I take my infant son Gaius to visit his cousin, who was born around the same time but suffered tragic complications at birth, which resulted in severe deformities (this I dimly recognise this as the sequel to some previous dream).
As I enter his house, I negotiate the many bright toys strews across the floor, which given the layers of dust on them seem to have been undisturbed for some time. I accidentally kick some ball or other which clatters into some others and causes a commotion that draws a number of strange, horned purple insects which scuttle around between hiding places. This in turn causes what can only be called a mass migration of hundreds of grey spiders from beneath the TV stand to under the sofa, their hair-thin legs almost invisible against the grubby, faded, shag-carpet Serengeti. As I walk deeper into the house, static faces of relatives blur past me, their presence distant, like so many over-edited social media photos.
The cousin, whose name I don’t know, sits in a teal medical chair in the corner, his face a knot of scar tissue atop a ruffed collar of coloured pencils held together with epoxy resin, seemingly there to hide enormous gory chasms in his neck. A small fleshy sack hangs around his neck like a medallion, weakly inflating and deflating at irregular intervals. He stares out, blankly from one sickly amber eye, a tube or tendon trailing from the other ruined socket to disappear over his shoulder. All around us is silence.
“Say hello to your cousin” I say to Gaius enthusiastically, as I bounce him on my knee.
Cousin responds in a remarkably clear and articulate voice and reflects stoically and at great length on his troubled birth and the subsequent surgeries as if a POW recounting his captivity and torture. It is all very tragic, but as the monologue continues it becomes more and more self-absorbed and cousin preoccupied with his own bravery. I respond something along the lines as I’m meant to;
“You're very brave” I nod.
He continues for a while more in the same manner of self-congratulatory auto-mythology. Suddenly, he appears to us as if he were a man untouched by these tragedies, handsome and clean-cut with and with a dashing 5-o-clock shadow.
“If I can overcome this” he continues again “...what are the rest of you all doing?? Hmm? Do I not inspire the rest of them to try harder? To be better?”
Eventually, I make my excuses, collect the boy, and begin the ritual of leaving, but get lost and accidentally enter a room-sized jacuzzi lazed with glamorous bodies. I try to navigate the hedonistic terrain and achieve nothing other than getting my shoes damp.