In the dream I have a teenage son who I’m worried about. He’s a musician and artist, always in his room practicing his guitar or painting, and lately he’s been having some kind of internal emotional issue that makes him very hard to reach. Lately we’ve been arguing bitterly over the tiniest things. After these arguments he usually storms into his room and slams the door, or storms out of the house and slams the door. He won’t appear again until late in the night.
There’s been another development in my son’s life. An intense writer friend of mine, a woman around my age who has been over to our house for tea a number of times, has begun to reciprocate my son’s crush on her. I’m a little off-put by the situation but also strangely relieved that she will be my son’s first sexual experience. It settles the question in a way that feels somehow familiar and reassuring. Still, I am not at ease. My friend is a strong, sensitive woman and like all writers, she’s prone to moods of her own. My son is physically and intellectually mature for his age, but can he handle the challenges of adult emotion, an adult relationship?
One evening my son and I have an especially bad argument. He packs his gym bag with several changes of clothes and storms out of the house. It’s clear I won’t see him again for several days, that he’ll be holed up somewhere with his paramour during that time.
My partner tells me there’s nothing to worry about, but still I worry. I think about the kinds of manias and delusions that can result when two artists in distress come together and pour their souls out to each other. I imagine blissful states of communion but also the potential for horror: madness, murder, a suicide pact. My partner tells me I’m being melodramatic, that these are not artistic anomalies but simple human facts of life.
We start to argue about this, but our quarrel is interrupted by a noise at the front door. It’s my son and my friend, emerged from their exile. There’s a large canvas propped up between them, a painting they made together to commemorate their affair. The composition is stunning, and from the exhausted look on their faces, I can tell that the work was dangerous and far from easy for them. My partner invites them in for something to eat. I feel relieved, and proud of my son.
As I wake up, these words go streaming through my head: Every art collaboration is a death-tempting experience.