Wednesday, March 16, 2011



While Homer disintegrated, shrank and emaciated to his marrow, I expanded. The simple and necessary observation was hard to ignore: we somehow lived and grew in an inverse ratio to each other. Even later, when the opposite state seemed to be wholly true, when I did not know where he began and I ended, there was still the problem of delineating a boundary, still the doggedly persistent inability of separating me from him.

If we were both robust and healthy perhaps our unbalanced symbiosis would never have occurred. If I grew to be a giant out of all proportion to my surroundings, then I needed a helpless Fay Ray to obligate me to reference the world. I would have simply grown so utterly out of human dimensions that I would have no longer belonged to the ranks of humanity at all. For growth and decay, diminishment and flourishing, expansiveness and decline, all exist on the same fluid slope. Never did I believe that I would ever rise above my antinomies. I could never hold both polar impulses without my own Homer, without my blind bard as a divining rod…

I thought if I cured Homer and he recuperated that this shrunken homunculus would grow to a full man and destroy this dance with opposites. I held the hope that if Homer could yet rise from the exile of physical penury that nature had imposed on him, that somehow the Vandemark line would not continue to be the withered stump it had become.

Somehow the House of Vandemark would have its heir; would receive its rightful measure in due and just proportion from country, clan and history. I did not care what this new embryo would become. As long as there was a progression to new life! If there is any torture in dualism it comes from the knowledge that it often fails to be procreative; that simple exclusive categories can be juxtaposed, conjoined, but yield nothing from their efforts, or merely a stalemate of mutually exclusive blocks… a dull thud as they collide, and then they resume their course, as if nothing happened… as if the event never occurred!

So when I inherited the House of Vandemark I decided to clear the plate. I firmly resolved to embark on a set of drastic measures to put my house in order.

The first, obvious step was Homer. Medical science had failed him repeatedly, so I had to fill the void. I had volumes of Father’s medical books to use for consultation. Since specialization, that great innovation of modern medical rigor, had failed him, perhaps pastiche would succeed. I made him sit for hours with a poultice of vitamin C and aloe over his spent eyes. He was required to eat large quantities of specific foods, while eliminating others entirely, to build up his spindly body, to give healthfulness an adequate platform to prosper.

These binge diets lasted for weeks on end, and then would cease abruptly and shift gears. First he was required to eat all protein and no fat. Then, in a dietary about face, all fat and no protein. The massive doses of vitamin C were quickly followed by a regimen of vitamin C from natural sources: navel oranges, grapefruits, and tangerines in quantities all out of proportion to any scale of normalcy. Another month, he ingested vast amounts of vitamin D; then I depleted his diet of vitamin D for the following month. Then I sat him on our roof in July, that year the sunniest July on record, incidentally, and allowed his pasty white skin, under my careful monitoring, to grow a deep amber, than a resilient bronze.

Homer tried his best to cooperate with my schemes, deferring to my superior knowledge and experience. And my brother’s body seemed to be an extremely pliable object; as a medium it responded marvelously to all manner of stimuli, oral, physical and topical (unlike my body --- which is as impermeable as stone). But it was hard on him, my poor brother, it taxed his spirit; he was always a weak little stripling, and if it were not in the name of progress I would have discontinued the regimen and let him just rest. But I felt, not without some clinical basis, that with enough trial and error, enough blind stabs into the clinical darkness, I could find the perplexing source of his blindness, and bring him from perpetual night to everlasting day.

I looked down on his wan, exhausted face, so similar to mine in every detail except bulk, and administered one more fad ointment, spoon feed him yet another vitamin mash, and a little more darkness would envelope him.

Nothing worked. And as I looked around me, and what my world had become, I realized, as a thin sliced  removed from a cataract, I was totally incapable, even in such a rich world I had created, to make my way out of the confounding maze.

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