Yesterday, when I went to see Brad Kessler, my mentor from last Project Period, he put down his sandwich, opened his arms wide, shrugged his shoulders -- "Tunafish sandwich" -- and gave me a hug. We sat for some minutes - ten? twenty? I gave him homemade thin mints, a small token of appreciation for the time and thought he devoted to my writing this past semester. We discussed my upcoming term, potential topics for the five-page critical paper I'll need to write in the coming months, and which mentor might be good for me in this next Project Period.
How do I say this without sounding inappropriate, without innuendo? Much of last night, I dreamt of Brad. The dreams were filled with other people, and also food -- we were to make a meal or have a celebration or something. I was a student, and through my dreams I was trying to find him, trying to find some time to learn from him. I trailed him into the kitchen, I offered to help chop. Isn't this strange though? I myself am a cook; people come to me for lessons. Not so say I am an expert at all things food, but isn't it a strange setting for this dream?
And yet, food is nourishment. I cook to offer comfort or love to others. I am not a true culinary artist, despite the pride I take in my cakes and pies. They are just stand-ins for my need to show love in a way that feels appropriate toward strangers, toward acquaintances, toward friends.
I saw Brad last night at the evening's readings. He was there with the featured reader, White Oleander author Janet Fitch. At the end of the night I introduced him to Darby whom he has heard a lot about through my writing and weekly check-ins. It's strange to have so many people shake hands in introduction to Darby with a look of familiarity in their eyes, but that is the kind of writer I am: I write about the personal because I have this gut instinct that within our specific experiences there are universal connections.
So when my mentor met Darby last night in person for the first time, there was a two-way look of recognition -- both have heard a lot of each other, and yet how strange! I have barely spent more than a few hours in the same room with Brad, and we have rarely spoken about anything outside of my writing. We creative non-fiction writers are odd folk. How few conversations we have with each other, and yet how much we know about each other's lives and interior experiences.
My dreams last night were also about chasing. I was trying to find Brad, trying to get in the same space as him, trying to learn from him. I woke with an aching desire for the semester and this relationship to continue. Let me be clear: these are not romantic notions. I am easily able to separate admiration and desire, and Brad is an exquisite writer, an insightful teacher, and a kind person. But, I have true affection for him and it saddens me to move on. There is still so much I want to learn from him. Yet the way this program is designed, each term we have a new mentor.
One thing I know about myself is that I get terribly attached. There are childhood experiences, of course, that I am sure created this trait. But, this is how I am, so remind me of it in six months when I am dreaming of cooking meals with my next mentor.
Meanwhile, though, I am full of appreciation for the past six months' opportunity to work with Brad. Even this morning, as my dreams were shaking off, I had a realization from our conversation over the tuna sandwich yesterday. I am suddenly clear on the topic for my five-page critical paper. He's given me gifts of self-awareness and craft-polish that are my constant keyboard companions, and I suppose my task now is to take them with me on the next part of my journey here, with me as I travel with a new mentor/companion.