< young mfa candidate queried about his preceptor and what she means to him for the campus newspaper
See, it’s a little like you're in a tiny little room, with an uncomfortable chair. And, and you don't know how this could be, the air in the room is somehow becoming thinner—in technical terms rarified—and it is getting harder and harder to breathe. And, and this feeling of panic starts rising up within you. You know? Back of the throat squeezing, legs gone woozy, everything. Understandable but still unstoppable. Freight train. And, but the thing is that there is another person in the room with you, some person, and, occasionally, this person exhales. Maybe there’s something else about them but it doesn’t matter because, every now and again, they breathe out, all normal. And you don't know how this is even possible, could even be possible, and, get this, you don’t ever see them inhale, but you know, because everything you've ever come to know about real life has combined to tell you, that all exhalation is necessarily preceded by inhalation. And so all of a sudden this other person in the room, who is occasionally exhaling, you realize that they must be getting air, that sweet thing you seem to be able to find and grasp increasingly less and less of as time goes and goes; they’re getting it from somewhere. Suddenly, in a way, there is an invisible or rather implied source of air that it becomes your mission to get at. Your deepest desire before the end of what may be, if it continues as it is, a very short life on earth. And of course air is always in a way invisible, but just because of that doesn’t mean you can’t always tell it is there, trust me, until it is increasingly not. This person is quite literally out-breathing you. You are losing at one of nature’s basic games and starting to think of increasingly simple and basic questions at an increasingly rapid pace. Beginning to doubt everything you’ve ever learned, even stuff learned so long ago as to be seen as effectively innate, you thought. These big questions about whether you got it all wrong starting at birth. That you’ve never been like them. So you do what anyone would do; when they exhale, you rush toward them, you try and breathe in that tiny little puff that they've let free into the increasingly rarefied air—air so damn thin that the sunlight through the window is increasingly harsh, unfiltered, UV-intense. It burns. You are being burned by the previously life-giving sun, by that friendly orb, all while being dug into by the absolutely stupid chair, gnawed by the sense that you are lost and simply an idiot, struck by the possibility that what you thought was simply isn’t and won’t be. And you are trying your best, you are simply, humbly begging for this person’s little puffs, their leftovers, this nothing to them, simply because it is quite literally better than nothing at all. You would wait on their every word. You would die for them, which is funny except for that it is not, in this situation. You would take even their saying to you that 'you’re welcome.’ And that is sort of what I think some people think love is, you know, or trying to save yourself. Which is the question.