A meandering piano score; someone picking at the keys. A cluttered house. Objects stacked and draped on every surface. My mother sits in one corner doing something, focused on something. Knitting, perhaps; the camera never focuses on her to investigate. I know my mom is the age she is now, but my brother sits amongst the stacks of paper on the couch, and he is only five or six years old here. He is busying himself, looking for things to play with. He finds a coloring book: on the cover there is an odd drawing of a police officer in profile. The drawing is a caricature: it resembles him as he will look in 25 years.
My brother is restless. The book is just interesting enough, but will not entertain him for long. I want to protect him but I’m not there. I’m just observing. The police officer glares; the drawing is an accusation. From nowhere, a small red clown nose the size of a cherry tomato appears on the nose of the drawing. My brother plucks it from the cover. The foam clown nose is real and not a drawing. Another appears near the cover. And another, a little beyond it. I know this pattern: they will continue to appear, and they will make a trail. My brother will follow the trail, unsupervised. The trail will lead him to something horrible.
In another part of the house, a girl plays in a darker, paneled, carpeted room. She is playing “farm” though she has no toys. On the carpet she has propped children’s books up to make little houses. Old cardboard toilet paper tubes, with four pushpin legs, stand in for cows. Her father walks in — I don’t know who these people are, but it’s the same house and they must be my family. Her dad looks like Robin Williams, in a serious role.
He smiles and gingerly steps over the toilet paper tubes. As he does so, the camera focuses in on one of the tubes. Despite being cardboard with pushpin legs, they bray and whinny uneasily. They make the same noises a herd animal does when it sees a snake nearby. I hear them, but no one else does. If they could rear up and back away, they would, but they can’t. They are just cardboard. They do not like this man.
The girl says something silly, introducing the father to the farm. He takes a bow and waves to the cardboard tubes. He picks up a small action figure, like a Ken doll, and begins to play on the carpet. The room is too dark for me to see the doll’s face.
Now I am no longer a camera, observing these scenes. Suddenly I am very small, smaller than even the Ken doll. The girl and the father are gone. The cardboard tube cows remain, out of my field of vision. They continue to make frightened animal sounds, more pitched now, more urgent. I cannot see them, but I hear them to the sides and behind me.
What I can see, what completely fills my field of vision, is the starkly-lit side of the Ken doll’s head. I am looking at the head from reverse three-quarters perspective. The light on it is harsh, like that of a close flashlight. The face is away from me, and fully in shadow. I know the face will be horrible. Of course it is. I place my tiny hands on the head and begin to rotate it to the right, so that I will see the face. It is difficult. The head barely budges.
In fact, the head only turns about to profile. But it is still completely shadowed. I can’t make out any part of it, and it won’t turn further. I know that I’m dreaming now, and I think that the only way to end the dream before something else happens is to look at the face. But all I can see is the plastic back of his head, the plastic hair and one plastic ear.
I wake up anyway.