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February 21, 2010

THE LONGEST ROAD - PART THREE - John Miller Fictional Autobiography

John Miller had told the story so many times, to so many people, each time, trying to express in the way it really happened, really felt. He didn't want sympathy, he did want understanding, but he didn't want to even have the story... if he could cut away a piece of his mind and rid himself of it - if he could retain the parts that meant so much to him... if he could live it over... if...

If things had worked out the way he was working them out - he was convinced he would be a happy, successful person now. But he had to admit - life has a way of throwing curve balls, life is difficult... and his mentor Douglas S. had warned him about the consequences of success, how there would be those to dislike him, envy him, challenge him. John understood all that, and he took most of the challenges in stride. But there was a challenge that hit him that he never saw coming, that he had no real defense against. And in the end it defeated him... in the end it was like the following story John had read in the 70's... a story that would haunt him the rest of his life. A story that paralleled his own life in a way he never could explain.

"FLOWERS FOR ALGERNON" by Daniel Keyes (Short Story; Novel: 1958; 1959;1966)

Excerpt from Wikipedia: Flowers_for_Algernon
"The ideas for Flowers for Algernon developed over a period of 14 years and were inspired by numerous different events in Keyes' life, starting in 1945 with Keyes' personal conflict with his parents who were pushing him through a pre-medical education in spite of his own desire to pursue a writing career. Keyes felt that his education was driving a wedge between him and his parents... "

When John was a young boy he enjoyed playing with his younger sister and her friends. He was and still is close with his sister. But early on his mother was afraid John would become gay if he continued to play with girls, and so forbid him around age 7 of being with his sister and his friends. She attempted to "match him up with male friends", an effort that was futile. John might be forbidden from hanging out with girls, but when it came to friends he had a mind of his own. He did make friends with other males, was the obvious underdog most of the time, but he survived.

At age 8 he was given a book called "R Is For Rocket" by Ray Bradbury... there was a story he read called "Frost and Fire", about a kid who grew up on the planet Mercury, the descendants of a marooned Earth colony that made their homes in caves. Over the decades, they had adapted to a few hours each day to venture outside... given the harsh hot sun during the day, and icey cold temperatures at night. They also evolved into a race of humans whose metabolism ran it's life over a period of 7 or 10 days. It depended upon the cave you were born in. The valley people lived 7 days, the hill people 10. In his 7 days of life the character named SIM was to grow into an adult in 3 days, have children, watch his parents die by age 5, and grow old within seven days. But Sim had heard two rumors... one was that the Hill people lived 10 days, rather than seven. And that there were "scientists" living deep within the caves looking for a "solution", with knowledge that salvation was a few miles away on a mountaintop... where the seeds that brought them to Mercury sat. With the short time Sim had in life to make decisions, he went against his parent's demands, and went deep into the caves to find the scientists. 

The story stayed with John many years, seemingly innocuous. Just like Sim, John pretty much lived his first 18 years in ignorance to the facts of life. He lived in lockstep with what he was told... he didn't question authority.

His sister - a year and a half younger, he looked out for her... it was only rational that he panic when he found out for the first time that his sister was using marijuana. In anger he stormed into her room and confronted her... he picked up the phone to call the police... he knew very well the dangers of marijuana use - the madness that came from using the drug!

John couldn't remember how old he was when that happened, he just remembers putting down the phone and walking away. He couldn't turn his sister in, and began to wonder how he could have considered it? But marijuana was a bad thing, he reasoned. Yet there was something to give him pause... something that day he stopped to question... only he wasn't yet there to the event that would change his life. It was a change he had no way to foresee, any more than the character in the story "Flower's for Algernon" could have seen it.

As John rolled over between 18 and 21 years old, he did three important things, events. He moved away from home to an apartment near a college campus. He lost his virginity not to his girlfriend he'd been with over two years, but rather to a woman he met only once at a state park. And three... he got high on marijuana... the latter event would change his life the most. 

It was, in the only way John can describe it, Divine Intervention. He couldn't use that term nonchalantly, yet he couldn't explain the awakening that followed the event either. He could rationalize that he'd had a form of autism that at the time couldn't have been identified. He could entertain thoughts that he was mad, insane, sick... at least that's what the moral majority would say. But John has his say... and what he says happened was a miracle... a once in a lifetime opportunity... 

To be continued... 

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