoken but quiet, confident and shy at the same time. Sensitive, yet holds a tough exterior. This boy wears his heart on his sleeve, and is not afraid to show that. How did I do?"

I looked at Mr. Iero in awe, my mind reeling at just how the actual hell he was able to do that.

He chuckled as his lips curled up into a soft smirk, and he placed his hand on my shoulder. "Ryan," he said with a soft, breathy laugh, "you have successfully captured this boy's essence into your artwork. There are not a lot of artists that can do something like that, and those that can take years and years to develop that skill. This is, by far, one of the most incredible portraits I've ever seen."

My face heated up at his words and my heart felt like it was about to stop. I felt tears gather in the corners of my eyes as I smiled softly and brought my hands to cover my face. "Th-Thank you so much, Mr. Iero," I said as I attempted to hold back the tears of joy that were threatening to spill from my eyes. "That honestly means s-so much to me."

He nodded as he patted my shoulder and rose to his feet, myself following directly behind. "I can understand why Gerard speaks so highly of you," he stated proudly. "You have a lot of potential, and an incredible sense of talent. I look forward to seeing more of your artwork in the future. Maybe even," he paused, cocking his head to the side and giving me an insinuating look, "hung up in one of my galleries in Chicago?"

At that moment, I'm pretty sure my heart stopped. "I-In one of y-your g-galleries?"

He nodded, giving me a look that screamed that he was serious. "Maybe you, Gerard and I can get together over lunch sometime this week and discuss it?"

I nodded vigorously and he smiled, reaching his hand out to shake mine again and I shook his hand even more nervously than I did the first time. He released my hand and began walking away, but stopped dead in his tracks before turning back to me. "Also," he said softly, "I couldn't help but notice that you have a lot of sketches of this boy."

I nodded softly a soft smile reaching my lips. "His name is Brendon."

He nodded softly, eyes glancing down at the sketches for a brief second before flickering back to my face. "Might I inquire as to why that is?"

I looked down at the sketches, letting my smile widen a little before speaking softly.

"He's my muse."

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