Pretention (Part 3 of 3)


No lifelong relationships came out of Room 6, but none of them forgot their time together. Melanie’s family moved out of the area at the beginning of her junior year in high school, but she corresponded with a few friends and later followed some lives on the Internet.

She was a little surprised about Keith’s success. She learned that he didn’t exhibit psychopathic or sociopathic qualities as an adult. He never became attractive or eloquent, but what started out as drug dealing in late high school morphed into a legitimate import business, and he took off as an entrepreneur. He’d been importing hashish from Pakistan and he got into rugs and carpets. He became acquainted with a small community of weavers and began supplying them with organic dyes instead of the chemically-fabricated tints that developed nations had furnished. His trade became so successful that he abandoned drugs and expanded his legitimate activities. He married, fathered two daughters, and tried to do right by them. One of the daughters was diagnosed as on the spectrum, and that led Keith to some serious financial and time involvement with an autism nonprofit.

Steve’s hyperactivity increased as he got older. It was not helped by his cocaine use. Probably the only thing that kept him from moving on to meth addiction was the gambling he took up at 25. He was good at cards but bad at poker face. He bottomed out five years later, after his second wife left him and he lost his sixth job. He joined Synanon, got clean and fanatic, and entered the trades. He became a fair electrician and a good stone mason. He liked construction because the career limited the number of appointments he had to make, and by then he was thoroughly sick of missing appointments. His third wife told him he had Attention Deficit Disorder but he argued about the “disorder” part of it. He said he was just fine. Before she left him she urged him to get help, but Kaiser told him he was too functional for therapy. They referred him to an ADD support group, but that didn’t work; the members kept forgetting to show up at meetings.

Patrick’s life was the sad surprise. He made it to adulthood, he received enough speech therapy that the stutter became socially acceptable, he married and produced a child of each gender. And then he killed himself. He pulled a drycleaning bag over his head and suffocated on the floor of his study. He left reams of personal journals, in some of which his old friend Melanie was mentioned. His widow then searched her out, and the two women got together for lunch. Patrick’s wife flooded the table with words. Melanie left that encounter convinced that her old pal had been gay and alcoholic and not happy at all.

Melanie married three times before she concluded that it wasn’t the right state for her. She had two children by her first husband, and raised them. She became a business consultant for a living and an unpublished writer from compulsion. She continued to take exception to most generalizations, headlines, and popular conclusions. She developed a precise and compelling way of expressing her ideas, but rarely acquires agreement from others. As far as Melanie’s concerned, everyone has a cognitive issue, and life is a process of discovering and accommodating one another. Her friends haven’t embraced that viewpoint, but they no longer challenge it.

Melanie didn’t forget Room 6. None of the core four did. Steve simplified his experience into an “I hate school” and “School is Jail” philosophy. If he’d had children, he probably would have homeschooled them. Keith ended up on the local school board and unable to sell any of his radical ideas. Patrick wrote some of his into his journals. Melanie was always ready to discuss the subject. All of them had learned that school as they experienced it didn’t work very well. The days were too long, the classes were too full, and the teacher had to pitch instruction to the middle, so the kids who didn’t live in the bulb of the bell curve were not well served.

The posse in Room 6 had come to agreement about what needed to be done. They knew the school day should be shortened – they liked the idea of four hours. They figured that school should run year-round. And they were certain that kids need to be taught by other kids and through narrative. They would have broken classrooms into small groups and had at least half of the lessons told by older student mentors.

No one listened to them, then or now.

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