Monday, August 19, 2013

The cure is friendship, and how to deal with bullies

THE CURE (1995) is about two friends, unlikely friends, who search for the cure for AIDS. They meet each other when Erik (Brad Renfro) jumps to the other side of the white fence and sees Dexter (Joseph Madello) for the first time. Erik's first reaction: "Wow, you're a midget." Dexter quips that he's within the normal range statistically. They hit it off instantly. Don't most friendships begin just like that? It starts with a common like or dislike, and progresses to something deeper and more meaningful.

Erik is the bigger, stronger, cooler guy with the 90's hair parted at the middle, largely inspired by Nick Carter. He comes over to visit Erik, who's the smaller, weaker, smarter kid, recently diagnosed with AIDS because of a blunder in blood transfusion. Since then Erik has been the brunt of school jokes. He's been called "faggot" and "gay" by the pupils in school and has largely adapted a Ghandi-like acceptance that those people don't understand much. Here's a tip to bullied kids: silence and indifference are tormenting to your supposed tormentors. As soon as they think you don't care what they do, their self-esteem is blown away, and they leave you alone.

Erik introduces the outside world to Dexter. He brings his sick friend to the local grocery and buys him sweets. On their way home some kids in the neighborhood bully Dexter. Erik challenges them to a fight. After all, isn't it true that the enemy of your friend is your enemy, as well? Another tip to the bullied: some bullies are denser than mercury, so find a big-boned friend who will die fighting for you.

One day Erik suggests that they both find a cure of AIDS. They head off to the nearest grassland and pick whatever leaves or flowers they find. Erik makes a concoction which Dexter drinks. We adults scoff at their futile attempts. Isolating a drug compound isn't as simple as boiling leaves in tap water. But their determination to find the panacea for an otherwise incurable disease entity is remarkable. It will do well for scientists and researchers to be child-like in their pursuits. Experiments are ultimately child's play but with very expensive things.

Unperturbed by the lack of results they sail through the Mississippi River to reach New Orleans, where a certain quack doctor lives. They read in the papers that the said medicine man has the cure. The journey takes many nights. Dexter deteriorates, is taken back home to the idyllic Stillwater, Minnesota where he is hospitalized. Erik stays beside Dexter until he breathes his last. Indeed friendship is a human connection that can go deeper than brotherly love (Proverbs 18:24b).

I chanced upon and streamed the entire film in YouTube; I did not know of its existence until I accidentally clicked an interesting link in the sidebar. I found The Cure hauntingly beautiful, like an old forgotten memory when one was still untainted by the ironies and tragedies of real life. I used to, and actually still, wear clothes like Erik's: oversized striped T-shirts, rugged jeans folded at the bottom, a plastic black watch, and a pair of dirty old sneakers.

One can never outgrow the 90's.



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